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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Tip of the Tongue Strategies

Even the most diligent among us can't always remember to pocket a pen and paper everywhere we go (or, shhh!, won't admit that sometimes we just don't want to), but of course that's always when our best ideas hit us. Last night when I was walking my dog, I'm convinced I came up with the answer to global warming, but before I got home to write it down, I had a conversation with a neighbor, checked my mail, and watered the plants, so I might as well have been thinking about the lyrics to "Sussudio" for all I could remember. And try as I might, I couldn't bring it back.

We've all had that tip-of-the-tongue experience where we can't quite recall a word or a name. Usually, we can yank those back with brute force, just by repeating a letter or phrase until is falls out. But what about a more complete thought that slips your mind? Last night I kept trying to revive my flatulent brain by picturing where I was on the street and recreating the moment, which obviously didn't work, and my dog was just no help at all. What else could I have done?

What are some of your best tip-of-the-tongue strategies? What tricks do you use to recover those auto-saved documents from your mind? Or better yet, how do I get my dog to take dictation?
Antishay's picture

Re: Tip of the Tongue Strategies

I am from Chicago (and so is my mother) and she (mom) used to have a dog named Bootsy.


It's funny you mention dictation. I actually dictate... I have a voice records function on my cell phone which I use to verbally "jot down" any idea I have when I can't write.

Being female, I am always with a purse (and usually a laptop bag and gym bag too...) and therefore always with a pen, but I am not always in a position to whip out said pen and a notepad and record. No matter where I am, though - car, grocery shopping, just woke up in bed - I have my cell phone. At the end of the day (along with adding all my GTD actionable-items-turned-events to iCal) I add all voice records to my various lists (as goes the GTD formula) and delete them.

I do this when I want to remember/store something photographically too. I'll take a picture of a name or phone number or white board mind-map or ISBN and add it to the lists at the end of the day.





An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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