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The Go-Back Prevention Memory Trick - Dilbert Blog

The Go-Back Prevention Memory Trick

Before I head to the gym I need to remember five items: my wallet, phone, car key, iPod, and lifting gloves. Historically, my success rate in remembering all five items on the first try was approximately zero. I always ended up going back into the house to grab a forgotten item or two.  Often I would get all the way to the gym before realizing I didn’t have my iPod or gloves. It was exasperating.

Apparently, remembering five items is too much for my tiny, overextended brain. I spend much of my day in a thick creative fog, watching idea fragments float past my consciousness while I try to assemble them like a puzzle. I can go so deeply into my imagination that I sometimes snap out of it in a public place, such as the mall, and literally check to see if I’m wearing pants. So remembering five different items for the gym is far beyond my practical abilities.

I considered making a list of my five necessary gym items, but I knew a list wouldn’t work for me. I find that lists only work when I first make them. After a week, I stop seeing the list. It’s as if I need a second list that reminds me to look at my first list. But I did come up with a solution that has worked for the past six months.

My solution is the number five itself. I simply remember that for a trip to the gym I must bring five items. If I only count four items, I know I’m missing one. At that point I just run through the list in my head and I know what else I need. It works like a charm.

The other day I was considering blogging about this little memory trick when I got an email from my brother. We’re not twins, but we think so similarly that it is freaky. My brother’s email asked what method I use to remember the items I need to buy at the grocery store. My brother’s solution is to remember the number of items. That’s enough to ensure he comes home with everything he intended to buy. He and I designed the same memory trick at about the same time. Weird.

I’m considering assigning a number to my other standard trips as well. For example, any outdoorsy trips that involve sun also require my hat, sunscreen, and sun glasses. That’s three items on top of my wallet, phone, and car keys. Outdoor trips are a six.

I’m assuming your lives are equally complicated. It’s a challenge to get your spouse and your kids in the car without one of you making a go-back trip to the house for a forgotten item. As a fix, what if you assigned each family member a number before everyone heads to the car? For example, maybe one kid always needs an iPod, charger, and headphones. That’s three items. Your spouse might need sunglasses, phone, purse, and digital camera. That’s four. As everyone is getting ready to leave, you make sure everyone knows their number: “Timmy, you’re a three. Sally, you’re a four.”

Try it. You’ll be amazed how well it works.