My short term memory is atrocious. If something important is mentioned, I record it immediately before it floats away. At age 25 I fully acknowledge the reality of my executively-dysfunctional memory patterns, but it took me years to accept. Younger Nathan would try to make visual/spatial representations of incoming audio instructions in memory, but it rarely held.

Writing is powerful. Writing into a computer is powerful and searchable. Cyborged together with my laptop, my memory is magnitudes of scale larger than most humans alone. I started at one side of the working memory capacity distribution, then jumped to the other side through the simple practice of record-keeping.

This past year, I also began seriously using David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology. Reading about his first step in the knowledge work process—collecting everything on your mind into a “bucket”—really validated and reinforced the write-everything-down habit I’d been growing. It also lowered the threshold for how important something had to be to get written down. Want to try a new flavor of toothpaste? Write it down. Want to better understand the Motte-and-bailey fallacy? Write it down. Might want to climb Mount Rogers someday? You get the idea.

GTD also provides great ways to get things out of the bucket and into reality, but that’s for another article.