self improvement

When Your Memory Sucks: 6 Easy Ways to Compensate

When lost car keys, missed appointments, and forgotten passwords are every day occurrences, it gets frustrating! If your memory isn’t as good as it used to be, as good as you’d like it to be, here are some of my favorite easy ways to compensate for a “less than perfect” memory.


Surgeons, pilots, and emergency workers use checklists. Shouldn’t you?

Create a checklist for any task you do regularly like paying bills or household chores. Checklists are particularly helpful for tasks that are done infrequently such as doing your taxes, seasonal home maintenance, or taking a vacation. That way you don’t have to rethink the entire process every time it rolls around.

Create a Word document or Excel spreadsheet so you can easily make changes when it’s time to update the list.

Reminder Notes

I’m never more than a few feet away from a pad of Post-its.

I have them everywhere — scattered around the house, in my car, and in my purse. When I have a “memory-worthy” thought I take comfort in knowing I don’t have to actually remember it.

I prefer writing things down but sending yourself a text message works, too.

Built-in Redundancy

For things you absolutely must remember, have a backup.

You probably already put birthdays, appointments, or when to pay bills on your calendar. But also mark your calendar 7 days before the event to give yourself time to buy a gift or make a payment.

Keep a spare car key in your purse or wallet. It’s much less likely you’ll lock both your keys and your purse in the car at the same time. But it still can happen. (Ask me how I know this!)

Give an extra house key to a neighbor or hide one outside (but make sure it’s in a really, really secure spot). No hiding a key under the door mat or in a fake rock by the front door.

In my previous home I used to hang a house key on a nail under my deck. Getting to it involved removing a piece of lattice and crawling in some dirt. Not very likely a burglar would figure that one out!

Do you have an old pair of eyeglasses laying around? Think about where you could use them as a backup. I keep a serviceable but outdated pair in the car. If I were to lose my good pair I can still see my way back home. I’ve also gotten caught out leaving the house wearing my prescription sunglasses only to find I’m driving back in the dark. Wearing shades. Not a good idea.

Organization Stations

Keep everything you’re likely to forget in one convenient place by the door.

Have a station – either a small table, a basket, or a rack with hooks – with everything you need when you leave the house — purse or wallet, brief case, glasses, phone, outgoing mail, or to do lists.

Keep your car keys in a dish or on a hook by the door. Always put them back first thing when you walk in the door so you won’t have to tear through the house looking for them. This is especially important if you aren’t the only person using that vehicle.

Password Manager

It’s amazing how many bits of data we all have to know — phone numbers, birthdays, appointments, passcards, pin numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers, and on it goes. But with a password manager you won’t need to remember any of them.

A password manager is a program that creates passcards so you can log into your online accounts automatically. You only need to remember one master password (of your own creation) and the rest is taken care of with a click of your mouse. If you shop, pay bills, or bank online, this really saves you time, frustration, and some serious brain strain.

A password manager also makes your computer and online information more secure. Now you can make your passwords complicated, since you no longer need to remember them.

Did you know the two most common passwords are “123456″ and “password”? Seriously.

If you are guilty of using the same simple password for all your logins, you really need to get a password management program! It could save you from being hacked or from having your identify stolen.

Your passwords should like more like “tO&G3JubZQ” and less like “1234″.

“Control + F” Command

Have you ever read something on a webpage and wanted to refer back to it but couldn’t find it again? That’s where the Control F function comes in handy.

If you want to search for a particular word or phrase on any webpage or document, hold the CRTL button down, then click the F key.

Enter the word or phrase you’re looking for and it will be highlighted for you. This is almost as good as having a photographic memory!

Google has found that 90% of computer users don’t know the Control F command, but now you’ll be part of the 10% that do. :)

You don’t need an exceptional memory to function well in this busy and information-loaded world. An arsenal of the right tools, tips, and tricks can definitely help your life run more smoothly.

What are some of your favorite tricks for keeping on top of all that you have to remember?



Deane Alban holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and has written about natural health for over 20 years. When her husband showed signs of early mental decline in his 50s, she refused to accept that this was “normal” or inevitable.

So she spent the next two years researching how to reverse this disturbing trend and started a blog with her findings at

She discovered that most of us are inadvertently harming our brains… even if we follow a “healthy” lifestyle. If you’re concerned about staying mentally sharp for life, read the rest of her story here.

  • Casandra

    Writing things down is so valuable for memory. Note only does logging important information give you a place to look it up later, but the act of writing it down makes it much more likely you’ll remember it in the first place! This is why I am a big fan of logbooks.

  • DComedian

    When I need to remember to take something with me when leaving the home, I’ll put that item AND my car keys in a place other than where I’d usually keep my keys – that way I can’t drive off without the thing I need to take with me.

  • Nikola Gjakovski

    I am really troubled with memory too. But I never use things to write down and always mess things up in result. I would prefer writing on piece of paper because being bound to technology creeps me out somehow. Great article. I’m going to grab some piece of paper now.

    • YawnCentral

      Lol I’m a small step after you. Not only do I not like being bound to technology I don’t like depending on a piece of paper either. So when I make a reminder I just use them as a last resort.

      I still try to remember things on my own so that the part of my brain for memory recollection doesn’t atrophy.

      • Nikola Gjakovski

        Yeah me too! I’m still trying to remember things but I seem to miss the “remembering part” in mu brain :)

  • Ilka Emig

    Thank you Deane! This was a brilliant post!
    I would not survive without my reminder notes. I also have them everywhere including my phone. I also have a little notebook with me most of the time. If I don’t write down a ‘genius’ idea right away I will certainly forget it. Not so genius.
    And thank you for the ‘Control F’ teaching. I DID belong to the 90% but now I DO belong to the 10%. This alone was worth reading the post. But like I said, I liked the complete post :-)
    - Ilka

    • Deane Alban

      I’m so glad you found the post useful. Especially Control F. :)

  • Paul Thompson

    Checklists and reminders are vital for me as well. I would Evernote has become my go-to tool for notes. I went so far as to take pictures of the outside of my house with my iPad during Christmas, uploaded the photos to Evernote drew a diagram of how I strung my lights so I won’t forget next year.

  • Mal

    My memory ab-so-LUTE-ly sux. So I remember this little tip:”To avoid a frown, write it down!”

    I write down EVERYTHING. I have realized that my brain betrays me everytime, so no matter how small it is, it gets written down in the same place. I use IQTell and dump it all in my collectbox. It stashes everything for me till I’m ready to process it all. It has been a lifesaver–

    Thanks for the article. I’ve learned a few extra tricks to help me along the way!

  • Rhonda Rock

    Control+F, good tip – Thanks. I find once I write down what I need to remember, the fact that I actually wrote it down usually does the trick. The note is a great back up too.