The Memory Palace

Memories, remembering, and how thought and the recall of thought works for people is something I often find myself thinking about a lot. I think this is because at one point in my life I needed to be on antidepressants and they really messed up my short-term memory. So, I find myself thinking about how people remember things and recall things.

The first time I started thinking about how the brain and thoughts work was early on in school. I was told by my music teacher that the human mind can only handle seven independent things/thoughts at one time. If you add an eighth in the mix, one of the other seven will no longer be available to you.

The way this applies to music and my drumming, he told me, was that when you are drumming you are using all four of your limbs behind the drum kit. Your arms and legs. Each one is doing something independent of the other. That is four things your mind is tracking. You are also keeping time in your head and anticipating what is coming next. That is six things. The seventh thing I find myself doing while I am playing music is just either looking around and being observant of the other musicians. Sometimes I’m thinking about random things such as what I am going to make for dinner or what is on the agenda for work tomorrow. That’s my seven things at once. The brain can’t handle anymore than that. This point gets proven over and over again with me during band practice whenever anyone hits a note that is not correct, or plays something different. This by default makes me drop whatever extra thing I am thinking at the time to focus on the change in the music. Sometimes I won’t be as lucky and forget what I was thinking. Sometimes one of my legs or arms will quit working and the drum beat I will be playing will sound wrong. So a lot of discipline goes into being focused and prepared for something unexpected when I am playing music with my band.

In the past I have talked about how much I like, and use, the Getting Things Done (GTD) work methodology developed by David Allen. It’s great for keeping tasks and projects, both work and personal, organised in a way that allows you to get things completed quickly and efficiently. But the thing that makes GTD so great is the fact that it frees up your mind to allow you to have ideas. Unlike remembering things, having ideas is something the mind is great at doing.

“Your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them.” – David Allen

By being able to put your tasks down in a system that you trust allows you to focus on your next action rather than spending your time worried about the overall project. It really is a life changing way to work and get things done. If you have not looked into before, I highly recommend that you do so.

The latest thing I have been learning about almost contradicts GTD in a way. The Memory Palace is an ancient way of remembering anything. By having a house for all your thoughts that are triggered by distinct locations within the house of your minds eye you can recall any kind of information. See the videos below to better understand what I am talking about.

Bob Iger Interview

Bob Iger is the current CEO of The Walt Disney Company. This guy is someone who caught my attention early on when he started working as CEO for Disney because he gave an interview in TIME magazine, I believe ( I still have the interview clipping) where he talked about his normal work day and how he manage to get things done. Little tips and tricks he shared with the Magazine. Things like how to make sure he had enough time to just get work processed that was sitting on his desk. How to properly thank people and to use history as a key to master the future. I guess you could say he is someone I respect and find inspiration in.

The other day I saw this video posted on hulu. I have no Idea how long the video will be available, but I wanted to share with anyone who is interested.

Productivity In 11 Words

It’s Friday and I am finding trouble being motivated. I found a great quote that I think just rocks. I am such a huge fan of the GTD system and this is just a great quote to go alone with it’s methodology.

One thing at a time.

Most important thing first.

Start now.

This quote was found on

Paper Block

paper-blockThe paper block is just that, a block of scratch paper that you can terror off. Like a 3M sticky note, but no sticky side. Just paper. The paper block has become a key part of my GTD dump process. Someone storms into my office with something for me to do while I am already working on a project. I jott it down on my paper block, rip of the page and put it in my inbox. Then continue on what I was originally working on. Someone calls while I am in the middle of an office memo e-mail, I write it down on my paper block, rip it off and put it in my inbox.

I find it so much better then using sticky notes. It’s so simple and easy.

Print vs. Cursive

I believe that for day-to-day getting things done, print is a better form of handwriting then cursive. Print is easier to read and I think when you see notes or directions in a format that is easier to read your less intimidated by them. It is so frustrating to be given hand written cursive notes and spending the next half hour trying to interpret them. People write down notes in cursive so fast that the end result is illegible.

If people slow down just a little bit to make sure their writing is legible to anyone who reads it, there is less of a chance of miss understanding notes and directions. The same could be said of cursive hand writing. Slow down and anyone can read it. But my argument is more related to the fact that Print is easier to read then cursive.

This also lead me to think about fonts used on a computer. By default there are very few (if any) cursive style fonts on computers. Can you imagine how strained your eyes would be if the Macintosh Finder or the Windows start menu used cursive fonts instead of print fonts?

Cursive has it’s place in society. I just think it’s home is in typography art.