If you’re beyond a certain age, you’ve already realized that you can’t and shouldn’t rely on your memory as the only thing to remind you of what needs to be done. Rare is the photographic memory in people and I’m not sure it works on your internal to-do list anyway. There’s simply no substitute for writing down what needs to be remembered more than a few minutes. This applies not only to the plans we create to achieve our goals, but also to the mundane. How many of us have written down a simple phone number even though we’re going to dial it immediately? Why is that? We do it to be certain that we’ve got it right. We need to be right about phone numbers just as we need to be right about the things that need to be done. Another great example is the grocery list. How many times have we gone to the grocery store to pick up something important and come back with 10 other things, but not that one important thing? Here are 4 reasons your memory isn’t enough.
- Memory is not complete. We know our memory doesn’t remember every single detail. We fill in the gaps with what we think should be there. We see what we want to see or what we focus on. Everything else is the equivalent of white noise. We only capture what we THINK is important at that moment.
- Memory is not reliable. We see this in eyewitness accounts of accidents and in our own recollection of events. It’s almost impossible to get the same account of an event from two people, especially from different vantage points. As time goes on, we lose the clarity of what we remembered; and we fill in the gaps again. It happens so subtly that we can slowly change what we remember without realizing it. We’ll think we have the same consistent memory, but pictures or video will prove us wrong.
- Memory is subjective. Our memories are like everything else we perceive, colored by our preconceived ideas, biases and beliefs. We want to see the world a certain way, so we automatically filter events based on these things. It’s not a conscious act, but it happens anyway. We can’t help it.
- Memory is not fact. This is the hardest thing to accept. Memories are our perceptions of events. They can’t be facts. They’re opinions. Well founded opinions sometimes, but still opinions. That’s why we need multiple witnesses to confirm one another.
The only way to have an accurate picture of something is to actually take a picture or write it down. With high res cameras on our phones, we can take a picture and take it with us. We can also use that phone to write down our notes and thoughts as soon as we have them, so we don’t lose them. This won’t replace our memories, but it will help us keep straight what really happened and what we think happened.