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Absent Mindedness Coping Strategies
Old 04-01-2010, 10:31 AM   #1
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Absent Mindedness Coping Strategies

Absent-Mindedness runs in my family, and in me too. But I've found some strategies that help me compensate for it. For example,

  1. Have rules about where you put things down. The biggest problem is putting something down (e.g. screwdriver, keys) in an unusual place. For example, I never put my keys anywhere but in a particular drawer, clipped to my belt loop, or in the car ignition. I take them out of the ignition and put them on my belt loop even if I'm just getting out to clean the windshield.
  2. For me, at least, half of the absent mindedness problem is one of laziness. I don't want to go all the way out to the garage to put the screwdriver away, so I put it where it doesn't belong. A compromise is to have central transition areas. For me, it's the stairs. If something is to go upstairs or out to the garage, I put it on the side of the stairs.
  3. Whenever you think "I shouldn't put this here" stop and don't do it. Don't put anything on the top of the car for just a second, for example. Coming home from college, I put some important papers in the mini-fridge to save packing space. They were lost for years.
  4. Don't joke about how forgetful you are, you are just rewarding yourself for the behavior ("Want to hear what a silly thing I did yesterday?").
  5. If you go to a room and can't remember why you went, go to the exact place in the room you were headed for. I might not remember why I came into the kitchen, but I do remember that I was headed for the bottom shelf of the fridge. Go look there, and you might remember your goal.
  6. Use your computer to remind yourself of appointments (library books due tomorrow, confirm credit card payment, back up), and don't click something as "done" until it's actually done. Use a snooze alarm if you are busy with something else.
  7. Write out and use checklists. And don't just look at an item (e.g. cell phone) and say, "Yeah, I'll get that." When you read "cell phone" put your hand on it. Make it a habit to check the appropriate checklist each time you go out.
  8. If you need to take, for example, a library book back, don't put it on the bench or near the door, put it in the car.
  9. Understand what triggers absent mindedness. For example, once I left my keys in the ignition because when I stopped the car and got out, a stranger was talking to me. That distraction/shyness triggered the problem.
  10. Have a spare key hidden somewhere on the car.

Any other tips?
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:04 AM   #2
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I love your list, Al! These are similar to some of your points but here they are:

11. "A place for everything, and everything in its place." - - W2R's mom (1909-2007). This habit that my mother drummed into me in my youth really helps. Put stuff away habitually, as you finish using whateveritis. The average ER forum member in 2010 has WAY too much stuff to keep track of where things are, unless they are where they belong. If married, don't rely on your spouse to do it.

12. Take advantage of your habits. Every morning I look at my retirement spreadsheet and update my Vanguard, TSP, and bank balances. It's a habit. So, if I need to remember to do something, I can just type it in the spreadsheet next to the daily bank balance.

13. Keep a basket of "to be filed" for papers to be filed. That is where they go. If the paper isn't filed properly, I know it is in the basket. (Don't ever put ads or trash from the mail in the basket - - they belong in the trash so sort your mail by the trash container when you first bring it in.) I file basket contents every 1-2 months.

Don't feel bad about forgetfulness! It just means that in retirement, we have other, more important things to think about like having fun.
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:34 AM   #3
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Any other tips?
Good list. Only addition I can think of is if you can't find your reading glasses, check the top of your head.

Ha
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:50 AM   #4
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Habit habit habit. the benefits are even more obvious after seeing the utter confusion created in the almost 95YO MIL thanks to a relative "helping" by rearranging her house, throwing out old familiar and adding new things. MIL went from functional to unable to do anything for herself. We're all used to old people who make do with some old school remote or VCR rather than get the newest all in one multifunction remote or gee-golly Blu-ray - gifting them with same may not be a kindness. Habit - it works for me!
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:54 AM   #5
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Good list. Only addition I can think of is if you can't find your reading glasses, check the top of your head.

Ha
Have found several pairs hanging from my t shirt collar at the same time while hunting a pair...
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Old 04-01-2010, 12:44 PM   #6
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T-Al, good list- but it takes all the fun out of DW looking for my car keys every time we go somewhere- and me being able to tell her "she's practically a genius" for being able to find them wherever I left them...
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:03 PM   #7
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I'm not old but the Lupus makes me so forgetful and at times confused to boot. I always said that when my son left for college I was going to come up with some sort of system and I have yet to do it. I'm going to start working on it - thanks for all the tips.

Calmloki - my mom does that to me. She comes over and puts everything she finds in a pile. I have things that need my attention on the dining room table, things to be filed on the kitchen counter, things to be recycled by the front door and it would all end it in a heap .

I have a tip that works for me with appts. I keep the appt. cards on the dash in front of the steering wheel in my car.
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:46 PM   #8
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Good list AL. I use Google Calendar to send me emails reminding me of anything I have to do - 1 email several days ahead to remind me to make sure I am not setting up conflicts and a 2nd email a few hours before the "event" so I actually remember when it counts. I carry a Blackberry so the emails alert me even if I am out. I had to do this at work too
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Old 04-01-2010, 03:54 PM   #9
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My coping strategies were formed from the days when I'd be up for 36-48 hours at a stretch. If you can't focus when you're fully rested, then you're gonna be paralyzed within 18 hours.

When you were on watch it was possible to stick with a standard vocabulary for almost every task. Many evolutions required it (for example, getting the submarine up to periscope depth) but you could even stick to it for routine reports and quite a few surprises. Sometimes just having the words on the tip of your tongue kept a problem from getting worse. I'm a big fan of standard procedures and routines and trying to slot problems into common categories with a practiced problem-solving approach. Otherwise I'll have to get back to it after a nap.

