How to Cure Absent-Mindedness

Absent-mindedness can be addressed by using a few simple techniques.
Absent-mindedness can be addressed by using a few simple techniques. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Absent-mindedness is a frustrating and embarrassing problem. When you constantly misplace your glasses or keys, miss appointments or forget an acquaintance's name, you add stress to your life and feel as if something is wrong with you. But simple absent-mindedness that is not caused by an underlying health condition can be corrected by developing some basic habits and employing a few techniques to help you keep your brain “in gear” when you need it.

Assess the state of your health. Your brain cannot function at its best if you are always tired and run down. Follow a healthy diet, make time for regular exercise and get plenty of sleep to boost your mental alertness and sense of well-being.

Learn to set up “triggers” to help you remember items you often forget. For example, to avoid leaving home without your cell phone, place it next to your car keys. Since you can't drive away without your keys, you will see your phone when you locate the keys. Get in the habit of putting items in the same place every time. As another example, try putting your phone charger on a table near your exit door. When you come in, you'll get in the habit of putting the phone on the charger, and you will likely to notice it before you go out.

Give yourself more time to remember things. If you are constantly running late, you are likely to forget something important as you rush out the door. Force yourself to start getting ready earlier, even if you have to set your clocks ahead five minutes. Then, before you leave, pause and run through a mental checklist. Remind yourself where you're going, what you'll be doing and what you need to remember before leaving.

Use mnemonics and mental images to help you remember names and other items. When introduced to people, look carefully at their faces and features, noticing anything distinctive. Make sure you hear the name clearly; ask them to repeat it if necessary. Try to link a feature with the name; you may note that “Bill” has a large nose like the bill of a bird (of course you don't need to share your mental images with others). The more exaggerated and unusual your mental picture, the more likely you are to remember the name.

Write things down. Some of the most organized people aren't necessarily immune to absent-mindedness; they simply take care to keep a calendar, write to-do lists and otherwise note important items. Hang a large calendar near your phone; when making appointments or social engagements, write them down immediately. Then, get in the habit of checking your calendar whenever you're near it.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you feel that you have recently gotten more absent-minded, discuss it with your doctor. Your symptoms may be the result of a health issue which can be addressed with medication or other treatment.

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