The Elephant theory of time management

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a problem with my memory…I’ve read all sorts of books, like the one by that guy…you know him, he does that show on tv… Anyway, nothing works. As Chief Homemaker in the household, I’m the one who should be in charge of birthday card sending, shopping, insurance renewal and all those trivial little details, but no matter how many calendars we have (and we have LOTS of calendars), no matter how many things that go “beep” I program, I forget.

The theory of memory runs that the more ludicrous an image is, the more memorable it is. Some people advise taking a list of numbers: 1,2,3,4,5 and so one, and assigning a rhyming word to each one. One is bun, two is shoe and so on. If you have a list of things to do that day, you can assign one to each number and not only remember all the things, but get them in order. So, you have to go to the dentist, then buy stamps, then feed the dog? First, visualise a dentist trapped inside a giant hot dog bun. Second, a shoe wrapped in a string of stamps and three, flinging dog food tins to your dog, high up in the branches of a tree (three is tree, you see?).
That’s all well and good, I think. I used dentist as an example for number one because that was the example in the book I read about that method in. Years ago. I can still remember that dentist goes with number one, but can’t remember to use the memory sequence in everyday life.

Here’s another method that works, and I know it works, because it’s how Mrs Dim is so damn efficient: Elephants. Every month consists, more or less, of four weeks. So, visualise a line of four elephants. Each elephant is a week of our month. In that first week you have to sign the kids up for skating and book a holiday in Mexico. On the third of the month you have to visit the dentist. Elephant number one is on ice skates and wearing a sombrero. One of his tusks is throbbing red, like in a cartoon, and has a big number three painted beside it. Can you see it? Skates, sombrero, toothache, three. All the cues you need for that week, how cool is that?
Well, it would be if you have good visualisation skills. Mrs Dim does. Her elephants troop obediently by, wearing ridiculous outfits, carrying placards, painted with dates and times. Sometimes as many as twelve elephants in a row.
I have badly trained elephants. I can’t manage more than four, and those four are shy. Shy to the point of refusing to get close enough to see them. And they don’t walk in a neat line. They try to hide behind each other. Have you ever tried to put a sombrero on an elephant who’s trying to run away and hide?

But what do elephants have to do with our Canadian Adventure? Well, I’ve had to bring my elephants out of mothballs. They’ve been lying on a beach somewhere back in my subconscious for far too long while I worked from home because I had so many reminder devices in front of me. Sitting at the computer all day means the Outlook calender is only a click away. But now the New Age of Work has begun, and all of a sudden I’m out of the house. I need to remember what’s coming up, what I’m supposed to be organising or going to. Here’s how it looks in terms of elephants:

Elephant number one is wearing a smart mortarboard (That’s a hat that teachers used to wear) because the Weasels are in school this week. He’s got work boots on his front feet, because I’m at work this week. He’s got Ice skates on his back feet because it’s the last week of Weasel Skating lessons.

Elephant number two is just wearing the mortarboard and the workboots. Easy week, work and school.

Elephant number three is exciting. He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt, because it’s Spring Break for the Weasels, and I associate Spring Break with Hawaiian shirts. The shirt has an odd pattern for a Hawaiian shirt – there are nine Maple Leaves on it, because on the ninth of March we’ll have been in Canada for one year. Wow. He’s got work boots on, but instead of a mortarboard, he’s wearing a chef’s hat. The Elder Weasels are going on a cookery course. He’s got a nasty exterior head brace on his tusks because the Weasels will also be visiting the Orthodontist that week. (The cynical me wanted to have the elephant handing over wads of cash, but that could be ANYTHING…) Finally, he’s humming the song “YMCA” because that’s the entertainment for Tiniest Weasel that week – the YMCA childcare facility.

Elephant number four is wearing the mortarboard and workboots, looking at number three and counting his blessings.

Number five – yes, the first time in my life I’ve tried to keep five elephants in a row, and it’s tricky – is carrying a suitcase and wearing shades. He has a party hat on his head with the number nine on it, because Middle Weasel will turn nine while we’re on holiday.

They’re fairly non-specific elephants. I’m not trying to incorporate too many dates or any times. I want to get the poor pachyderms used to parading for me and wearing their silly outfits without embarrassment before I ask them to do anything harder. Memory is a muscle, it says in a  book by some bloke. Like any muscle, it needs exercise to become stronger. Believe me, keeping five elephants in line will have your memory muscles bulging in no time.

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2 responses to “The Elephant theory of time management

  1. Elephants! I’ve never tried that method. My memory is like a sieve, so it probably couldn’t hurt…

    I do like the visual of elephants in sombreros, by the way.

  2. I couldn’t resist commenting. 🙂

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