How to Stop Forgetting Using The Proven GTD Method

How to Stop Forgetting Using The Proven GTD Method

How often do you forget an idea that came to your mind? Do you end up pulling your hair after a while thinking “What was that thought which came to my mind some time back?”

How to not forget things easily

In this article, you will learn how to stop forgetting the thoughts which flash through your mind. We all have had that situation where we cannot recall an important thought which came to our mind earlier. We seem to almost remember the thought but cannot recall it. By using the thought capturing mechanism outlined in this article, you will never miss a thought again.

This article is the final step: Secret recipe to never forget your thoughts again of the final phase: Transforming into a productive superhuman of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.

Cant remember thoughts

The human mind and thought formation

lot of thoughts

As per a study, the human mind thinks about 50,000 thoughts in a day. You and I both face the following scenarios:

1. Many a time you are wondering what was that idea, suggestion, a task to complete, a topic to discuss which earlier came to your mind.

2. Your brain flashes with a thought which reminds you of a task or presents a cool idea. You plan to work on it after a few minutes. Seconds later you have forgotten the thought and you are completely blank.

Leave a comment saying “yes” if you can’t remember thoughts often. Leave a comment “no” if you can remember your thoughts well.

Have you ever wondered why do you forget the thought? I have no proven answer as per science for this tricky question. Here is my understanding based on reading and experience (Please note: I am not a brain researcher).

To not forget things so easily, you need a system instead of relying on memory.

Thought storage in the brain

Our brain stores thoughts and actions in two ways

Fading memory:

Fading memory

The memory associated with the world around you at any moment. For example:

  • the car that went by you
  • the exact words(not the context) your friend spoke to you
  • the process of you locking the door behind you
  • all the little happenings around you all time

Your brain holds these only a short while, which ranges from a few seconds to minutes. The fading memory is similar to a RAM of a computer. You can store only a limited amount into fading memory and when more events occur, these memories are replaced sooner or later.

For example, you remember how the traffic during the drive today was. Do you remember how the traffic was last Wednesday? No, you don’t. You will remember it only if it was significantly different from the other days or if you are a memory whiz.

Lasting Memory:

The other kind of memory has strong associations in your brain. It could your past, your beliefs, your way back home or an important event in your life. Your brain holds these for a very long time. Some of them last forever while some last decades with lower intensity over time.

Consider lasting memories to be similar to a hard disk. They are here to last for a long time. The only aspect where they differ from a hard disk is, they grow weaker over time. For example, if you played a major prank on your brother while you were young, you would have remembered all the details of the prank then. Now, after many years, you still remember the prank, but not the intricate details.

How does the brain decide which memory to put a thought in?

So how does the brain decide if a thought, a sight, an incident or an action should be assigned to fading memory or lasting memory?

Simply put, it doesn’t!

Any thought or a situation you encounter is by default assigned to short term memory. Only with repetition, vision, experience, feeling or emotion does the current thought get associated with long term memory.

For example, if a car went past you splashing water on you, would you not remember the car longer? That is because you now have associated the car with an experience you had.

How about finding the way to the new place you moved in yesterday? Do you find it easy to get home without losing directions? Most probably not. A few days later, after repetition, you can drive home even if you were thinking about your long lost girlfriend.

Workaround to remember lost thoughts

Forgetting things easily

There is no magic pill to stop forgetting things or remember daily tasks unless you possess inhuman memory. Sometimes to recall a thought you cannot remember, going back to the spot where you originally had the thought helps. Some associations between a visual and the thought can trigger a recall. Maybe the white bulb reminds you of the white shoes you wanted to purchase.

The human brain does not store memories in a linear arrangement. In fact, how exactly the brain stores information is not completely certain yet. But we do know that the brain stores different parts of the information in various places. If you witnessed a crime, the face of the criminal, the sequence of events that transpired, the conversation you overheard is located in different parts of your brain.

Structure of the human brain

How do you forget the thought or the idea you had earlier?

So let’s come back to the topic of you and I forgetting a thought we just had. You cannot recall the thought because it was only in short term memory. The lesser activity you did after the thought, for example, seated at the same place without doing much, the more likely you are to recall the thought you had. Since you had fewer memories after to overwrite the thought, the chances of remembering the initial thought are higher.

If you had associated the thought with some experience or feeling or visual you would have remembered it better. For example, if a person that you just met mentioned his name as Bill, you would remember the name much longer if you had imagined him having 2 heads with the second head of Bill Clinton. The association of various elements in memory stores the content for a longer duration.

Being forgetful

If there are very few associations you cannot recall a thought you had earlier. You only remember you had some thought. Has it happened to you where you neither remember the thought nor that you had a thought? Do not nod saying yes. If you had forgotten them both you have nothing to remember now. But then, of course, I am sure it has happened to us all.

Do you realize how flawed human memory is? Thoughts, ideas or tasks which come to our mind are not programmed for easy retention. No wonder we always have that “oh shit” moment, where we recall all of a sudden “oh shit, I forgot I had to do ….”.

