How I Cope With Memory Problems At Work

What is short-term memory?  What is long-term memory?  There are many articles about the different types of memory and how information is converted from short term and working memory to long term memory.  I am not here to talk about the medical aspects of the memory.  I am not a scientist or a doctor.  My focus is how I live and thrive at work even though much of what I do today will not be remembered tomorrow. 


As the title of my book “Broken Brain Better Life” suggests, I had a brain injury. It was a spontaneous subdural hemorrhage.  It was quite large because it went undetected for three weeks before I was given a brain scan. Unfortunately, by that time, the damage was done.  I had a broken brain.  After the surgery to remove the blood pool and blood clot from my brain, it took about three years to regain most of my cognitive functions. There are still some things that don’t work properly and I have learned to live with them.  A defective memory is one of my residual issues. 


As far as work goes, I had to retire from my career in information technology because the memory issues proved too much for that type of work.  However, I was able to contribute meaningful work to my company in the form of back-office support where I process payroll, oversee client invoicing, accounts receivable and other finance-related tasks.  I am still smart, I just have trouble with my daily activities getting stored in my memory.


To compensate for this unreliable memory, I have mastered the skills of note-taking, organization of electronic computer files and emails, the way in which I name computer files, and the use of reminders in Outlook so that I don’t miss things.


Being organized is the key to being productive in your work environment when you don’t have a working memory. You can still be a valued member of the team.  It just takes a little extra work. 


The names of every file should be thought out carefully such that the name is meaningful, and consistent with the use of either hyphens, underscores, or spaces because each of these characters cause things to sort differently.  Files being displayed in the right order will make your day much easier.  If a date is important to your filenames, then it is helpful to put the date with the year first followed by month and day, in the format of yyyy-mm-dd.  Little things like this will help you find what you need easier. 


In my case, the memory issues are subtle.  I am not able to retrieve a memory of something that I worked on yesterday, but if I see it, such as a report or a note, then I do remember it, most of the time.  It’s kind of like the index part of my memory is broken.  The information is in there, I just can’t get to it without some sort of reminder.  This is the reason that exceptional organizational practices are a must.  If you employ consistency in how you name files and how you organize them, you will be able to find them when needed, even if your memory fails you.  At least, that is what has worked for me!


I wish you success in creating your own file naming conventions and file system rules to help keep you successful in your jobs, even with a broken memory!


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