“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.” – William Shakespeare
I was asked about what I do to sort out all my information while i’m gathering it. They were interested in trying to retain more information since they forgot a lot of along the way. I thought it was a pretty good question and one that I hadn’t really given much thought. I just did it because it felt like the best way. Before I answer that one i’m going to geek out for a while.
During a mission in the videogame Skyrim you come across a prisoner called Borkul. He’s your avarage stone cold killer and all-around badass orc. When you ask him what he’s in for he’ll tell you: “Murder. Banditry. Assault. Theft. And lollygagging.”.
Now, if you’ve played the game, no doubt you’re smiling. You’ve heard it in every town, from every guard, so many times you wish they’d (snowclone warning!) taken an arrow to the face.
So, my fellow adventurers… What’s the number one rule of Skyrim? Hint: It isn’t: “You do not talk about Skyrim”.
Now, I don’t know what guards in Skyrim have against lollygagging. My suspicion is that they had a traumatic event involving an abusive baseball coach. If you got that reference you’ve recently binged on Kevin Costner movies or have been lollygagging on youtube my friend. At any rate, i’m tempted to agree with them.
How often have you gone to a movie, seen a play, been at a gallery, watched a TV show or read a book and halfway through felt: “This isn’t for me” and stuck with it to the end hoping that something of redeeming value might come of it?
If you haven’t seen the movie “Lucy”? Don’t. Spoler alert! It’s crap. I’m not saying this to be mean or diminish their work. A lot of people worked very hard to make it happen and I applaud that. If you’re interested in the whole “what if we unlocked our full potential”-theme watch “Limitless” instead. It explores the same concept and is 10 times the movie “Lucy” is.
Why am I hating on “Lucy”? It was poorly written to begin with and nothing could save it. Plus, the concept intrigued me and my friend who watched it. Let’s just say that what could’ve been a cool movie night turned into “Mystery Science Theater 3000” really quickly.
What we should have done is to just turn the thing off and watch or done something, anything, else. The only thing that saved us was the banter that ensued. So, there’s that.
If you waste money it’s fine, you can always make more. If you waste time? Yeah, that ain’t coming back. If you come away with just one new thing or if you’re reminded of something you haven’t thought about in a while then it won’t have been a waste of time. What do I really need to give “Lucy” credit for? That it reminded me not to waste any time on stuff that I do not enjoy or can’t learn anything from. I really do mean this: Thank you.
Here are some examples of things I had the sense to say no to regardless of time invested during the past year: Person of Interest (TV), TMNT (Movie), Boxtrolls (Movie), Monty Python Live [Mostly] (Video, 20 minutes in I tired of it saying: “and now for something completely different”), I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had (Book), 48 Laws of Power (Book, I will read this but i’m not ready for it yet), Carsick (Book), Diary of a Mad Diva (Book), Flash Boys (Book), Your Inner Fish (Book), This Book Is Full of Spiders (Book), Yes Please (Book).
The reasons vary but the common thing was that I didn’t feel like I was gaining anything from it. Might be because of my state of mind, that I wasn’t all that into it or that I had more interesting things to deal with.
Did I fall into the “just see it through”-pattern at times besides “Lucy”? Sure did, and here they are: Penguins of Madagascar (Movie), Man of Steel (Movie, actually fell asleep but it still counts!), Pacific Rim (Movie), Walking in this World (Book), The Prosperous Heart (Book), England My England (Book) and How To Be Beyoncé (Book). This is why it’s so very important to be watchful about what we spend our time on. We should at the very least enjoy our lollygagging!
Now that i’ve thoroughly wasted your time i’ll answer the question: How do we organize our information so that we’re less likely to forget?
1. Get a notebook.
2. Only take notes on what you feel is important.
If you were expecting something revolutionary i’m sorry to disappoint.
There are techniques like the “memory palace” and stuff like that if you want it to occupy space in your brain. The act of writing down stuff can help one remember but it isn’t a guarantee. Spaced repetition can do that as well. Other than that i’ve learned to accept that we just plain don’t remember things that easily. Sometimes it’s accessible and sometimes it’s not.
I’ve seen actors, authors, politicians, musicians and so on get asked about stuff they don’t remember having said, done or written. Some have even missquoted themselves. Why? Because we aren’t perfect recorders of information.
You’ve tried the “pass the message” game right? The one where the first person whispers something to the next person who whispers it to the next and so on until it gets to the last person who says the message out loud. Rarely if ever is this the same as the original message.
Also, we only have a certain amount of working memory at our disposal. If we can offload it as much as possible there’s more room for focusing on the task at hand. Less time thinking about what we forgot leads to more time having fun!
Do you spend a lot of time doing the same things and keep forgetting certain parts? Sit down and break down the individual steps. Usually you only need to do this once and then just follow the same procedure every time.
Checklists are awesome!
Ever stopped to ask why we have all these great things like books, movies, music and so on? We need to record stuff so that the information doesn’t get lost or distorted along the way.
Try this on:
1. What was the name of the prisoner orc in Skyrim?
2. What were the 5 things he was arrested for?
3. What was the name of the movie you should check out instead of “Lucy”?
If you got them all right, magnificent! If you remembered nothing that’s great too!
If we learn to accept this as a natural process of our mind then we might actually start using it in a more efficient way.
Remember: Forgetting is not a bug. It’s a feature!