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Dissociation and Task Management: Outsourcing Memory

One challenge of dissociative living is task management. Dissociation creates fissures in consciousness that make the demands of daily life extremely difficult to meet. It’s important that I get my son to swimming lessons on time. Showing up for psychiatric appointments is imperative. Paying bills is not optional. But I cannot expect my dissociative mind to sustain awareness of all my obligations throughout many alter states. Instead, I rely on external tools to remember for me.

Freeing the Mind With A Reminder Toolto-do-list2

Getting Things Done® is a work-life management system created by David Allen and based on the theory that the mind is free to fully invest in tasks when it doesn’t have to do the job of remembering them. There’s a lot to the GTD® system – enough to intimidate me. But the central principle of this reminder tool serves me well. Expending effort to recall necessary information at will is a draining waste of energy. I may succeed, but only marginally. Where I do succeed, I am too distracted by trying to remember what comes next to wholly commit to the business at hand.

Outsourcing Memory

My external memory is essentially a system of checks and balances. I move tasks out of my mind and free up valuable space by following three directions:

Write it down. In a portable, paper calendar we record even the most mundane of tasks, as well as reminders for each other. For instance, last Saturday I opened my calendar to find a note saying, “I promised [my son] I’d take him to the movies tonight.” Had we relied on internal memory to recall that promise, my son would have been disappointed and I would have been bewildered when he asked, “Ready to go to the movies?”

iphone-calendarSchedule intrusive alerts. It isn’t enough to write things down. A lot can happen between reading the calendar and following through. Some situations require an immediate interruption. That’s where my cell phone’s calendar tool takes over. It’s obnoxious alarm notifies us at the precise time something needs our attention. Using medication, for example, would be a dangerously haphazard endeavor without the aid of intrusive alerts.

Check the inboxes. I deposit tangible reminders of everything that needs to be done on any given day into one of five in-boxes, one for each day of the week. A note, an appointment card, a bill – anything that serves as a single, stand-alone instruction is effective. As tasks are completed, the reminders are disposed of, or moved if the task is a recurring one. This helps prevent the possibility of overlooking something. If the box isn’t empty, there is more to do.

Using Trusted Reminder Tools

These reminder tools, though not fool-proof, work for me because I can trust them. But anything that alleviates the pressure to remember tasks will do. Dissociative Identity Disorder complicates daily life. Making use of things that don’t have DID helps mitigate the severity of those complications. Calendars, cell phones, and in-boxes are just examples. What are some tools you can trust?

8 thoughts on “Dissociation and Task Management: Outsourcing Memory”

  1. Another thing that helps me is having as many bills as I can set up on auto pay – that way I don’t have to remember to pay them. The ones I can’t set up that way – I pay them as soon as they come in. Handle mail once. I pay them as soon as I walk in the door so I don’t forget. That seems to work for me. My first task after getting the mail is to deal with the mail – toss, file, or pay.

  2. Have also been using reminder tools to cope with life and facilitate communication between alters. Very helpful. Great blog!

  3. I really like the ideas especially the inboxes for daily or recuring tasks. I make lists and then have a pile to sort thru so the boxes would greatly simplify that task. thanks!

    1. Hi Theresa. I used to work at a newspaper, in advertising. With a new product published every 24 hours there were multiple daily deadlines. It became very clear, very soon that I would have to devise some kind of system for myself or I would never succeed at a daily paper. That’s when the inbox idea was born for me. It’s kind of funny, but without those inboxes there’s no way I would have been able to do my job. I hope they work as well for you as they have for me.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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