my memory

Messing With My Memory

Here’s a recipe for making a mess of one’s memory.  I did it so you wouldn’t have to. And yes, I took one for the team. 

In no specific order, I give you the ingredients:

  • Take one pandemic with high stress levels.
  • Mix in a dash of aging.
  • Add massive amounts of addictive news as U.S. empire implodes.
  • Don’t socialize except digitally.
  • Research increasing my social media exposure to drive book sales using advanced software.
  • Adopt a full schedule of social media in a test to see increased book sales result. Abandon it several months later (interesting results not relevant here but a lot of time, energy and short term thinking invested.) IMHO social media is time and brain-sucking software
  • Don’t see family. Miss all more than can be described.
  • Add 20 pounds of chocolate to one’s waist.
  • Blow major leg muscle doing my younger-man-than-you hobby of dry stone walling. Gain proficiency in couch-surfing but reduce my to-read-someday list.
  • Reduce meditations – because why not?
  • Stay in old, poorly-insulated three-season cottage for four seasons because borders are closed. Physical stress? What physical stress?
  • Use iPhone GPS for all driving to schedule ferry terminal arrival rather than have to wait extra time. (I relied on the iphone software rather than the clock in the car and my head.)

  • Write all the above on paper.
  • Think about it seriously.  


The Bottom Line: Fail?

Fail? What do you mean “fail?”  That’s not a word I’m accustomed to.

Thinking about it, I realized I had remapped my brain to an extremely short term, social media, 300-word post level of work.

I was horrified. (How do I write books when I think in 300-word blog microbursts?) The appalled look on my face reflected back at me in the mirror that morning.

Note: The brain remaps itself to deal with what it’s presented – yes, even an adult’s brain – and is not a fixed system. This is true for all ages according to all the research I was able to find. 

Even Worse:

I was even more concerned when I realized  – as a digital senior citizen – I was offloading my memory (in things like research, notes, to-do lists and scheduling appointments etc.) both short and long term – to sync across all my electronic devices.  Without the devices, I would be…  

There is room here for a discussion about whether offloading information compared to remembering it is something that’s common and beneficial in our society across multiple age groups and whether this has advantages as well as disadvantages.  

In my case, I found it disturbing when I discovered I was offloading my short term memory to a digital device but a younger person who grows up with this offloading may be less concerned.

For Me:

I asked my brain to do short term work and find information online, and it became extremely efficient at doing this in extremely short times.

I was not asking it to a) remember that information or b) think deep thoughts so that capacity was reduced. 

So Now What?

  1. I’m rereading Newports ‘Deep Work’ book (paper edition) and his Digital Minimalism book (paper) and I’m making copious handwritten notes in a new Doug 5.0 workbook.
  2. I’ve cut way back on short term projects such as social media posts and the software to accomplish this. (My personal health takes precedence over business health.)
  3. I’m writing first drafts of my work using a fountain pen including blog posts such as this one. This forces me to slow down, think more deeply and forms an association with the written word and hand-eye coordination. 
  4. I’m also forcing myself to slow down my reading by making hand-written notes as I progress through my reading list and book piles. I note I’ve been a native speed reader since I learned the alphabet – so this is one of the more difficult tasks I’ve set myself.
  5. I’m investing in paper books wherever possible to avoid digital inputs. (Which is somewhat ironic considering all my work is now online.)
My to-read pile

The Process

Only once the first draft is finished on paper (I write every second line to give myself editing space) will I transcribe those notes via voice dictation to Scrivener software. 

I’ll do the second edit, spell check etc and then cut and paste to the Net or into ebook formats and the job is done. 

Note the initial brain work is (now) all done by hand rather than electronically.  It’s much slower but it’s apparently healthier. At this stage of my career, I’ll vote for health over productivity any day.

But How Long Does It Take To Remap An Adult Brain?

The data I found suggests it takes three to four months for an adult brain to remap itself.

I’ve set the calendar. 



Back in the day, I worked in a psychiatric hospital so have some experience with mental issues. I suspect it will be tempting for physicians to do a lot of testing on seniors for Alzheimers (hey, the boomers are aging although we may not admit it)

At issue now, imho is the level of connectivity for individuals because the higher the level of connectivity, the potentially lower performance of short term memory.


Jerod Morris over at Copyblogger wrote a great post on this subject. It’s well worth reading given it’s coming from one of the Net’s leading experts on delivering great information. If you read nothing else on the subject, this is the note.

I also wrote a post here about internet attention deficit and your memory. And quite frankly, I’ve slipped back into multiple info-streams albeit at a much lower rate than before but… (Another bad habit.. sigh)

Thanks for reading to the bottom. (And congratulate yourself for being one of the few readers to do so because short and sweet on the Net still rules) But now you know why…

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