Podcast 034: Mind Triggers

In This Episode: Scenarios are a great way to do long-term planning and thinking, but here’s a great trick for short-term results. Also: another segment of No Longer Weird.

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Show Notes

  • No Longer Weird: Car thieves having to go to court, so they drive themselves there in a stolen car. (Example from WTIC Hartford)
  • Podcast 28 talked about using scenarios.
  • The fitness band we use: Garmin’s Vivofit 2 ($60 at Amazon), because it has a super-long battery life (Randy’s is still going after more than two years! Kit had to put in new batteries a few months ago), and it’s waterproof.
  • We talked a little about Kit’s coaching: she’s a High Performance Coach who specializes in people with ADD. Her web site is here

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Randy: Welcome to Uncommon Sense, the Podcast companion to the ThisIsTrue.com newsletter with the mission to promote more thinking in the world. I’m Randy Cassingham.

Kit: I’m Kit Cassingham.

Randy: This week we’re not discussing a story from the newsletter, but rather another tool in what I call the Thinking Toolbox — a way to learn how to think better, unlike the people in True’s stories. Or, if you’re already an accomplished thinker, a way to help others learn how to think because trust me: they need the help.

Kit: We all do.

Randy: Before we get there, though, I need to catch up on another entry in the No Longer Weird list. This week, it’s people who head to court to answer charges of stealing cars, and I’ll bet Kit can guess how they get to court date.

Kit: It’s not by walking and getting their steps in.

Randy: Probably not….

Kit: Or taking the bus. Oh! I’ll bet they drive a car.

Randy: Yes — a stolen car. And it happens so often, it’s just not weird. The story I passed on this month was from Hartford, Connecticut, and Jonathan Rivera, 25, had a court date on charges of car theft from an incident in February. He showed up to the courthouse in Hartford on time, and police happened to be checking the license plates of cars parked in the parking lot. They found a white 2014 Subaru Legacy, and found it had been reported [stolen] in Newington. They simply watched the car, and swooped in when Rivera got in it to drive away.

Kit: Ahhhh.

Randy: Yes. Naturally, he was arrested, and now has a second car theft charge to answer for. So Jon, my recommendation is, next time take the bus!

So on to the Thinking Toolbox. This third tool is somewhat related to the tool discussed in Podcast 28, Scenarios. But while scenarios are long-term strategies, there’s a corresponding tool I want to talk about this week: Mind Triggers. I’ve mentioned before I’m ADD, and one of the techniques I stumbled upon on my own was to create Mind Triggers. And here’s what I mean: the night before we were heading out on the trip we just got back from, I was already in bed, trying to get some sleep since we were planning an early start in the morning. And while lying there, I remembered that I hadn’t packed something important. Now Kit, being a high-performance coach for people with ADD, how about that?, you have a tactic that you recommend for important things that need to be remembered, which is:

Kit: Put it in your calendar, and set an alarm.

Randy: On your phone, so it’ll beep because you’ll probably have it with you.

Kit: And if not you’ll have your watch which will beep when your phone does.

Randy: Well, that is definitely a good tactic, and highly recommended. But that’s not what I did, because it was late at night, and I didn’t want the bright phone screen in my face minutes before I wanted to fall asleep. So instead, I used a Mind Trigger. To do that, I thought of something that I knew I would definitely have to do in the morning, which was grab my computer and put it in my backpack. And I told my brain, “When you see the laptop, you have to remember to grab the other thing.” I repeated it a few times to program it in well, and then fell asleep, knowing I had taken care of that urgent need.

Kit: That is so cool. Now: did it work?

Randy: It did! Good question! I popped in the office for my computer and, the moment I saw it, I remembered the other item and, importantly, grabbed it first.

Kit: Are we going to find out what this item is?

Randy: No! I’m not because— well, ask me that in just a minute. I wanted to reward my brain for triggering the memory, and not have give my ADD a chance to get distracted. So I stuffed the other item into my backpack, then went back for my laptop, and then was ready to go. So you want to know what the item is?

Kit: What is this other thing? You keep referring to it.

Randy: This is a really short-term thing. It’s not meant to be something you remember long term, and guess what?

Kit: You don’t remember?

Randy: I don’t remember.

Kit: But you got it, didn’t you?

Randy: When it was important, I did.

Kit: Well that’s delightful.

Randy: You like that?

Kit: I do. What’s your wife’s name?

Randy: Which one?

Kit: I was thinking the present one, but….

Randy: Oh, OK. Well, Kit.

Kit: Yes, Randy?

Randy: You want to add something to this.

Kit: Oh I could talk for hours on this one. I know we’re limited to minutes, but….

Randy: Yeah, and this is something you work with people with ADD all the time, I know. So I’m sure you have quite a few techniques. You’re ADD yourself, so you have things you use on yourself.

Kit: Before I knew I was ADD I would come up with ways to help me or other people remember things. Do you remember our kittens Mish and Mash?

Randy: I do.

