My name is Jason, and I’m a chronic forgetter. I often repeat-introduce myself to people I’ve met before, hoping that hearing a name again will make it stick. Then I always say: “I’m horrible with names, but I rarely forget a face.”

You see, I’m a visual person. I store away spatial details like colors, shapes, and patterns without a problem. So, while I have trouble remembering exactly what a nugget of information is, I rarely have trouble recalling where or how I encountered it. In the same way I know I’ve met someone before but can’t place their name, I can often remember where I’ve seen or read something, just not the specific content.

There isn’t time to reread everything, so I’ve taken to a new practice: annotating. In most books, I come across about 10-20 things that really speak to me. Those are the things I want to remember. But I was never that great with studying; my methods for remembering were always a hard-fought and strenuous exercise. I realize this retention issue isn’t new, especially to those who spent more time in school drawing than reading, but that it took me this long to have a process for reading leads me to believe others might benefit from it too.

I flag important pieces of info with Post-it Page Markers and scribble marginalia. Months later when I want to find that thing Henry Dreyfuss wrote about in Designing for People, I can skim 10-20 pages and read my own notes to find it, rather than aimlessly flipping through the whole book. As you can see from my books, I’ve jumped into the practice with both feet and it’s proven to be a huge time saver. For more heavily flagged books, I quickly compile my own handwritten index in the front flap for the pages I’ve marked. It’s like tagging in the analog world!

In meatspace where finding stuff isn’t a command-F away, it’s much easier not remembering everything you know, and just knowing where to retrieve it.


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Jason Santa Maria is a graphic designer living and working in sunny Brooklyn, NY. More »

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