In some ways, highly distractable people are less like computers than other people. They tend to be creative and to be less willing or able to follow rules. These are not computer-like characteristics. Nevertheless, I find the computer analogy useful: the idea that one can program oneself the way one programs a computer. In some ways, highly distractable people (D-people; nothing pejorative about the D here) are more like computers than other people. Whether one tends to forget one’s tasks because one is thinking of potentially more important things like the novel one would like to write, or because, as Hallowell suggests in "Driven to Distraction", one has less of a certain kind of short-term memory to use, distractability itself is rather computer-like. One wrong instruction in a computer program can make the program skip whole subroutines. Similarly, one distraction can lead to a D-person ignoring whole activities that that one had intended to do. The computer analogy struck me as apt when I was learning memory tricks from "The Memory Book". (Thom Hartmann mentions this book in "Focus your Energy".) A visual image can be used to link two ideas. A list of ideas can be learned by linking each pair of consecutive items on the list. For example, I learned to recite the alphabetical list of names of the 50 states of the United States, beginning by imagining God’s (Allah’s) fist smashing (bam!) a giant Baked Alaska (a kind of dessert), thus linking Alabama with Alaska. Having learned all the links, I could then go step-by-step through the list, somewhat like a computer … though the visual images themselves are highly creative and not at all computer-like. It occurred to me that I could program things into my own memory in more complex patterns. Rather than a 2-dimensional list, I could have some nodes with 3 or more choices of which branch to take, and I could explore my memory, searching for things something like the way one looks things up in an alphabetical filing cabinet. I haven’t done complex structures in my memory like that, but I found the concept intriguing. Once when I was practicing memorizing lists of numbers using linked visual images, it occurred to me that I might totally forget just one link in a chain of such images, and that the rest of the chain might become theoretically still in my memory but actually totally inaccessible because of the lost link. I might never think of it again. In practice, one usually remembers a few links here and there and can reconstruct the whole list by working backwards, but I was intrigued by the idea that there could be a linked chain of memories in my mind that was inaccessible. I suppose a lot of normal memories are like that. One just never happens to think of them again. When I write a list of things I want to get done and then proceed to do them one at a time, referring back frequently to the list, then I’m acting like a computer, except that I’m the programmer too. You don’t say to a computer, "Do this, some time in the next 3 days.". A computer will ignore that. It needs to be told exactly when to do it: either as soon as it finishes some other specified instruction, or when a timer runs out. When a D-person emphasizes to oneself, "I MUST remember to do this soon," one is giving oneself an ineffective instruction. To give oneself effective instructions, one can use notepads, calendars, alarm watches, … and tricks from the Memory Book. Suppose I’ve already lain down to go to sleep and I remember, "Oh, yeah, I didn’t ask Kevin about his skates." Well, when I’ve already lain down, I don’t feel like getting up and getting a pen and paper to write a reminder to myself. But I can create an effective memory. I can do something like this. I think of something I’m sure I’ll be doing the next day, like open the refrigerator, or put on my coat. I then link the to-do item in my mind with that action. For example, I could visualize that as I take my coat off the hook, I see a giant skate hanging there that had been hidden behind the coat, and that I accidentally cut myself on the skate. The giantness of the skate, and the cutting, make the image more memorable. The next day when taking my coat off the hook I might hesitate, "isn’t there something dangerous about this? … oh, yeah, the skates." Having clearly visualized the image, I can then relax, forget about it, and think about other things. I don’t have to go to sleep thinking "I must remember that… I must remember that…", which would tend to contribute to forgetting everything else. Not that this sort of thing always works for me. But it often works. Physical reminders are even better, like actually putting the skates on top of my coat so I can’t possibly pick up the coat without noticing the skates … assuming I know that Kevin will be available to talk to at the time I’ll next be going out. Choosing reasonable times for the reminders to come into effect is an important part of the technique. I don’t set my alarm-watch to beep when I know I’ll be rushing to get the kids ready for the school bus. Cathy TISSATAAFL http://www.ncf.carleton.ca/~an588/index.html Simultaneous multilateral barter can end general unemployment!
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