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drClaw's avatar

How Can I Overcome Absent Mindedness?

Asked by drClaw (4432 points ) April 16th, 2009

I sometimes feel overly absent minded and it drives my wife mad. I am really on top of work related tasks, but it is the small day-to-day things I seem to constantly forget. A perfect example is this…

I use my wife’s debit card every once in a while and will forget to take it of my wallet when I am done. The next day I usually get an angry call when she wakes up, because now she doesn’t have money for this or that (you get the idea), but I am already at work and she has to wait until I get home at night.

I know that my busy schedule plays a role in this, but when my wife sees me staying on top of work stuff but forgetting little things like the the above example it makes her feel like I care more about work than her or our home.

Does anyone have advice on how I can learn to be less absent minded?

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25 Answers

anoop66's avatar

Well my dad’s the same. Totally absent minded. Here’s what you can do:
1. Keep a calendar-either analog or on your cell phone
2. Note your tasks
3. Live in the moment

You can only change gradually. It takes some time. If your wife still has some problems, tell her that you love her and working on it. I am sure she ‘ll appreciate it.

Hope it works out

Mr_M's avatar

Er, my friend, you’re getting a raw deal. From time to time my daughter borrows MY cash card and then I make sure I get it back because it’s important to ME. Understand?

drClaw's avatar

@Mr_M that is a good point and in the example I gave it totally applies, but I still forget a lot of other things. I misplace keys, forget to lock the car door, etc.and would like to work on getting better about that stuff for me as well as my wife.

3or4monsters's avatar

Get your own debit card, maybe? I know it was just an example, but that would solve that particular problem.

For the rest… to-do lists, post it notes, reminders on your phone’s calander, etc. I will often stick post-it notes on my steering wheel… kind of hard to miss when I leave for the day. :)

filmfann's avatar

There was a movie called Memento, about someone who couldn’t make new memories. He tattooed the words “Remember Sammy Jenkis” on his hand, to remind him of his condition. Really good movie.
What was the question again?

ru2bz46's avatar

I used to know…

DeanV's avatar

I used to use reQall, but then realized I didn’t really need it. It may help you a little…

janbb's avatar

1. Make a list
2. Make a list
3. Make a list

YARNLADY's avatar

Some things that have helped us is to obtain multiple copies of everything, we have a dozen pens on various desks, fingernail clippers in every room, a key hanger on the wall, two check books, and so forth. Hubby, who is notorious for being absent minded, keeps a specific pocket for things that have to be returned, they don’t just go in the wallet with everything else.

janbb's avatar

I was being facetious above, but I do find lists really help. However, for things like the debit card return, Yarnlady’s idea of a special pocket is a good one. Also, getting into routines as much as possible helps. I always – or almost always – put my handbag and keys on the dresser in the kitchen when I come in. Otherwise, I’m sure I’d spend a lot of time searching for them.

fireside's avatar

Create a pattern for yourself and then try very hard to follow it.

For example, when you borrow your wife’s card, don’t ever put it in your wallet. Keep that card separate and put it in your front pocket with your cash. That way, when you empty your pockets, it will be visible and not hidden in the wallet.

For the keys, always keep them in the same place each day, that way you will get into the habit of grabbing them from the same location. You can also keep them with your wallet and glasses or whatever you tend to bring with you regularly.

Creating habits usually requires as much work as breaking them. You should make a list of the habits ans patterns you are trying to create in your life and review it regularly. Maybe tape it on your mirror and tell your wife that you want her to remind you about them too. This will help her to see that it is something you are working on and she may not get as mad when you forget.

{edit: guess I should have read more closely towards the end here, janbb and yarnlady just covered my points}

drClaw's avatar

Thanks everyone for your input, it sounds like routines & habits are my best bet.

cak's avatar

I’ll let you know when I can make it through a day without locking my keys in the car, three times in one day. Each time, I looked at my keys…then forgot about them and shut the door and locked it. This was today. My poor husband.

aprilsimnel's avatar

@drClaw – Learn how to practice meditation. It creates a way for you to be mindful of each moment, which helps you to stay in the present, and in turn you’re more aware of what’s going on around you and what you’re doing.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t think you can overcome it. You can only compensate for it. I can understand why your wife would feel slighted about your forgetfulness at home, which translates as carelessness—literally not caring. At least, it’s open to this interpretation on her part. I sense that there’s actually more to the story and that this tug of war might be part of your dance; for example, do you have some otherwise unspoken feelings about the fact that you are long gone before she even gets up?

Routines and habits are great (and necessary and helpful), but they can foul you up when you rely on them mindlessly and then you discover that you didn’t actually follow through. If the thing is not where you thought you put it, now what? Awareness is your best bet. For example, I have trained myself never to shut my car door or house door (or hotel room door) unless my keys are actually in my hand.

