As an adult with ADHD you likely experience some sort of short and long term memory challenges. So, you may find yourself at times saying:
- “I forgot I had that appointment.”
- “Hmm, I know I saw that article… someplace.”
- “I think I wrote that on my to do list…. somewhere.”
- “I can send you that document when I get back to my office computer later today.”
Your brain is great for thinking and creating. But it is not what you want to rely on for remembering anything you need to recall at a specific time and place.
The great news is that with the right combination of tools you can rely much less on your memory.
Remembering the Hard Landscape of Your Life
Yes, I know. You have been using a calendar for a long time. But you still may be making some common mistakes that get in the way of using it as efficiently as possible.
You need to be able to trust that your calendar is a reflection of the hard landscape of your life so you don’t have to keep this information in your head. That is, it should only contain tasks and appointments that must be done at a specific time.
If you have tasks in your calendar you are not committed to doing:
- you will not trust it because there are items on there that are negotiable. Then you will have to make moment to moment decisions with regard to those items, “Should I or shouldn’t I…”
- and if you do not do the tasks on your calendar, they will be lost to you when you “turn the page.” Remember, out of sight is definitely out of mind. Your calendar is not a good place for your To Do List.
For more on calendars, check out ADHD and Calendars – What Is You Plan?
What does the hard landscape of you life, your calendar, look like right now?
Remembering Your Tasks
While there is no one size fits all strategy for remembering your task, there are definitely some useful practices you can adapt to meet your needs and preferences.
Because writing your to dos on random scraps of paper placed in random places is a hit and miss strategy when it comes to remembering what you need to do when you need to do it.
The key is consistency. Not easy, I know. But with practice you can build this muscle.
Consistency could look like:
- using one task manager.
- creating a plan for completing each task you put on your To Do List.
If you are only keeping a list of tasks because you don’t want to forget them, but do not have a plan for completing them, the various tasks might pop into your head at random times prompting you to think, “Oh, right, I have to do that!”
And, rather than encouraging you, having the list may serve to overwhelm you because you don’t know when or how you are going to do each task. As a result, you may actually avoid doing the tasks even more than before you had a list! It is also known as the Zeigarnik Effect.
- making a maybe/someday list of projects you want to do, but do not a plan to complete right now.
- adding emails you are not going to answer immediately or within a certain time period (48-72 hours?) to your task list so they don’t get “lost.”
- always using the same list for certain tasks. For example, I use Out of Milk for groceries.
There are certainly many other strategies for remembering your tasks. Use the ones that best fit your needs and preferences.
Just don’t try to keep your tasks in your head or on random stickies!
Remembering to Take Care of Email
Yes, email is a task. But, because of its unique challenges and workarounds, you will likely need to manage it differently than your other tasks.
You already know that to be able to keep up with tasks related to your email and not get overwhelmed you need to tend to your email daily. But do you know how to balance effectively tending to your email and not letting it interfere with your other activities?
I wrote about this extensively in a previous article, ADHD and Email: Seeing The Trees for The Forest… Check it out to learn how to:
- manage your email so you don’t have to keep it in your head
- balance tending to your email with your other activities.
Also, check out The Complete Guide to Managing Your Email for ADHD Adults.
So, you can stop having thoughts swirl about in your head like, “Did I answer…” or “Did Bob reply…”
Remembering Where You Put Your Electronic Files
You want to be able to organize your electronic files so you can easily see what you have and access them from any device.
Not only will your files be organized for easy access, but you will no longer have to worry about losing your files because your hard drive crashes or you lose your USB flash drive!
Of course, you will need to take into consideration your company’s or profession’s requirements regarding cloud storage, such as firewalls, HIPPA, FERPA, etc., before you decide on a service.
What service are you going to use so you don’t have to remember where you put that file, again?
Remembering Your Ideas and Notes
Rounding out this list of must have tools you need to learn how to use effectively so you can remember what you want when you want is a cloud based note taking and archiving service. A few good options are Evernote, OneNote and Simplenote.
I happen to use EverNote, and really like it.
Here are some notes I have in my Personal Notebook:
- vacation plans
- aquarium research
- my recent car accident details – ouch!
- new glasses
A few of the notes I have in my Professional Notebook are:
- professional development ideas
- ADHD related topics I want to explore
- website ideas
- new group ideas
What would you put in your electronic notebook? Isn’t it time to say goodbye to the days of wondering, “Where did I write that down?!”
As the makers of Evernote said, it is “the pathway to superhuman memory.” Sounds good, right?! A cloud based note taking service is definitely a useful tool for anyone.
For adults with ADHD this tool can be enormously helpful in compensating for challenges with long and short term memory. After all, an idea is a terrible thing to waste! 🙂
So, go ahead, pick a note taking service so you don’t have to forget your ideas again.
If the above sounds like it will be helpful for you, you may be tempted to try to do it all, now!
Please don’t. You will likely become overwhelmed.
Instead, decide where you want to start first and:
- Choose the tool that seems like it will work for you. You won’t really know until you experiment with it.
- Practice using it, but keep it simple. For example, if you google “using Evernote,” you will find a ton of different ways to use it. Remind yourself you don’t have to try all of them right away.
- Reach out for help, if you need it. None of the above is necessarily easy to do.
You will know you have the right combination when the way they work together makes sense to you.