Always wondered why you never remember if you’ve locked the front door, switched off the iron or put your keys in your bag? Well, science finally has the answer.
Picture the scene: you’ve just arrived at the tube when a sweat-inducing thought pops into your head ‘did I turn the straighteners off?’
Sound familiar? Thought so. Same.
But why is it that we can’t remember whether we’ve done these simple yet vital everyday tasks?
Much like you don’t actually remember the commute home from work, or the walk to the station, experts believe you don’t remember if you’ve completed those have-to tasks because you do them on autopilot.
The fact that you do them every day means that you don’t actually have to think about them. And because you don’t think about them, you can’t recall doing them later when the anxious part of your brain kicks into gear and starts you questioning if you’ve done them.
“The main reason why we forget small things, like if we locked the door, switched off the oven or the lights in the kitchen, is primarily because these are tasks that we complete on auto-pilot,” explains Idriz Zogaj, Co-Founder at personal development and mental wellbeing app Remente.
The fact that we’re often multi-tasking also plays a role. “You will lock your front door every day before you leave, but you will also do this while you are focused on making sure that you have everything you need, trying not to miss your bus and even probably worrying about the day ahead,” Zogaj continues.
“Because you complete the task on autopilot, the brain doesn’t focus on it as much as the more pressing concerns, like being late for work.”
So what can we do to try to remember, so we can reassure ourselves we’re not going to return to a fire or burglar-ravaged home?
Zogaj believes trying to be mindful about the tasks we’re undertaking could help. “The best thing that you can do to prevent the forgetfulness is to be mindful and focus on each task that you perform to make sure that you don’t have to run back to check if your door is shut!” he says.
And Startsat60.com has another clever hack for mentally knowing whether you’ve ticked a particular task off your must-do list. They suggest thinking of or doing something unusual while you unplug the iron or lock the door. And the sillier and more unusual the better.
Whether its doing a crazy dance or announcing outloud that you’re ‘Locking the door’, sure you might get a few funny looks from the neighbours, but there’s a method to the madness. Because according to the site the act of focusing on something else will stop you being on autopilot and force you to think about what you’re actually doing.
So next time you’re three stops into your commute and the panic descends about whether you actually closed the bathroom window, instead of going back to check, you’ll likely remember that silly dance you did while doing shutting it and go happily on your way.
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