How physical objects help my ADHD memory

I’ve talked a couple of times about tricks for remembering things (such as using reminders on my phone and making habits). Another tool I use to help me remember is physical objects.

One hallmark of ADHD is poor working memory, which is responsible for holding information temporarily until the brain can process it and which helps us reason and guides decision making and behaviour.

Poor working memory can make it difficult for us to remember complex processes with multiple steps (such as remembering all the steps in a recipe). It can also be difficult to use our working memory when the brain gets distracted by something else to process, pushing out the first thing you were trying to process (“Wait. Why did I open up this browser tab again?”).

I’ve talked a couple of times about tricks for remembering things. For example, I discussed using reminders on my phone. I also talked about the importance of making habits. Today, I want to touch on another tool I use to help me remember: physical objects.

One thing I’ve found after having ADHD for nearly 50 years is that if I need to remember to do something later, I can put it near a physical object to help me not forget.

For example, since I always put my car keys in the same place in an effort to never lose them, if I have to mail a letter the next time I go out, I can just put the envelope on top of my keys. When I grab my keys to leave, I will notice the envelope and take it with me.

If I am making supper and use up all the remaining supply of an ingredient but don’t have the time right then to add it to the grocery list, I can leave the empty container on the counter. Then when I’m cleaning up, I will notice the container, and I can take a few seconds to enter it into the grocery list.

If I need to retrieve laundry from the dryer but I need to go to the washroom first, I can take the basket with me then leave it outside the washroom door. When I finish in the washroom, I will notice the basket and remember to go get the laundry.

And so on.

This is a super handy way to remember things that aren’t habits or that you might not need to check your reminders list for.

Have you used physical objects to help you remember? Let me know in the comments.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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