Out of Sight, Out of Mind


It’s ten o’clock at night and I’m just about to go to sleep when I sit straight up in bed—knocking cat off bed, awaking dog on the floor and startling husband in the process. “I forgot I was supposed to be on a call at 7pm tonight! I totally forgot!” It was an important call, but not the end of the world. I had it on my calendar, but it was an unusual event and time frame for me to do work—out of my normal routine—so it slipped my mind. Mind you, I’m a pretty organized and efficient person, so missing this call was really unusual for me. I live and die by my calendar and I will even proudly state that I still have hand-written daily planners dating all the way back to eighth grade! I make check-lists of things I’ve finished just so I can check them off!

The same organization-geek status cannot be ascribed to my ADHD family members. Forgetting is a way of life. My 9-year-old daughter with ADHD forgets things all the time and she, as I do, will often get the rapid heart rate, stomach falling reaction when she forgets something, but unlike me, coming up with a system to to pre-empt the forgetfulness is a mystery to her and frankly not a priority.

To help her, we use the concept of Out of Sight, Out of Mind as a remembering strategies. The idea is to export the “thing” she needs to remember out of her mind and into the material world. Ultimately this will include using a calendar and daily planner, but for now, here are a few strategies that have worked for us:

  • Use Post-Its everywhere. Put them in the places where things need to be remembered. For instance we’ve put post-its on the bathroom mirror to remind Ava to brush her retainer, which is a new routine. We actually use post-its a lot, and not the small ones. Get big colorful ones that stick out.

  • Use redundancy with written reminders. Just like emergency systems often have several layers of redundancy, we will often make sure written-visual reminders happens in multiple places: bathroom mirror, kitchen counter, in the car etc. Using the retainer example, I’ve been putting a post it on the breakfast table too, “Did you remember to brush your retainer?”

  • Things that must make it to school each day are left against the door we go out of in the morning, and the backpack is always packed the night before, never the morning of.

  • We have a place in our kitchen where things like permission slips, rehearsal schedules and other important forms go. It’a place we pass many times in the day so we see them and they stay out in the open until we’ve dealt with them.

  • Ava takes medication every day and instead of keeping it in a drawer or cupboard, it’s kept on the kitchen counter where we will more likely see it and not forget to give it to her.

  • Involve your child in creating the visual reminders. When our brains are actively involved in the memory process, the more likely it is we will remember something.

Leave a comment and let me know what visual reminder strategy you use or what success you might have with one of mine!

Chelsea Wessel Sloan