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March 18, 2019

A "Remember To Do This" Technique

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I learned today’s tip from the wonderful Irene Whalen. Although I have only used it a few times, it has been extremely effective. 

In 7th grade, Irene was told by one of her teachers that if she had a question and wasn’t immediately called on, she was to put her hand down and cross her fingers so that she could remember to ask it at a more appropriate time. So instead of having students keep their hands raised and distract the class, they could quietly remember their question and ask it when prompted later.

Irene has taken this concept and applied it in many different areas in her life, remembering to grab a specific item at the grocery store, as a reminder to tell a story after the current conversation has moved on, and to do that one chore first thing when she gets home.  

Crossing your fingers, of course, competes against the alternative of just remembering the question in your mind. In my experience, crossing my fingers has been much more effective, and here’s why.

The act of crossing your fingers creates a strong association with your thought, and the slight discomfort and inconvenience it provides makes you think about the reason why your fingers are crossed, more often.  Essentially, this helps move the thought from your short term memory into your long term memory, because you are frequently prompted to recall the thought and therefore more likely to remember it.  And you could also argue that performing this physical action activates more areas of the brain and dedicates more brain power to remembering the thought, and therefore will be recalled more easily and more often.

This works so well that I now remember, from over a month ago, that I was in the grocery store and needed to buy an oven pizza.  It’s pretty crazy, but it works.

So, give it a try. The next time you’re driving home, or preoccupied with something else, try crossing your fingers, and see if it helps you remember to follow through on whatever that is.

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