I’m currently sorting through things. Photos, old articles I wrote a long time ago. Here is one I never published.
The question of “How to remember your life” came up in this video.
I too fear to forget life, so I was curious about what this guy does.
The problem is simple: we remember things we often need (you can surely give me your phone number without thinking about it), but it’s incredibly hard to remember distant things (when was the last time you’ve seen a hamster?). Many pieces of information lie somewhere in our memory, but they are buried so deep that we are aware of it anymore. However, if we can trigger a small amount of this memory, we’ll be able to remember all of it.
Today, we have an excellent way to trigger our memory: the many pictures we take on our phone. But that’s too much, and keeping them on your phone is not an active way of organizing your memories. The author’s solution is instead to do this:
- He uses an app to automatically synchronize the images and video on his computer (pCloud is great)
- He frequently goes through the photos and video he took, and delete most of them. That’s the necessary active part that helps to remember. You don’t need more than a few pictures of an event to recall things, so don’t fear to delete the similar and non-meaningful photos, then keep removing again until you only have a tiny amount of pictures
- Research shows that when we take pictures, we are more aware of the visual information but less aware of the other physical details: mood, smell, and so on. So he advocates to take pictures, but also to have “pictures time off” when you are in some place he wants to remember, to focus instead on the non-visual information. And to be in the moment.
There are two other ways I used to supplement my memory. A regular journal and a “gratitude journal.”
I keep a journal of yearly events. It’s minimalistic, with not much content for every item. It’s more critical for me to have an actual list of events I went to than a detailed analysis of how things happened. I used to blog a lot when I was traveling and living abroad, but it turns out that’s also too much content to process when you get back to it. Having something more fundamental is enough. I usually write it at the end of the year, somewhere between December, 15th and january 5th. I sometimes have writen journal in the middle of the year, but I found out I added too much detail, so now I’m sticking to once a year, spread over a couple of evenings.
A gratitude journal merely means keeping track of nice things you enjoyed. It’s even more simple than a regular journal because I only make a one-line note of something I like. For instance: “I hiked to the Macchu Pichu,” or “We had a drink with x, y on the canal, and played boules on a nice spring evening.” I did that during a year of traveling. I stopped because when I came back to what you probably think of “regular” life, there are fewer things to say and it’s often repetitive, and I lost focus. Even if you do that once in a while, there’s great value in keeping track of those nice fleeting moments.
Julia Evans does this for work stuff through what she calls a brag document, it’s a pretty nice and very positive approach too.
This is not the topic of this video, but more generally using spaced repetition is a good way to help memorizing things. Applying this to memorizing life events came up today on the orange website. Even though I’m not sure about using an app for this, this is definitely what happens unconsciously when we open an go through a photo book. Maybe we should do that on purpose more often ?
See a typo ? You can suggest a modification on Github.