Proximity is also a good device. I always put things I mustn’t forget on top of or in things I can’t leave without, such as in shoes or clipped to car keys. I use many other similar tricks. And I send myself lots of e-mail messages between work and home to remember appointments, bring something in for the potluck, put something on the grocery list, etc.

Why don’t you and your wife both have debit cards?

RedPowerLady's avatar

Here is an easy step to take: Start taking fish oil pills. The good ones. I get mine from Trader Joe’s, lol.

They have done Wonders! for me. Even those around me noticed the difference. Once I stopped taking them (simply by accident) and all of the sudden I started getting absent-minded again only to realize I had stopped taking my fish oil. I started again immediately and the improvement came again quickly. I swear by them.

Jeruba's avatar

What are the good ones?

RedPowerLady's avatar

It is important not to take fish oil that has concentrated amounts of toxins in it. So buying fish oil that is “organic” or even states on the bottle that it is low in toxins is a good idea. (that is my biggest concern, not ingesting concentrated amounts of mercury and such) Also the fish oil should say that it has Omega 3s in it. It should also state that it has DHA & EPA so that you know you are taking actual healthy fish oil and not filler oils. Salmon oil is the best for you according to the research I have read.

Jeruba's avatar

Thank you! How long until you see the effects?

RedPowerLady's avatar

I saw the effects rather quickly. I would say a week at most. Although I will preface that by saying I was in a tough time so I had several levels on which I needed it to work. It did do the job for me though. Perhaps someone without such a strong need, it may take them longer to notice any changes or the changes may be more subtle. However, for me it was quick and quite noticeable.

janbb's avatar

@RedPowerLady How much do you take of it daily?

drClaw's avatar

@Jeruba we do both have debit cards. We have lots if different cards/accounts but we use them for different things. My wife for instance has a debit card for our family account, which is designated for groceries, bills, and gas. We only have one card for that account because there is really not much need for two, unless of course I forget to leave it at home.

RedPowerLady's avatar

@janbb just one pill (i take mine nightly with my multivitamin)

Kraigmo's avatar

When you take her ATM card you gotta say to yourself while you do it, “I’m taking her ATM card and need to put it back”.

You’ll still forget, but that’s step 1.

Step 2 is allowing her to get angry, with no resentment on your part. Which maybe you already do, because you know she’s sorta right on this issue and your attitude is good in that you wanna get better.

Tell her its OK to get angry, and rageful and to call you, etc, when you screw up. And the more you screw up, the angrier it will make her. So good. That works out perfectly, and eventually that will train you to remember. The only thing that would cause you to forget forever, on these things, is if you really didn’t care. But since you do care, your trials-by-error will eventually lead to no more error.

And on important things, that you know you’ll forget… put a note to yourself and tape it to your steering wheel. That way as soon as you get in the car, you see the note.

MissAnthrope's avatar

I’m very absent-minded, a quality that has driven my mom (who is very focused) to distraction my whole life. She used to have to remind me a million times about things, which I’m sure she took to just be a flippant disregard. I’m constantly forgetting things, or not giving her her credit card back after she gave it to me to grocery shop, or whatever. I think this quality drives people who know me nuts because I’m usually an intelligent person and I think there must be sort of a behavioral dissonance here.

Basically, I looked at myself, my strengths, and my weaknesses. I figured out that I’m scatterbrained because there is always so much stuff going on in my head and I can only hold on to two or three threads at a time. Everything else gets put on the back burner, but then new stuff arrives, I focus on that, and I end up forgetting the previous stuff. I also realized that this is simply how my brain functions, that I’ve done it for so long that it’s obviously a personality feature, and frankly, there’s no way I’ll ever be completely not absent-minded.

So, I developed some compensation methods. One is to use systems when doing things; the same way, same ingredients, every time. This makes sure I get the task 100% right the first time, don’t forget anything, and the added bonus is that it usually frees my mind up to think about things while I’m doing the task.

I write myself loads of notes, reminders, and alarms. I make lists. It’s funny, when I go to the store, if it’s not on my list, I have no concept I even need it until I remember later.

I make an effort to put things in the same place every time. I always know where my keys are, my bag, my shoes, etc. because I have specific, safe spots for them. I try to always keep groups of things together (purse stuff, for example) and try to put important things (wallet) back right after use. I make sure my keys are in my hand before I lock the door or my car. As cluttered an existence as the one I live, I pretty much always know where everything is.

I go down a checklist of things I need before I walk out the door. Keys, clock-in card, lip balm, lighter, bow tie, etc.

And lastly, even though I know I’m not good at it, I haven’t given up. I do try really hard to remember things, as I feel I should at least give some concession to those who have to deal with my absent-minded professorism.

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