How to Stop Forgetting Your To-Do List // McClain McKinney


How to Stop Forgetting Your To-Do List

by McClain McKinney

The entire art of memory is structured around the concept of thinking creatively.

I want you to think back to your first home. The details you experience looking at your front door. What color is it? What does the door handle look like? When you ring the door bell, what sound does it make? 
You walk through the front door and you look up at your chandelier. After admiring the glow from the golden lights, you turn and open the closet next to you so you can hang up your coat. You notice the trimming of the closet door while opening it. Inside, a variety of jackets or once loved board games are tucked away.

I need you to look over this list of things you might need to do:

1. Pick up six turkey burgers from the grocery store for your Labor Day party
2. Get two tickets to the upcoming John Mayer concert
3. Watch the Will Farrell interview Steve at the office told you about. (Thanks, Steve.)
4. Try using lavender oil to help you fall asleep
5. Go to the gym

I want you to approach this task of memorization in a new manner now. Rather than thinking you are trying to memorize the list above, we are going to visualize placing them around your home. Open up your imagination and close your eyes (after reading this post).

You walk up to the front door of your home. Now, rather than seeing just the chestnut painted door with the golden handle, now there are six turkeys picking at your wonderful welcome mat, but thankfully they are being corralled by two John Mayers, who are using their guitars to shepherd them on the front step. You excuse yourself past the rafter of turkeys, and there, opening the door for you is Will Farrell himself. 
“Hey, Will.”
“Hey, McClain. I like your red cardigan,” Will states.
You notice something odd, however. Will has been rubbing himself with lavender oil this entire conversation. You thank Will for his time.
“Sure thing McClain. Let me know if I can get you anything. I’ll just be over here.” 
Will walks to the closet door, opens it, and proceeds to sit down inside your closet and pull from behind the corner, a 15-pound dumbbell. 
“Oh, don’t mind me. I’m just preparing for my next role with J Lo.”

Bam! I’d be willing to bet that you are much more able to remember that you need to pick up six turkey burgers, get two tickets to John Mayer, see the new Will Farrell interview, grab some lavender oil from Sparrow’s website, and hit the gym. 

This is because as human beings, we actually have excellent visual and spatial memories. What this technique teaches you to do is visualize items you need to remember. To do this, you have to visualize walking through somewhere familiar, a memory palace, if you will. As you walk through different locations with which you are very familiar (whether that be your office, school, or your daily commute),  you place objects along that path.
Another helpful hint is that your mind ignores the mundane and remembers the unusual, whether that be a sudden motion in a tree or Will Farrell covered in lavender oil and lifting weights. The more unusual, the more memorable.

Try this technique for the next list you have. If you have any questions or want any other helpful hints on memory, feel free to shoot me an email at

The statements in this document have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. None of the products or services contained herein are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Rebecca Rogers