Having a weak working memory can be frustrating.

  • You KNOW not to lock your keys in the car, yet you sit them on the seat so you can grab your water bottle, purse, and files – and the next thing you know – you’ve locked your keys in the car.
  • Or – you run into the corner market for some milk and . . . . oops . . . milk and SOMETHING! Darn it!
  • Or – you are listening to a great presentation on marketing ideas and you have a question for the speaker, but once the Q & A time comes, you realize you forgot your question.


In my previous post, I mentioned that Ari Tuckman, PsyD, shared the following strategies to help overcome a weak working memory during a presentation sponsored by the Institute of Challenging Disorganization:

  • being able to reduce distractions
  • reduce the amount of information you keep “in your head”
  • make important tasks stand out more

Today I’m going to delve a little deeper into using the strategy “reduce distractions” to help support a weak working memory.

frustrated lady

Image courtesy of artur84 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you find you are a member of the “I forgot club” you are not alone. Some people with ADHD can exhibit a weak working memory. This is also a common struggle for young children, older adults, people who are sleep deprived, women who are pregnant, and “busy” adults that are stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed. (Really, who couldn’t identify with at least one of these scenarios?)

Personally, whenever I reach an “overwhelmed or tired” state I tend to become easily distracted. AND the more distracted I become, the more things I forget! And on and on and on it goes!



Here are some of the strategies I use to reduce distractions – and to improve my working memory:

  • Reduce the clutter – mentally. I use a brain dump and a parking lot to clear the distractions from my mind.
  • Reduce the clutter – physically. You’ve probably heard the saying, “A cluttered mind can’t make decisions and a cluttered surface leads to a cluttered mind.” Take a look around your office, the area by your door, the kitchen table. Cluttered or clean?
    denied computer

    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  • Reduce the clutter – calendar. One of the ways to support a weak working memory is to limit your activities and commitments. Constantly being “on-the-go” can cause your working memory to be overtaxed – leading to more bouts of “forgetfulness”.
  • Reduce visual distractions – If you are easily distracted by other people in your work environment, shift your desk so your line of sight is clear or close the door. If the email notification distracts you, close your email. If browsing the web is a distraction, keep browser closed.
  • Reduce auditory distractionsMusic, conversations and television can all be distractions. Once your focus is shifted it is easy to forget the task you were working on – or even the task you wanted to accomplish next. If you are unable to eliminate the source of the noise, try earplugs or closing your door.


Let me share an insight into my life! I am typically a pretty neat person. However, as I start to get a little tired towards the end of the week, I notice I’ll leave projects sitting out unfinished. For example, as I sat down to write this post, I noticed a USPS Priority Mail receipt with a tracking number. Double checking to make sure my package arrived was on my to-do list. However, because the receipt was sitting out, I allowed myself to be pulled from writing this post to checking online to make sure my package arrived.

Luckily, I kept the document I was typing this post in open, so when I closed the internet browser, I remembered what my original task was.

[Tweet “One task until completion! And put away is complete!”]


One support strategy I find helpful when I know my working memory isn’t at its best is to use the mantra “one task until completion”. And completion of the task includes putting everything away!

I certainly would have been better served to put the receipt in my to-do folder and pull it back out during the time I had scheduled to work on tasks on my to-do list.

Do you find that reducing distractions allows you to remember better? What strategies do you use? Please share below.

Be sure to check back next week as I explore additional strategies.

Main image courtesy of maris / FreeDigitalPhotos.net