Immediate memory: how better organization gets you better retention
Immediate memory: how better organization gets you better retention

Do you have a bad memory? Are you sure? Most people compare themselves to others and feel inadequate when they miss a word, forget a birthday or a basic task they had to do in a hurry. They tell people around them that they "have a very bad memory". This conditioning is often self-fulfilling.

However, these forgetfulnesses are perfectly normal. They are inherent to the way our brain works. Here are a few simple tips to stop forgetting anything.

Why do we forget?

The brain is a formidable computer. It records, stores and restores information in an optimal way. Some data are even archived without us realizing it, such as smells or sounds. Others are voluntarily put aside, because they are no longer useful at the moment. This is the case for superfluous information such as most telephone numbers or names of people we have briefly passed in the street. The brain forgets in order to get rid of the useless and avoid overload.

Immediate memory is the first stage of recording information. It is selective and quickly saturated. It is said to retain between 5 and 9 pieces of information at a time. It is this memory that organizes the sorting towards the longer term memory. The filter is difficult to pass. This is why it is so easy to forget what you have just done or what you are about to do. Fortunately, there are techniques to improve your immediate memory and avoid forgetting.

Passing the filter of immediate memory

To remember is to want. To pass the filter of the immediate memory, the information must have an interest. The brain must understand that it will have to use the information again and that it is advantageous to store it. How often you use the information and how it connects to your other knowledge will determine how long it survives in your mind. Tell your brain that the information is important, and why it is important. Associate it with an emotion that matters to you. If you can't find it then it's not really important. Your chances of remembering it are getting slimmer.

But then how do you remember minor tasks, meeting places, and the time of day you need to perform everyday actions?

Your brain is not designed to remember the amount of tasks, constraints and appointments you have on a daily basis. It needs help.

Write everything down!

Use a task list. This can be a notebook, an app on your smartphone or even a board next to your computer. Just make it visible and accessible to write down tasks as you go.

Once you've written down the task, forget about it! Your to-do list should remind you of what you have to do and when you have to do it. In this way, you will considerably lighten your immediate memory and significantly reduce the risk of forgetting an important task.

The first rule to follow is to simplify the tasks to be accomplished. For example, "Call Mr. Smith to discuss the situation at work" can be written down as "Call Mr. Smith". The important thing is to find the information quickly and easily when you need it.

It is important to prioritize tasks. On your list, indicate which ones are the most important and which ones can wait. This will allow you to know immediately which task to accomplish first.

Finally, it is crucial to set a deadline for each task. This can be an hour, a day or a week. If you don't, chances are the task will be forgotten and put off indefinitely.

The importance of time context

The secret to good organization, and well-managed memory, is context. If a task has a date, and even a time assigned to it, it becomes more concrete for the brain. It is no longer just an idea but takes on a form. Thus, the brain will be much more likely to remember it and place it in the right place in its memory.

The calendar is a precious tool to get better organized. It allows you to note down different appointments, deadlines and tasks to be accomplished.

Stick to it! If you have written down a task for a specific day, at a specific time, you must stick to it. If something changes, adapt your calendar accordingly. It is important to always keep your to-do list and calendar up to date to avoid forgetting and unpleasant surprises.

By following these few rules, you will considerably lighten your immediate memory and gain in efficiency on a daily basis. You will be less stressed because you will feel more in control of your schedule and your tasks. And above all, you will be much less likely to forget important appointments or tasks.

Timeflow: the tool that combines a task list and a calendar

Designed to relieve you of the daily grind and provide your brain with a real assistant, Timeflow does more than just a to-do list and an agenda. It organizes your life and finds the right time to do things for you.

Try it, it's free.