If you’re one of those people who always manages to “misplace” (we all know this is just code for “lose”) your keys, wallet and other important belongings in your own home, listen up.
Neuroscientist Daniel Leviten has come up with a genius trick to prevent it from happening ever again — and not only is it simple, it’s completely free too. Apparently the secret is allocate a special place in your house to the kind of objects that get easily lost.
Explaining the idea in his TED Talk on staying calm in these kind of stressful situations earlier this week, Leviten said that while it may sound just like common sense, there’s actually plenty of scientific evidence to support it.
Watch the TED talk in full here. (Post continues after video.)
It’s all to do with the way our spatial memory works.
A structure in our brain called the hippocampus has evolved over tens of thousands of years to fulfil the task of keeping track of all the important things. As Leviten explains, it’s this part of the brain that’s found to be enlarged in British cab drivers with their knowledge of the roads, and the bit that allows squirrels to remember where they buried their nuts.
The problem is, the hippocampus can’t remember everything.
“It’s really only good for finding things that don’t move around much, not so good for things that move around, so this is why we lose car keys and reading glasses and passports,” he says.
To solve this problem, Leviten advises designating a special place in your house — whether it’s a hook by the door, a decorative bowl or a particular table or drawer to store these kind of items.
“If you designate a spot and be scrupulous about it, your things will always be there when you look for them,” he says. (Post continues after gallery.)
Other recommendations include taking pictures of your driver’s license and passport and emailing them to yourself so you always have a copy, to make travel and replacing lost documents easier.
While it sounds painfully simple, given how frustrating it is when you don’t remember where you put something (usually made even worse by someone commenting, “It’s always in the last place you look”) it’s definitely worth a try.
The recommendation stems from the idea of ‘prospective hindsight’ or ‘pre-mortem’, a concept thought up by psychologist Gary Klein. The concept revolves around imagining all the things that could go wrong and finding solutions to stop them from happening in the first place, or at least minimise the damage. It’s designed to combat the cloudy thinking you get when you’re stressed, caused by the brain’s release of cortisol.
The best part? It works for both the “small” stuff and bigger problems in life — and we bet Future You will thank you for it.
Do you practise pre-mortem?