November 14, 2023.
Maybe it’s the menopause, or maybe its that I’ve finally succumbed to the habits of 21st century distraction, but my memory is a sieve!
I remember in my 20s when I could keep the full calendar of classes, work schedule and social commitments in my mind, while also a mental rolodex of phone numbers, who I spoke to yesterday and what we discussed, visual text references of my favourite quotes from novels I read last year, the criteria for my next assignment and that week’s grocery list in my head with almost perfect recall.
I used to have a great memory. Now, not so much.
Now, I do what any self-respecting Gen Z would do. Someone asks me a question, and I open my phone. Search google, check the cloud, try to figure out why my calendars aren’t syncing, review the text crumbs of she said-he-said-they said, post that cute video of my cat on Insta, and ask Siri to call my friend who specializes in foraging local clay because there’s something about that report I’m working on and the challenges of navigating the chemistry of material and the creative process that could help unstick that place where I am stuck (heaven forfend! But yes I do still call people out of the blue without texting first. Maybe I haven’t completely lost my Gen X credentials).
And then 20 to 90 minutes later….
I’m down the rabbit hole.
Looking for mushrooms, doomscrolling headlines, laughing at Frenchie videos on FB, discovering why quantum particles threaten the fabric of time, arguing with some random misogynist who is blind to his privilege, raging at the latest war and climate devastation, sending heart emojis to my friend who I just remembered is going in for a biopsy on a hopefully benign lump, or pulling the thread of some other curiosity that has nothing to do with the task at hand.
(Wait, did I remember to reply to that networking invitation?)
Sure, I know that many of our technologies are designed to hijack internal dopamine systems of reward, get us hooked, and that we are overwhelmed by a firehose of information every moment of every day, so much so that it makes it hard to think.
But the total gaps in knowledge I’ve been experiencing – like how did I forget the soup heating on the stove between answering an email and opening Zoom for my next meeting? – seem bigger and wider and more consequential.
I’ve taken to writing multiple stickie notes to myself for even the simplest things. But even this doesn’t seem adequate, especially when I forget to look at them.
Sheesh, there’s that sticky on my desk from yesterday reminding me to book the car in for service, like a flimsy yellow-tinged tweet calling out into the vacuous echoing remnants of the smart, slick, superfast strategist I used to be.
So, what tactics are you using to stay on track? What do you do to keep from falling down the rabbit hole?