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Top 10 Reminder Tools For Forgetful Minds

Tweak your workflow and inboxes all you want, but your mental memory might always be the weakest link in your day-to-day life. These 10 tools take some work off your brain and prevent a few forehead slaps.

Photo by cogdogblog.

Note: We’ve previously listed some whole-brain, memory-boosting tips and systems in our Top 10 Memory Hacks. This list is geared at smaller-scale tips for remembering those little things that you’ll regret forgetting just as soon as it’s too late.

10. Remember that thing you’re trying to think of

Oh, shoot, what was that show? The one with the dad who worked at a robotics firm and created his own little robot girl, and she had super-strength, and it had really cheesy effects but catchy theme music? Anyway, if you’re trying to remember something that seems like it’s right there, but just out of reach, a pair of Canadian researchers suggest you stop and either look it up right away or send yourself a note for later. The harder your brain cranks on trying to pin down that barely-there memory, the less likely you are to get it, even if you come back two days later and try running down the same mental path. In other words, your mental efforts are best spent elsewhere and on other things, rather than trying — Small Wonder! I knew it! (Original post)

9. Automatic thumb drive reminder

At best, you leave your thumb drive plugged in at work or home. At worse, the easy-to-lose memory sticks get left in a computer lab, a far-away friend’s place, or somewhere it can be easily pocketed. Grab the Flash Drive Reminder, make sure AutoPlay is enabled on the Windows system you’re working with, and you’ll be reminded when you go to log off or shut down that you’ve still got your drive plugged in. If you’re doubtful you’ll actually respond to that kind of prompting, you could label your drive with a name and number to pop up in the “My Computer” view. For more anti-leave-behind tools, check out the comments on our original post — they’re chock full of carbiners, cap hacks and other suggestions.

8. Do Not Forget doorhanger

You can find a retail version of this design gem at a few different places, but it’s not that hard to knock off for yourself. Put the things you need to do when you’re heading out, like mailing a package or picking up bread, on one of the pull-off paper tabs, and you’ll hopefully catch it when you’re heading out the door. Since our brains can tend to get used to sights and not be alerted by them, make sure to pull your reminder off the doorknob when there’s nothing to do. Next time you see that bright-coloured hanger, you’ll know there’s something worth dropping the keys and thinking about.

7. Always attach the file you meant to

Sending out an email promising to offer correspondents an attached document or file without that file attached is akin to showing up at a pot luck with just a plastic fork. If you’re a Gmail user, you can enable a attachment detector in Labs that tries to halt you from leaving out obvious attachments.

6. Keep your lawn and garden watered

Don’t let your faulty memory, dry weather, or a week’s vacation ruin your a perfectly green lawn or your burgeoning vegetable garden. Do what Matt Haughey did and install your own automated drip system to give gardens and plants enough water at all times to get by.

5. Create fall-back birthday greetings

Seriously? It’s already October 11, and you don’t have a card for your stepsister already? If you’ve got a Mac, there’s no reason to let the entire day go by without at least an email that says you’re thinking of them (even though you totally weren’t). Check out the Unofficial Apple Weblog’s how-to, and you’ll never be caught entirely off-guard. If you’d rather just get the reminders, you can have fbCal export your Facebook friends’ birthdays to an iCal feed, or enable Google Calendars’ “Birthdays” calendar (in your Settings), which pulls in whatever birthdays you’ve noted in Google Contacts. (Original post)

4. Don’t let rebates pass you by

Retailers love rebates because a lot of people seemingly love to forget about them after the purchase. Tools that keep you from letting them pass into expiration, or sit incomplete at a service centre, range from the simple to the sublime. Consumer Reports suggests immediately printing online forms and sending them in, as they can be removed from web sites after a very short period.

3. Pack without fear

The worst part about forgetting to pack something on a long trip is that you’ll likely remember exactly what you forgot when you’re 3000 metres in the air. Guard against your most forgetful tendencies with packing utilities that anticipate what you might need and print out helpful lists. We’ve dug on the Universal Packing List for its minimal but functional interface, Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush for comprehensive coverage of necessities and PackWhiz as nicely working in between those extremes. Rather craft your own list? Feel free to create a reusable packing list, and peruse our master packing list for hand luggage only.

2. Capture gift ideas with Evernote

Your spouse, your parents and siblings, your friends — they tell you about neat things they’ve heard about, considered buying, or just can’t find anywhere all the time, but never when you’re looking to actually buy gifts. We consider Evernote to be a fairly universal, go-anywhere capture system, since you can send it cameraphone pics, text or email messages, or more advanced web uploads at any time. It’s also got a tagging system that’s perfect for gift ideas. As soon as someone’s done telling you about something you might want to gift them, and you can be sly about it, upload a camera pic or text note about it to your account, and add both “gifts” and a separate tag for their name. When the holidays and birthdays roll around, head to your note stash, perform a search for everything tagged both “gifts” and “Diane”, for example, and you’ve got a list that seemingly travelled forward in time.

1. Keep track of strong passwords

We’ve hit upon this tactic a few times in a few different contexts, but until webmail users stop using 123456 and other terrible passwords, we will continue to suggest this technique. Build a secure base password that isn’t in the dictionary, one that mixes up letters, numbers and special characters. Adapt it to fit different sites and uses — use the first three letters of the site name, or only the vowels, or some other rule. You’ve now got a strong password, you can remember it for all your sites.

How do you remember things that you know you’re going to try and forget? Tell us about your own smarter-than-you’d-normally-be system in the comments.


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