Augmenting My Fragile Memory With An Automated Diary

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Note: This post is a new version of an older post, adding new hints and tips

I know my memory is failing me, it’s never been great, but ten years ago after years of medicinal steroid use (to help with my auto-immune condition) its decline really started to accelerate.  By the time I’d realised it I’d lost most of the memories of my childhood, all I have now are memories of photos.   My memory for concepts and ideas is still reasonable, and my ability to make connections between them seems to be enhanced, but losing all those precious memories was a real blow.

I realised that if I didn’t put a system in place to supplement my memory, then I was going to be in real trouble as I got older and that’s proved to be the case.  Fortunately I did put that system in place and it’s changed my life.  I have a pretty good record of most of the last 10 years of my life now, both in photographs and in words and it’s easy to create, maintain and retrieve.

This memory enhancement tool can loosely be thought of as a diary, but it’s both easier to maintain and more powerful than any diary of the past.  It allows me to recall in a few key presses what we did on our last anniversary, when I last went to the hospital, I know when I went to Scarborough with Jennie and Anna and what we got up to, I know when I was last pain free or cycled to Fleetwood.  It’s an amazing resource, it’s always with me, it helps me every day.  One of my most precious memories takes for form of a dozen tweets that help me recall the last few days of my Dads life!

I regularly browse through this diary to keep memories alive, and each time I do I’m flooded with gratefulness for both the wonderful life I’ve had, but also the fact that I can remember it again.  I might have lost my childhood, but I’ve not lost all the memories of my children’s.

At the heart of my system is the Momento app on my iPhone.  This app consolidates all of the main sources of events that make up my ‘diary’, it’s presented well, completely automated and easy to search.

iPhone Memento App

This is what feeds into Momento:

  1. My personal Twitter feed, where I post a few times a day about anchor events, including books I’ve read, places I visit, movies I watch
  2. My Instagram pictures and associated comments, where I capture key visual memories
  3. My blog posts, where I ‘work out loud’, plan for the future, write about holidays, sketch out the content of books, and generally write about my life and what’s important to me
  4. My daily diary posts, where I record the highlights of the day in more detail, ideas, reflections etc, I host my diary on my blog, but it has a separate RSS feed
  5. My movements, captured automatically by the Moves App.  Moves provides a compete record of all the places that I go to, how much time I spend there and how I travel between them.  It avoids having to record any of this in tweets.  Moves has been a recent addition to my diary and it’s really amazing.  It’s updates are interleaved in chronological order with all of the other entries.

iPhone Moves App

I’m missing a record of meetings that I have and people that I meet, but I’m hoping to add these soon when I find a good a way to automate pulling this information from my calendar.

Although I’m very happy with Moves, all of the canonical sources of information are elsewhere, Twitter, my blog, my diary posts, Instagram etc and that means I can also feed them into Evernote using IFTTT to provide a secondary copy, one that’s more likely to be around in 20 years than Moves.  Evernote doesn’t have as good an interface but it’s much more powerful and allows me to integrate additional information including everything that I read.

Since all this information capture is automated I can’t recommend highly enough that everyone put in place a similar system.  Memory loss creeps up on all of us and when you realise what you’ve lost it will be too late, start today, I’m sure you will find it useful in everyday life, even if your memory never declines.

For the record I also use the amazingly powerful app Tweet Library which lets me keep a highly searchable archive of all of my tweets from all of my twitter accounts, @steverichards is my diary, @steveisreading links to most of what I read on the web, @steveiswriting links to all of my blog posts.

This post is the first in series on how I automate augmenting my memory, I’m also going to write about how I automate capturing my personal knowledge management archive, my progress at work, my plans for the future and my reading.

The photo today is of children playing on the beach, I spent many months of my life as a child on the beach at Mablethorpe and have almost no memories of it now.  To keep what memories I have alive I revisit Mablethorpe, and most of the other places that I’ve loved and lived, every year or so.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

1 Response

  1. June 24, 2014

    […] post is the second in series on how I’ve automated augmenting my memory, the first post covered how I create a diary which is my most important and frequently referenced memory aid.  This post covers how I […]

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