Craft By Zen

4 min read

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The Reliance Problem

Part of the series, “Admission Failure”

I fail to look past how spotty my memory is. It’s embarrassing how often I give in to the temptation that I will always remember everything pertinent in the future.

While perusing the video store, a stranger walked up to me and asked for some movie recommendations. We got to chatting and it turns out we had similar tastes in movies and video games. I found out we were both around the same age. We were both teenagers; he was a year older. He told me he had moved to this area a month prior and was looking for new friends. I told him I’d be happy to be his friend, and he invited me to come to his place to play video games. Yet I had this tinge I was forgetting something. When I got home later that evening, my dad was furious I had missed my piano lesson.

Surely my memory should be better today. Nope. I’m still failing to remember meetings, engagements, and birthdays. There are some differences between my teenager self and how I operate today. I have a set of strategies to minimize these spots in my memory.

Using a Calendar

I’ve hated time-boxing when I was younger. Chunking time made me feel like I couldn’t have any unstructured time. But I’ve looked past it after I saw how much benefit I got out of it. The important thing is to have the calendar ubiquitous. For example, if I am planning to attend an event next month, I will put it on the calendar immediately.

There’s a major flaw. I forget to do mark my calendar every now and again, especially if I’m busy that moment. Take last weekend as an example. I scheduled to have brunch with some friends, but I forgot to mark it on the calendar. Another friend asked me to help him out around the same time. I agreed and put that in the calendar instead. It was the night before when I had my “a ha” moment.

Calendars don’t work for everyone. You will have to use the tool you feel most comfortable with. It could be a bullet journal, or a paper calendar, or a wad of post-it notes shoved in your pocket.

Delegate When You Can

I suck at the follow-up. I’ll be at a meet-up and forget reach back to people who gave me their card. Let me let you in on a secret about productive people. They are great at delegation. There’s not enough time throughout the day to do everything you can imagine. At most, I can reliably do one thing a day. Anything more is a godsend. So ask the other person to reach back instead. Or ask them to do something they can’t refuse for you. An example can be to make the other person text you when they get home so you don’t get worried about them.

Write Personal Messages

I love personal messages to myself. I have trouble listening to other people, so I listen to myself a lot better if I wrote them in a tone I’d listen to. Here’s a calendar event I set for Saturday, March 3rd, 2018.

Dear Jeremy,
I know you have a tendency to neglect your taxes until April. Don’t do that. Instead, this is a reminder for you to get started on them today.

By now, you should have all of your tax documented gathered. Most likely, you’ve piled them in the corner of your desk. Here’s a checklist of all of the documents you should have.

— List of Documents —

Next steps is to login to Turbo Tax and log in the data. You have kept your donation receipts in this folder.

In case you need it, here’s last year’s tax return.

Cheers, and happy tax filing,
Ghost of Past Jeremy

Automate When Possible

An extension of all three of these ideas culminate to a set it and forget it mindset. If I set the email for next year, why can’t I have it recurring every year?

Or automation could be behavioral. For example, if someone gives me a book recommendations, I have an automatic response to write it down. Developing routines saves us mental energy. Automated strategies are not always technological.

Final Thoughts

These strategies are guidelines, not a matter of fact. Adopt one or all if you so choose. Or modify them to fit your needs. The world’s too much for a one-size-fits-all approach.