How to overcome the problems of memory

The simplest solution to overcome the fallacy of memory is to write it down. Your lazy inner self might claim “When a prodigy from the city of Atlanta can remember the sequence of a deck of 52 cards, why do I need to write my thought down?” I will tell you why “Because you are not that prodigy.”

You are another fool like me who believes “I don’t need to write it down, I will remember it.” Even after you have been proven wrong a million times, you still believe your memory.

Stop being an overconfident idiot and admit that your memory is not as amazing as you assume it to be. Stop convincing yourself that you do not need to write things down.

Starting today, here is what you need to do if you have to recall all your important thoughts. I will put the action in plain vanilla.


Writing down your thoughts does not mean you need to write every thought down. If you find the lady walking on the street hot, please keep such thoughts only in your head.

How to capture thoughts

Did a thought flash in your brain regarding a pending task, an idea for a project, a unique gift for your spouse, a book to read, an email to send? Write it down.

You have to write down all the thoughts and ideas which may need action.

You don’t need to act on it, but you need to write it down before it fades away from your memory. The mode of capturing your thoughts is as per your comfort. The two most traditional ways are:

1. Capturing using a notebook and a pen:

This was the only method available before the advent of technology. If you are a pen and paper person you can use this approach. I know a lot of successful people who use this method to capture their thoughts and ideas even today. The advantage of the method is that a real pen and paper gives a better feeling compared to using a device. Easy to carry Field notebooks that you can tuck into your pocket are available on Amazon.

Personally, the biggest challenge I find with the pen and paper approach is the need to carry a notepad with you everywhere. Thoughts and ideas can occur anywhere and anytime, when you are walking your dog, having dinner, taking a nap, speaking to a friend, etc. Carrying a notebook and a pen on me every time is painful for me.

2. Capturing using an App:

These days with smartphones and laptops, capturing information is a lot simpler. I prefer this method because I have my phone around me at all times. The only disadvantage is I get a happy feeling when writing something down in real using pen and paper. However, the advantage of not having to carry a notepad around convinces me to use my phone.

If you have read the other lessons, on planning your day, you already created 2 lists for tasks to complete today and tasks pending action. All you need to do is add another list which is to capture your thoughts.

I have personally only used Wunderlist(now Microsoft To-Do). I love Wunderlist because it syncs between multiple devices and of course because it is free. I have it on my smartphone, iPad, desktop, laptop and it works like a charm across all devices.

If you are looking for a task management app, here is an article that outlines Wunderlist alternatives.

Now that you have made it a practice to capture your thoughts, you ain’t gonna miss any of those brilliant ideas which flash in your head. Never again will you have to go through the “oh shit, I forgot” moment. The days where you forget appointments or slip on the things to do are over.

Process your captured thoughts:

How to process thoughts

The purpose of capturing your thoughts is not to store them and never look at them again. If they are not followed up by a decision, they are no better than the thoughts you forgot.

You must process all your captured thoughts preferably on the same day or the next day. When I say processed, you do not have to complete the action. But you should make a decision about what is the next step for that thought.

The best approach is to follow the exact same segregation as you did to organize your mailbox. This method is based on the Getting Things Done model devised by David Allen.

How to remember thoughts and ideas

A thought can be put into any of these buckets, which will again be separate lists in your application.

  • Need action
  • Waiting For
  • Read/Review
  • Someday/Maybe
  • Quick action

If you intend to do them over notebooks, you will need to do some extra work. You can have a separate page for each section along with an index page in the front. Since you will have multiple pages for each bucket, your index page will help you find the various pages which have Need Action. For example, your index page will look like

  • Need action 3, 12, 15, 17
  • Waiting For 4, 13, 19
  • Read/Review 5, 14
  • Someday/Maybe 2, 16

The quick action falls under the 2-minute rule according to which you have to complete the task immediately without noting it down. To be honest, the paper method requires a lot of organization, so I would not recommend it unless you are adamant about paper.

Aligning thought capture and email organizing process

Now you are using the system to process your thoughts and process your emails. You have now built a robust system for yourself. You are not only effective at handling emails and following up, but you have also managed to apply this to even your important thoughts.

When you do this with discipline and diligence, you become an idea generation machine. You seem like an alien from another galaxy with a whole different level of envisioning and execution.

The GTD method of organizing email
memory improvement techniques


If you keep forgetting things within seconds, you are not suffering from any memory issues. To stop being forgetful don’t try to sharpen your memory because that is the tougher route.

Instead using this robust method, you now have an amazing way to capture your thoughts. Don’t let your brilliant thoughts get lost in translation.

This article is the final step: Secret recipe to never forget your thoughts again of the final phase: Transforming into a productive superhuman of the 3 phase transformation into superhuman productivity. You can begin right from step 1 by accessing the index here – 3 Phase Transformation into Living Your Dreams.

So you made it through the final step of the three phases of productivity. Pat yourself on your back. That was no easy feat.

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The effectiveness of these steps is seen only through consistency. Knowledge which is not used is useless. Make it a practice to practice as many of the steps as possible on a daily basis.

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