I don't know how to teach it, but the good watchstanders learned how to focus on the crisis and keep moving despite the distractions-- even if the distractions were causing the crisis. Even if you were the cause of the crisis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Understand what triggers absent mindedness. For example, once I left my keys in the ignition because when I stopped the car and got out, a stranger was talking to me. That distraction/shyness triggered the problem.
Any other tips?
Distraction is my #1 problem, and recognizing it goes a long way toward avoiding problems. I'm usually sucked right into the distraction, but if that happens then I've learned to stop moving, stop pretty much everything else that I'm doing or thinking, and focus on that distraction until it's over.

Otherwise I'd hope to ignore it until I finish what I need to finish.

My #1 distraction is when I'm getting ready to go somewhere and my kid wants to chat. Unless it's a question about what we're getting ready to do, I've learned to tell her to hold that thought until we're on the road...
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Old 04-01-2010, 04:24 PM   #10
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Don't ever assume you're going to remember something.
Keep pens & paper (or electronic equivalent) in all rooms of house & in car; & write down everything as soon as you think of it.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:15 PM   #11
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When you are not home, and someone tells you about something like an appointment or asks if you can you find this for them...
Option 1: If you are very good about checking your answer machine on your home land line, call your home phone and leave yourself a detailed message.
Option 2: If you are better about checking email and have text capability on your cell, send yourself an email using your cell phone.
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Who? Me? Absentminded...nahhhhhh
Old 04-01-2010, 06:58 PM   #12
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Who? Me? Absentminded...nahhhhhh

My favorite absent mindedness coping strategy is to tell DH to remind me of.....whatever.....then when he forgets to remind me, it is not my absentmindedness, but his!
Mind you I said it was my favorite, not his.

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Old 04-01-2010, 08:04 PM   #13
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Huh..what? I forget what you said...kidding.

For my keys, wallet, cell phone, like Al-T said, I always try and put it in a particular spot on my desk so I won't forget.

For tools, the best thing I ever got for myself is a toolbelt with pockets to hold tools so when working on stuff, I don't misplace my tool while setting it down. Plus, you be amazed how much faster having the belt gets the job done.

Maybe I have too much time and just notice it more, but I seem to have more false memories than in the past. Last night I was looking for my misplaced cell phone charger but I wasn't sure if I brought it with me when I traveled or left it at home. I could almost remember bringing it, but I didn't after all.

One more tip -- keep exercising your brain. Checkers, crossword puzzles, reading, chess, etc. Studies have shown helps fight against memory loss. I worry sometimes that since I FIRE'd I don't stimulate my brain enough like when I did on the job.. but it sure feels good taking it easy
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:19 PM   #14
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Good list. An alternative to #5, if you still can't remember what you went to a room for, go back to where you came from, maybe that will re-trigger the reason you were going for something.

Lists, emails, calling your home phone to leave a message all work, but if for some reason you can't do those things, try using association triggers. Like tonight, I want to remember to put the cover on the grill, I told myself that when I shut off the lights downstairs that I would remember to go out and cover the grill. It seems to work for me to say "when I do this, I will remember to do that" if I tell myself very clearly.
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Old 04-02-2010, 06:29 AM   #15
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Great list Al. I use almost every item - except #10 - I better implement this one as well. DW and I put little things on the stairwell post that I need to remember to bring with me when I leave. I have a place for wallet, keys, but sometimes forget to put them there. My Blackberry reminds me of everything

Recently I have been writing down step by step instructions for computer projects and its helped out a lot. Plus I do a lot more organizing than I used to - toolboxes, desk drawers, closets
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:08 AM   #16
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Senior citizens are besieged by cancer, heart disease and assocred chronic diseases, but what most of them fear most is Alzheimer’s disease or any loss of their mental abilities. Now a neurologist at Ohio State says he has developed a simple, self-test to screen for early dementia that he is making available online.
Self-Administered Test to Screen for Early Dementia, Alzheimer's Available Online

or go directly to the test:

The Ohio State University - Department of Neurology - SAGE Test
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:08 AM   #17
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I just ask DW where stuff is. Somehow she always knows. I know where I'd be without her:

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Old 04-02-2010, 07:20 AM   #18
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One more tip -- keep exercising your brain. Checkers, crossword puzzles, reading, chess, etc. Studies have shown helps fight against memory loss. I worry sometimes that since I FIRE'd I don't stimulate my brain enough like when I did on the job.. but it sure feels good taking it easy
Not sure how well that works. I just finished reading "From Eternity to Here," about quantum gravity, the arrow of time/entropy, multiverses, etc., but I have already forgotten 90% of what I read.
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Old 04-02-2010, 08:44 AM   #19
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Not sure how well that works. I just finished reading "From Eternity to Here," about quantum gravity, the arrow of time/entropy, multiverses, etc., but I have already forgotten 90% of what I read.
Without the exercise, you may have forgotten you even read it.
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Old 04-02-2010, 10:04 AM   #20
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I just ask DW where stuff is. Somehow she always knows. I know where I'd be without her
It's the opposite at our house. I use many of the tips, tricks and techniques listed in the posts above to try to help with the absent mindedness and general memory degradation. I'm doing pretty well despite needing to always put the keys in the same place, write myself notes, etc., etc. DW, however, refuses to give in and admit she needs to do the same. So we spend plenty of time looking for her keys, probing memory for clues of what she's supposed to be doing today, what appointment she's missing, etc.

I'm gently proding her toward throwing in the towel and adopting whatever crutches she needs to get by. In the meantime, a sense of humor is a good thing to have!
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