Absent-mindedness, scatterbrain, whatever you want to call it…

Forgetfulness affects us all. Even the most elephant-like among us have at some point in their lives walked into a room and forgotten why they are there, or left their lunch in the fridge and only realised whilst sitting in a queue on the M1 (doing it deliberately to justify a 1pm Starbucks cake run doesn’t count…).

But what’s the best way to combat it? Short of writing things backwards on your forehead to remind you every time you catch your reflection, what are the quickest and simplest ways to avoid the cost of a missed dental appointment or the need to sheepishly send a belated RSVP days after the due date?

As a Virtual Assistant it’s part of my job to be a professional remember-er (technical term), and to recall the things that get squeezed out of the hectic minds of directors, execs and business owners. In my role I’m frequently reminded of a quote from Arthur Bryant describing a ‘secretary’:

“Racking her brain to record and report what she thinks that they think that they ought to have thought”.

A PA is so often thought of as a right-hand person because they remember the minutiae that if left unchecked, could become major issues in an organisation. A former boss who was fond of sporting metaphors called it ‘playing in the slips’ and she was right.

‘Catching’ simple things like remembering to check the dress code for an event often seem minor, but forget to do it and you run the risk of a catastrophe – turning up for dinner in your jeans to find 300 of your peers and colleagues done up in their DJs is never a good look! Recalling important details, deadlines and meeting dates is the mainstay of why Assistants add so much value.

But for those amongst us who don’t have an all-important Personal Assistant, I’ve listed a few tips below to help you to avoid teflon-brain (nothing sticks!).

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  1. Carry a notebook EVERYWHERE. Scribble and scrawl your way to organised nirvana. You’ll be amazed at the details you capture that your brain just doesn’t retain. For the tech-savvy or those who don’t want to whip out the old A4 in the middle of the Tube, Evernote is a great cloud-based tool for recording all those bits and bobs on the go.
  2. Related to the above, set reminders on your phone or tablet for important tasks – and don’t dismiss them with the click of a button without considering whether the action is truly complete.
  3. Practice mindfulness. Staying ‘in the moment’, paying attention and practicing active listening go hand in hand when retaining important information. It’s still a good idea to think ahead at times, but if you have an important conversation make sure you are 100% focused on hearing and recording the details you will need to remember later.
  4. Create a routine. Research has shown that doing the same things at the same times every day means those tasks eventually become second-nature, so stick to a recurring schedule wherever possible.
  5. Get help. A PA is an essential resource for any business wishing to operate at a high level, but for those who prefer a more flexible, cost-effective solution, hiring a VA for a few hours per week or month can make a world of difference.

Practice one or two of the tips above and see what a difference it makes to how calm, organised and prepared you feel today.

And if even after all that you still can’t remember your wedding anniversary or partner’s birthday, there’s always Interflora and a grovelling apology…