Updated: Feb 28
How to prevent losing things and find misplaced things.
I’m currently taking the Recall Masterclass from Kwik Learning right now, and as part of the homework, I am to teach what I learned each class to other people. The class is taught by Jim Kwik, a renowned brain coach. Since I’m a blogger, I’d like to share my notes with all of you. I hope you can use the knowledge and practice the methods to improve your memory as well.
Class 11: Remembering Misplaced Things
Have you ever lost something and struggled to find it? When we lose or misplace things, we lose a lot of time looking for time, and we also get stressed out. In our fast-paced modern society, people are less present, more distracted, and more likely to lose things. This lesson is all about preventing losing things and finding misplaced things.
The 3-Step Memory Process
Preventing Losing Things
Finding Misplaced Things
Key Idea 1: The 3-Step Memory Process
To explain why we forget where we put something (or why we didn’t remember anything), we can look at the 3-step memory process:
Encoding: Putting the information into your memory
Storage: Storing that information in an organized way
Retrieval: Getting that information out from storage
All three steps must work for your memory to work. Therefore, memory is a verb, not a noun. You can practice your memory. If we encode and store effectively, retrieval is easy. Encoding and storing can be active, while retrieval is more automatic.
For example, let’s say you misplaced your keys and you can’t find them. What went wrong? At the encoding stage, maybe you weren’t paying attention so you can’t remember at all where you put it. that’s the most common reason.
Another example, let’s say someone just told you their name. You paid attention. But 5 minutes later you forgot their name. What went wrong? Your encoding could have been better, but also you didn’t really have a good storage place or organization system to store that name. So you quickly lost that information. That’s why previously in the course, we learned about peg lists like the Sun List and the Body List.
Key Idea 2: Preventing Losing Things
The best way to avoid the stress of losing things is to not lose them in the first place. Jim gives many tips for this.
Tip 1: When you place something down, take an extra second to create a vivid mental picture.
For example, if you often lose your keys, the next time you put your keys on the table, take a second and imagine the counter blows up. This will encode the information in a much stronger way so that you can remember it easily.
Tip 2: Create a chain link
For example, let’s say you often forget to bring your keys when you leave the house. You can attach your keys to something you will definitely bring with you like your bag. You can also put your keys in your shoes.
Another example, let’s say you need to do something tomorrow morning. Do something strange like take your slipper and throw it across the room. Then tomorrow, when you see that slipper there, you think why did I throw that slipper there? Oh right I need to do _____.
Tip 3: Create an auditory cue
This one is similar to the visual cue, but it’s great for auditory learners. When you place something, you can sing a little tune to help you remember where it is. For example, when you place your keys on the sofa, sing a little tune like “keys on sofa” to the tune of a song you like. If you don’t want to sing, then just saying “keys on sofa” out loud works too.
Tip 4: Create a habit of putting the item in the same place
Habit is a great complement to memory. If you create a habit, then you don’t need to consciously remember it.
Tip 5: Organize your things with color
For example, if you often can’t find files and papers for specific topics or meetings, you can color code those files. Put the same green sticky for all the files related to one topic. Then when you’re looking for it, you can just look for the green sticky notes.
Tip 6: Try left nostril breathing
There’s some research suggesting that left nostril breathing improves spatial memory (while right nostril breathing does not). Try this if you think it can be fun. Basically, hold down your right nostril shut and breathe deeply and slowly through your left nostril. The explanation is that this will give the area of your brain in charge of memory more blood flow, making it easier to gain and retain memories.
This is not a proven science, so it’s just something to try if you’re interested.
Key Idea 3: Finding Misplaced Things
If you’ve lost something, you can try these tips to find them.
Tip 1: Ask your future self.
Usually, we get really stressed when we lose something. Stress makes it harder for us to retrieve memory. To help us calm down and even have fun, we can pretend to ask our future self. Have a conversation with your future self and ask questions like
Where did we finally find that thing we forgot?
What was I doing when I misplaced it?
What was I thinking when I misplaced it?
What was I feeling when I misplaced it?
Answering these questions can serve as triggers to help you remember.
Tip 2: Use technology.
For example, iPhones have the Find My iPhone app.
Tip 3: Use the three-foot rule.
If you usually place the item in a certain place, and it’s not there, it’s very likely that the item is within three feet of where you usually place it. It’s likely that maybe you slightly misplaced it or knocked it aside something. So rather than search everywhere for it, slowly search the surrounding area of where you usually put it.
Practice being attentive in daily life, especially when you’re placing objects down. If there’s an object you often lose, practice encoding it more memorably.