Keys. Cellphone. Sunglasses. Appointment book. Wallet. We misplace and lose stuff, some of us a lot of stuff. I have vivid memories of my family retracing steps in our turquoise station wagon because my father left his professional camera equipment or his crammed briefcase, or both, on top of the car and blithely drove away. We inevitably would find the briefcase sitting forlornly in the middle of a Wyoming country road, waiting patiently to be retrieved. For some peculiar reason, the camera equipment would stay on the roof and never slide off, we would find it at the next stop. We had a very festive household when my father, my brother, and me would lose something simultaneously. Chaos.
The idea for this blog came about because, as we speak, my aggravated husband and I are searching for a truck key that I’ve misplaced (lost). It’s disappeared as far as I’m concerned, never to be found again. But, it needs to be found because replacement cost is $175.
How much time is spent during the week looking for items you typically use every day? A British insurance company did an online survey in 2012 of 3000 people. They found that the average person misplaces up to nine items a day and spends 15 minutes looking for that misplaced stuff. That’s an hour and forty-five minutes a week! A lot of time, to say nothing of what we lose permanently that has to be replaced.
Why does this happen to so many of us? Two words, encoding and retrieval. The first is the initial memory of your behavior, the second, is the brain searching for that experience. If you are not paying attention in the first step, retrieving the memory will be a challenge in the second. Stress can exacerbate the problem because then we are very apt to be thinking of one thing and doing another.
You must stay present and visually record the movement. “I am putting the keys in the zip pocket in my handbag.” You are thinking about where you placed the keys and recording a visual memory. Then, a few hours later, key retrieval is easy.
Multi-tasking is lovely but can wreck havoc with not the only the encoding, but especially the retrieval. You don’t remember what you were doing because you were focusing on something else. Yes, we can do several things at once, but something is going to suffer.
Encode the memory, using several senses if possible. Pay attention to what you are doing, especially if you have a reputation for losing things. If you’ll excuse me now, I have to go look for that overpriced truck key…