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College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

August 21, 2018 - 8:00am -- Anonymous

I had an experience this week that many of you will be able to relate to, and others will just shake their heads.  I misplaced my phone, again.  Usually it’s my keys and I have backups for those, but in this case I rushed out of the house, to the office and on to a meeting sure of the fact that I left the phone in the office.  Upon returning to the office and having several co-workers assure me that they have looked with no success, I was certain that I had it in hand that morning and would find it on the bookshelf, but to no avail.  So, I returned home to find the phone, laying on the table where I’d left it that morning after gathering items that I regularly take to work. 

Some of you can relate, others think how could you lose your phone (or other important objects)?  Because it really did cause me to wonder, I did some research and here are some thoughts that I found, ones that might be beneficial to others as well, so here’s what I’ll share.

It seems that I first have to pay attention to retain a memory of what I put where.  When we get in a hurry and “multitask” it’s a challenge to really pay attention.  Second, my brain has to be able to recall the information later on, without getting it confused with other memories on other days.

Temporary lapses in memory are common.  Similar memories overlap in the brain and make it difficult to remember details from day to day.  Things like going to work every day and taking the same things with you every day, make it difficult for the brain to determine which item on which day.

The first suggestion is to simply pay attention.  Be mindful of the moments when leaving or arriving to use our brains like a camera.  When I put things in a particular place and visualize them, it’s called encoding and embedded in my brain for easier recall.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but so far it seems to work.  Multitasking suggests that when the brain does too many things at once, not only do we forget what we started or where we put something, our brains are distracted.  Make a checklist is suggested to do each task one at a time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and our memories seem to work better with visual snapshots.  When we put something down, take a mental note of the surface, the color, the place (bowl, basket or rack) to help us keep track.  Visualizing the details can establish a connection and help with memory recall later.

Establishing a regular place for items may work for some things like keys, or lunchboxes.  If, when coming home, these items go here, then when they are needed, we can find them.  Sometimes retracing our steps work, like when missing our car in the parking lot, look for the entrance used and familiar landmarks around.  It seems that “contextual memories” can be revived by experiencing the same thing, like retracing our steps, hearing a sound or even the foods that we enjoy.

Mayo Clinic indicates that memory loss is a normal part of aging, but there is a difference in changes in memory and in memory loss associated with diseases and disorders.  Please check out their website at to read more details about memory loss and concerns.