Reminder: Don't Rely on Memory for Decisions

This sounds like such a simple concept, but it’s a trap that befalls many of us far more often than we’d like to admit. The fact of the matter is that human memory is terribly unreliable and it has a tendency to alter our perception of the past. Consider this prime example.

Winning the Jackpot

I go to buy a lottery ticket. Yes, I realize that lottery is mostly a case of “investing for dummies” or “a tax on stupid people,” but it’s all in good fun. I choose my own numbers — 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 — and hand the slip to the clerk. She looks it over and says to me, “That’s an odd choice. I’ve never seen that combination ever come up!”

And that’s the problem. You never remember that combination coming up, but you don’t remember a combination like 1, 15, 17, 22, 39, and 42 either. Many combination of numbers have come and gone, but you don’t really remember any of them, because there is no immediately recognizable pattern. In theory, my choice of six numbers is just as likely to win the jackpot as any other set of six numbers.

The World of Work

Sure, buying lottery tickets is a rather frivolous activity, but your memory is equally unreliable in more important aspects of your life too. Consider how you handle your responsibilities at work.

For my part, remember all of my freelance client preferences can be quite the challenge. One client might like images of a certain width, another client might prefer plain text documents, and another still might request invoices via PayPal rather than by e-mail. That’s a lot to remember and, with so many other things to remember, they’re also very easy to forget. That’s why you need to write it down or otherwise record it in some reliable and easily accessible fashion.

The same is true with all sorts of different business decisions. Your emotions and your memories can be colored by all sorts of experiences and inclinations. Add in the common scenario of having too much information and you could be making entirely the wrong decision. It makes much more sense to be as logical and objective as possible. Write it down, weigh the options, and choose accordingly.

Jogging the Noggin

For better or for worse, we’re all going to rely on our respective memories for many of our daily decisions. That’s inevitable. You might even give your brain a caffeine jolt with the hopes that it can temporarily improve your memory. But, you’ll also need to recognize that, no matter what you do, your sense of memory isn’t going to be the most reliable thing in the world.

And, more likely than not, you’re going to forget about this blog post pretty soon… so, maybe you should write yourself a note to remember.