Open Thread Update: Speak, Memory

Last time, we asked readers for their memory hacks, the little tricks to keep on schedule and do what we need to do when we need to do it. …and we asked readers to take an informal survey of some memory hacks.

Apparently most of us are old school.  More than half of the 143 respondents use paper notes and check them daily…

 “As a chronic list maker – I have paper lists for everything! While I still keep my paper lists handy (grocery list, to do that day/week list, etc) & keep them handy to add to, a long time ago I wrote myself a ” REMINDER FOR THINGS TO DO” that I keep in my email “Draft Box” (and yes the CAPS intentional).”

Dianna M

Next came the 13 percent who rely on phone apps or other technology..

“I eliminate the paper and use an app like Samsung notes. I take notes and have multiple lists…. Everything I need is on my phone.”

– Chris H

Other readers sent in their tips and suggestions using tech, but I personally like this “belt and suspenders” approach…

“I made reminders/list on paper and then take a photo with my phone so I do not have look for the paper…”

-Carol C.

A lucky 11 percent of readers don’t worry about their memory at all.

“I relax and say whatever information I’m searching for will reveal itself to me. After a short time I find it does. So don’t stress or worry and I hope it will help you I believe if you do it pushes your information away.”

-Cherryl K.

A few – about 4 percent – spoke to their doctor about their memory, and even fewer (2 percent) took memory vitamins.

Low-tech, no tech Memory Hacks

The comments by readers Dave A., Deborah S., Ruth G., Bobbi S.,  Blanqui G. and others offer several low-tech, no-tech memory hacks. Check them all! And as you check, remember these wise words:

“Not to panic but take a certain forgetfulness in stride is very important…”

-Barbara C.

That’s it for now, but we’ll keep the comments open so you can add other tips and tricks. And thanks to Pat M for the kind words! We do it all for you!

Original content below  

I remember a Gary Larson comic of a kid in a classroom raising his hand and saying “May I be excused? My brain is full.” It used to make me laugh. Now I give a rueful chuckle. It’s funny because it’s true. My brain is too full, and my memory can’t handle the load.

Some years ago I was an active trivia fan. (My late husband and I were in a league at a local bar and we often ran competitions.  After he passed away I did it solo.)  As a player, my teammates would remark at how quickly I could mentally retrieve a stray fact. We’d win pretty regularly at the Night Cafe – and all the bars that came after.

Memory Lapses

Photo: Courtesy NBC Radio

I began to suspect those days were over when I couldn’t instantly retrieve the name of the guy who sang “Calendar Girl.*” (Answer below.) Later, it took me several days to summon up the name of an early – and famous – actress and director (at left) of classic noir films. ** (Answer below). I kept wanting to call her Aldo Ray!


My memory was pretty rock solid.  After years of rote memorization in my grammar school, I had a pretty good memorization muscle…I’d memorize poetry for fun.

Now, I’m not so adept.  It can take an hour or even a day for a stray fact to bubble up to the surface, if ever. A recent news report about aging and memory had a comforting angle on this. Maybe Larson was right, after all. Maybe the accumulation of years of stray facts causes my memory lapses, and not the neutron bomb of aging: Alzheimers.  That’s the fear that lurks behind every time I go into a room and can’t recall why.

Memory Hacks

I am not at the point where I’ll take ‘memory vitamins” advertised on TV, although one doctor says diet can help. However, I have a set of memory hacks to help:

  • “Reader” eyeglasses all over my home.
  • I put my keys on a hook by the door the second I come in, so I don’t lose my keys
  • There’s a checklist by my door for keys, cash, phone, shopping list, etc. before I leave.
  • I wrote my landline password, pin # and account number on a piece of tape in back of my home phone, so I don’t have to hunt if I call tech support.
  • At staff meetings I take notes to help me retain what’s discussed and decided.(I prefer email, though, because my computer has a much better ‘handwriting” than me!)

Are you concerned about your memory? Take our informal poll – one answer only, please:

But what about you? What technology do you use  to help you remember? What are your  memory hacks? Let us know in the comments!


Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to


*Neil Sadaka

**Ida Lupino