Kit: People couldn’t remember which was who, so I came up with a technique: Mish had the coloration split on her face, so one side was white and the other was calico.

Randy: Right.

Kit: So I remembered the ‘i’ in ‘white’ went with ‘i’ in ‘Mish’. Therefore that left the other one as Mash.

Randy: That’s a mnemonic, which is another mind trigger.

Kit: But we had a cat sitter and she could never remember the names, so I gave her that mnemonic and she rolled her eyes. She goes, “Well, that’s stupid.” Years later, she still didn’t remember their names. “If you’d just gone with the ‘i’….” Another one I use when I have something I want to get, I’ll put my index finger to my thumb, then go, “Oh, but there’s another one,” so my middle finger goes to my thumb.

Randy: So now your thumb is touching two fingers.

Kit: And then I’ll add a third one perhaps, so it’s—

Randy: And now your thumb is touching three fingers.

Kit: Correct, and I will go … and this could be at the grocery store, it could be things I’m doing around the house, things I want to remember to pick up, and so I go get them and release the fingers as I … and they don’t necessarily relate to something specific. Like the index finger doesn’t mean…

Randy: “Milk”.

Randy: Yeah, “Get the water bottle.”

Kit: So I just release a finger as I get the things, and when there is a finger left over, I have to stop.

Randy: “Now, what was it?”

Kit: …and I just go through the list and it comes to me.

Randy: That is a great mind trigger that’s using something physical. There’s something else that you do physically before we do podcasts.

Kit: I was just going to get to that, because I think it’s fun. It took you a few times of me doing it to understand the value of it.

Randy: Well I can’t actually see what you’re doing from my desk, so….

Kit: That sure does make it a disadvantage for you.

Randy: Yeah, that makes it harder, but go ahead and tell them what it is.

Kit: I am turning off all sound makers.

Randy: Before we record.

Kit: My phone goes into stun mode, which it did not do this time.

Randy: ‘Stun mode’ is your term for turning off the ringer.

Kit: It’s me turning it on silence, and I turn off the alarms that alarm me even when it’s on quiet mode. I haven’t figured that one out so I just turn them off. But we have the emergency scanners and radios behind us.

Randy: Right.

Kit: So I turn them off, but there is a cable that sits on the shelf with them. I grab that cable and put it on the floor in front of me, so whenever I’m done—

Randy: That’s on your path to get out of the room.

Kit: Right. When we’re done, I’m getting up and there it is. I pick it up, put it away, turn the radios back on. Ta-da.

Randy: Yeah, very tricky, and it’s a way to trigger your mind, to trigger a memory of something you need to do.

Kit: Of an action I want to take, which might mean, “Remember to tell Randy something,” so yeah, there go the fingers again.


Randy: Just to make that clear, you’re not giving me the finger.

Kit: Absolutely not!

Randy: Yes, just another great little technique. We all get distracted, you don’t have to be ADD to get distracted. So anybody can use these little techniques.

Kit: Exactly.

Randy: It helps slow you down a little bit and say, “Wait a minute, there’s something I need to do.” Our mothers told us, “Tie a string around your finger,” because they didn’t have phones with alarms that beeped at you, that you carried around everywhere you went, so they had to use other techniques. And you know, string around your finger still works, but it doesn’t necessarily tell you what you need to remember.

Kit: You have to be mindful when you tie that string around your finger.

Randy: Yeah.

Kit: …To remember why you’ve got a string on your finger.

Randy: Yeah, “I’m tying this around my finger to remind me to grab the present that I’m taking to the party I’m going to in half an hour.”

Kit: Right.

Randy: When you get in the car and look at your hand as you put it on the steering wheel, and you go, “Oh, I didn’t grab the present.”

Kit: No.

Randy: So you run back and then grab it.

Kit: I’ve put the present or the food in front of the door knowing I’d have to step over it. I’ve gotten to the party several times having stepped over it and continued on without it. I wasn’t mindful when I did that.

Randy: So you really are ADD.

Kit: Or I wasn’t mindful when I left. I’m better now, I haven’t done that in a long time but I used to do it a lot.

Randy: And it’s all part of slowing down and remembering, what is that there for?

Kit: That is part of another technique I wanted to share with you, and that is whenever you want to be sure to get into a certain frame of mind, for example: as you get to … let’s say I’m coming in from the garage. When I get to the garage door, it triggers the thought of whatever it is I want to do. Relax, let go of the day, be present for Randy. Maybe give him a kiss when I see him. Then I have to go find you.

Randy: Wow.

Kit: I know. So like you said, that slows you down, so you get to the door and you go, “Ah, the door frame represents me letting go of the day that’s not relationship-related, and when I step through the door, I’m relationship-focused.”

Randy: And I get my kiss.

Kit: You do, if I can find you.

Randy: Usually I’m sitting right here at my desk.

Kit: That it is indeed true.

Randy: I’m not difficult to find when I’m home. Any other techniques you want to share?

Kit: I have a couple of health-related ones.

Randy: Yeah?

Kit: I have used the phone app MyFitnessPal for years to track what I eat.

