Now that we're aware that our brains can play tricks on us, it’s important to come up with ways to act on our intentions in order to remember our actions. The most obvious trick is to act immediately. If it’s a small task that doesn’t require time or preparation, like switching off the lights just do it the moment the thought comes to you. “When we form an intention at the moment such as 'I'm going to sign that form now,' and it's an activity we routinely perform, we want to complete the task when we form the intention. Otherwise, we don't actually sign the form. And the reason why is because the thought of wanting to sign the form can be misremembered as actually having signed it," explained Dolores Albarracin, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois.
Another method is keeping a to-do list and only checking a task once it’s actually performed. This is the method the researchers found most practical. The rate of misremembering increases when a person’s physical movements mirror the steps he would take to actually do the chore. For example, if you think about texting someone while on your phone, your brain is likely to believe you’ve done it although, in reality, you were just scrolling social media. Likewise, the physical act of closing the door when you leave the house is likely to lead you to believe you’ve locked it.
If this kind of thing happens to you often, to-do lists are worth a try. Make sure to write them by hand, as studies have shown that typing something out actually makes it harder to remember. At the end of the day, we’re all human and have a lot on our plates, so making a small habit to be more organized might prove very helpful.
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