My pal Brain Cutlery messed up, he tackled a well-known problem all of us have on occasion, and that is forgetting something essential. In this occasion, he blamed the lack of mindfulness and lack of checklists. This is the thing in my life that I brought to perfection through something that I’ve called mental contexts.
When I was younger, I never made checklists for my school material, and after a while of forgetting notebooks to school, I’ve decided to make each and every notebook of mine work for multiple subjects. This has substantially lowered my school bag belongings. And I went this much in my minimalistic ambitions that I had a whole of 3 notebooks that were divided into 4 subjects each. Forgetting a notebook? That was never an issue, I wasn’t even packing my bags, they were always “ready”, minus the school books that I skipped packing on purpose, as much as I could.
The context of getting out of the house
At that time I developed a habit of ALWAYS having three things when I am out and about. I call these 3 K’s (well at least they all begin on K in my native language 😛 ):
Since most of the time I am wearing jeans, the pockets are kinda tight, and all my most important things that I am not supposed to forget were fitting in my pockets. I had a certain schedule of all the items and the way they are organized in my pockets. If something wasn’t organized the right way, it would immediately make me feel weird. I couldn’t leave the house if my wallet wasn’t in the right pocket, supported with a phone, and keys in the left pocket. This habit pattern is ingrained deeply in my muscle memory, to that level, that I simply can not forget any of those three.
Context of Gym
The same way I tackled the issue of pockets, I developed a habit of treating my gym bag. Gym bag has a certain way of packing. There is a lower compartment that is always reserved for shoes, but the upper compartment has to be set up right, in order for me to carry it properly on the back, and having a structure that makes my back feel cozy to wear it. In case that something is not orderly set (or I forgot to pack it), the structure of my gym bag would be messed up, reminding me that it needs to be repacked.
If there was one item missing the structure wouldn’t hold on, and it would make me feel weird again. Repeating the cycle.
In both cases, you’ve noticed that there is a mental trigger that fires a shot if something is wrong. Developing this trigger is something I’ve cultivated over the years, but I believe it’s way better than running checklists of things. Sometimes you honestly should allow for repetitive tasks to be piled in your muscle memory checklist! This way you’re training yourself to rely more on yourself than on your technology.
Perhaps the checklist is a band-aid until the habit builds up, but you’re not supposed to live with band-aid till the rest of your life. Remove the clutches as soon as you don’t need them. Use mental triggers, to signify yourself that something is not quite right, then run your mental checklist and see what is missing there.
This whole mental process happens internally, completely automated and without the help of external tools, wasting my time and energy.
Automating your brain processes for repetitive tasks is the best way to liberate your time and mental resources. Make smart use of mental triggers, that will launch your mental context. Forget the tools, sometimes your Brain is good enough.