Randy: Counting your calories and all that?

Kit: Counting calories, and nutrition, because that’s important.

Randy: So it tells you if you’re not getting enough protein or whatever?

Kit: Or fiber or whatever.

Randy: OK.

Kit: Right. And when I’m not mindful of that — I record things everyday but if I’m not mindful, I eat a whole bunch of calories before I’ve recorded it, and that doesn’t help my weight. So now as I’m preparing food for my plate, I pull up the app and record what I’m putting on my plate.

Randy: Before you eat it.

Kit: And sometimes I’ve said, “Ah, don’t put that on your plate, because if it’s on your plate you’ve got to eat it.” So I take care of that that way. The other one is something we’ve been doing for….

Randy: Two years.

Kit: Two years now, wow, and that’s our fitness bands.

Randy: Yeah, I know right where you’re going.

Kit: Yeah.

Randy: Because you’re holding up your left hand and it’s around your wrist.

Kit: And I had two.

Randy: Yeah.

Kit: The fingers point to them. One, it reminds me … and remind you, whether you pay attention or not is another issue … every hour, “You’ve been sitting still, it’s time to get up and move.”

Randy: Because it beeps at us if we’ve been too—

Kit: Right.

Randy: —still for a long time.

Kit: And it has a red bar, so that’s two reminders that you’ve been sitting still too long. The way they work is they up your number of steps every day. I think you’ve set yours to the limit where you want it to be, but it’s a reminder. Just having the band on my wrist is a reminder.

Randy: Right, if you measure something you’re more likely—

Kit: Yeah.

Randy: —to do something to affect that measurement. If you’re trying to get more steps, more exercise, more activity, measuring it will show you, “Hey, I’ve only got a thousand steps and it’s noon.”

Kit: Better get going.

Randy: Better get moving.

Kit: Yeah. So the band is the visual cue that, “Ah, I’ve got to get my steps in.”

Randy: And you’ve got to look at the display to see how you’re doing right now.

Kit: Right, but then the hourly beep or an hour since I last moved, that beep reminds me it’s time to move. Though I take hourly breaks, so I’ve still got my app saying, “Your 50 minutes are up. You have 10 minutes to move around and do stuff.” But I still then have another visual cue and that’s the red bar across the face of the band.

Randy: Right, so the bottom line here is to take a little bit of time, even just a few seconds, to say, “What is it I need to do?” And set some kind of intention.

Kit: And alarm.

Randy: Either an alarm or something that you see, to trigger that memory of that intention so that you’ll actually do it.

Kit: Well said.

Randy: You’ve just got to take an extra second or two to set that intention and to do it. You don’t have to beat yourself up later because you forgot.

Kit: Well it ultimately saves a lot of time because when you have to come back in for the food or the present to take to the party, or you have to return to get to the house to pick—

Randy: You have to turn around because you went six blocks and forgot your suitcase.

Kit: I remember going with a friend shopping and we left her house to go to her rental, and we got to the rental 15, 20 minutes down the road. She goes, “Ah, I forgot.” And so we had to go back.

Randy: The key?

Kit: I can’t remember if it was the key or the color swatch or whatever, so we had to go back and get it. It’s a huge—

Randy: So 15 minutes back, then 15 minutes again.

Kit: Right.

Randy: She could have saved that half-hour if she’d just taken two or three seconds to say, “What is it I need to do?”

Kit: “Why are we going to the rental?”

Randy: Yeah, so that’s just some good examples of things that make you more mindful, and that’s what thinking is about.

If you have a story to tell about what you do to trigger your memory, or program your mind to remember things, or just want to comment, let us know on the Show Page, at thisistrue.com/podcast34.

I’m Randy Cassingham

Kit: I’m Kit Cassingham, also known as “Coach Kit” ha-hahhh!

Randy: And we’ll talk at you later.

[Easter Egg]

Originally posted 28 March 2018

3 thoughts on “Podcast 034: Mind Triggers

  1. One thing I do if I have to take something with me and don’t want to forget it is to put my car keys inside the bag/under the item I’m bringing. That way I literally CAN’T drive off without it.

    An excellent example. -rc

  2. I’ll put things I need to take with me next to the door, so they’re in line-of-sight as I leave.

    If I can’t leave it out (like refrigerated food), I put a sticky on the door, just needs to say “Food.”

  3. Sometimes I need to remember to do something out of the ordinary on the way to or from work, like pick up a dozen eggs from the coop on the way home. In this situation it’s hard to use a physical object or a phone reminder to help trigger the needed action, so what I use instead is mindful visualization: I stop whatever else I’m doing, close my eyes, and visualize myself going home, up to where I need to deviate from my normal routine and then I visualize turning there and continuing to the coop (and sometimes even going inside to where the eggs are located). Later on when I’m actually going home, I get a de ja vu sense that triggers the recollection of what I need to do.

    That’s the exact sort of “setting the intention” I do, right down to closing my eyes and picturing what I will see and do. Works quite well! -rc

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