Some people were born with photographic memories. They can recall random facts and obscure details instantly.
But the rest of us need to augment our memories by taking notes, making lists and keeping files. Does that make sense anymore?
With all the technology changes we've all seen in the past few decades, we rarely stop to think about how old ways of doing things bias our thinking and hold us back from taking full advantage of new technologies.
We write things down mostly because it's a habit. For centuries, pens, pencils, typewriters and, later, computer keyboards were our best option for augmenting memory.
But now we have the ultimate memory-augmenting recording technology ever—Internet-connected cameras. All that's needed now is a habit adjustment.
Here are three incredibly powerful examples that use mobile cameras to give you photographic memory—literally!
Nine is a camera-based visual to-do list for the iOS platform.
Let's say you finish the milk, and want to remind yourself to buy some more. Just use the Nine app to take a picture of the empty carton, press an on-screen "check mark" that shows that it's the picture you want to use and click done. Then you'll be offered pre-set categories. In this case, you'll tap "Buy." This feature allows you to capture most reminders without typing a single word. Tap, tap, tap and you're done.
It's called Nine because it's got nine pre-set to-do categories: do, go, buy, listen, watch, read, note, love and make.
Later, when you're at the store, just look at your "Buy" list and you'll see the empty milk carton (along with your other captured items). Each list shows part of the picture stacked on the screen. The memory about what to buy is instantaneous and visual.
Sometimes your reminders are more abstract and don't lend themselves to pictures. In those cases, you can type a short reminder on top of the picture. One trick I use is just to take a picture of what I see in front of me and type the reminder on top.
The picture reminds me of the context or conversation or situation where I thought of the to-do item. Nine also automatically captures the location where you set the reminder, which often adds a helpful bit of context.
I've also found nine helpful for business travel. If you stay in dozens of hotels a year, rent multiple cars and do all the things that business travelers do, at some point you'll forget what your hotel room number is, what your car looks like, where you parked your car in the airport garage and other such facts. Nine is a great app for capturing that information on the run. I put those photographic reminders into the "note" category.
This capturing of context has an interesting psychological effect on memory. You may notice, for example, that happy memories from years ago are usually strongest when you've got pictures of them. Having seen those pictures from time to time over the years helped you retain those pleasant memories in your brain, while the un-photographed memories are more easily forgotten.
That same phenomenon can be applied to your to-do list. By quickly scanning the pictures in Nine, you'll keep these tasks in mind and remember them, even without referring to the app at the moment you need to remember.
Using pictures to create a to-do list is faster to capture, faster to recall, more appealing to interact with and enhances actual memory.
Make Your Memories Searchable With Evernote
One advantage words have over pictures for augmented memory is that they're searchable. So the solution isn't to capture only words. Instead, use a service that identifies the words in your pictures and makes them searchable—in other words, treat the text in pictures like text you type.