As I mentioned yesterday, I use one other trick when managing my memory.

If there is something I need to remember to do, that doesn’t fall into one of my other memory baskets, I set a tripwire. The concept here isn’t much different than the tripwires I discussed in my series on judgment and decision making, but a tripwire in this case is specifically an external reminder that happens outside of my attention. Something that prompts me to take action directly or get out a set of project notes.

A couple examples might help. The most common tripwire is time and date based. A calendar event would be fine here, but I like to keep only meetings1 and travel on my calendar. With this in mind I use the Due app on iOS. I don’t set start dates or anything fancy like that. Instead, I put something in Due if it has to happen at a certain time.

Another example is correspondence. I make a conscious effort to do everything possible in person, so my email work is minimal. Because of this, I can send off an email, secure in the knowledge that I don’t care if I ever receive an email in return. If I do receive a response, maybe that means I need to do something.

In the rare case I need an email response, I put a note on the “Email/Phone/Correspondence” page of my notebook. This acts as a tripwire too, because each morning when I check my cards, I also check the card on my desk that includes the various categories2 of work I may need to do. Additionally, I flip through my notebook Wednesdays after lunch, as a final check to make sure nothing gets lost.3

So there’s the short version of my memory strategy. Notice that most of it is really about purposely not remembering things when they don’t matter. This means I have a lot of spare brain cycles to pay attention to what’s going on around me. I don’t know if it makes me productive, but it does make me effective.

  1. Like all sane people, I hate meetings, so these are extremely minimal. My calendar is a wasteland, just the way I like it. ↩︎

  2. The category list must be no larger than working-memory sized, naturally. ↩︎

  3. I purposely make this a flip-through process, rather than any sort of electronic search, because I want to see my other work at this stage of my day. Getting a look at everything in my notebook allows me to see connections, in an adjacent possible sort of way. Capture has to be without novelty, but work is made more creative when there are a lot of inputs, bringing the unexpected connections that arise as a result. You might just have to trust me on this one, and try it yourself. ↩︎