Multitasking and memory

I have always had a frighteningly good memory. I can remember things that happened on my first birthday, for instance, and way more about my toddler years than anyone I know. I remember my childhood phone number. My address when I was 8. The birthdays of my high school friends and boyfriends. And loads more inconsequential stuff.

My memory used to be better; as a child, I had a nearly comprehensive memory of everything that had happened to me back to that first birthday, down to the outfit I was wearing on a given day. But my brain got full, and some of those memories fell out. Still, I remember a lot.

There are some things that, interestingly, I can never remember. Like the order of brackets and parentheses in a sentence; I always have to look that up. But I am able to hold a lot of information in my mind at one time. It’s part of what makes me a good editor.

What I can’t remember are little, immediate things. Whether or not I put the clothes in the dryer. What I intended to buy at the store. Where I was going with the story I am currently telling. Those sorts of things. The reason for this lapse is not age; it’s multitasking.

I am never not multitasking. I multitask in my sleep. (Really, I do. I sort through emotional and mental baggage, work out problems, and feed a baby. All while sleeping. Sometimes I snore, too.) I am doing at least three things at once 24 hours a day. So occasionally I go all absent-minded professor. I think that’s understandable.

I’ve read articles in recent years that claim multitasking is bad. That it ruins productivity, accuracy, morale. Probably serves as a risk factor for disease and early death, too…everything does. But when you are a parent, multitasking is a part of life. (And life, as Facebook tells me, is the leading cause of death. For once, Facebook has a point.)

I am a little worried about age-related memory loss. If I have to write everything down now, what will I have to do then? Hire a personal assistant? Probably. Maybe I can pay one of my kids to remember things for me. After all, it’s their fault I can’t remember anything.


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