Fiona McPherson, PhD

This book helps you understand the most common memory failures - forgetting our intentions, and losing track of what we're doing - and shows you how to overcome them.


Please note that print books can only be shipped to New Zealand addresses

The book is also available in digital formats.

Do you have problems remembering birthdays and anniversaries, appointments and errands?

Do you sometimes find yourself in a room, and wonder why you're there?

Do you end up doing things twice because you've forgotten you've already done them?

Of all the memory failures that plague us, forgetting our intentions -- birthdays, appointments, errands we mean to do -- is the greatest, closely followed by those moments of absentmindedness when we lose track of what we're doing.

The special problem of these common memory failures is that they are failures that are often very obvious to others. More than any other memory failure, forgetting the future makes others feel hurt and annoyed, causing us regret and embarrassment. And absentmindedness can not simply be irritating, but dangerous.

Many people think that these sorts of problems are inevitable -- a natural consequence of getting older, or going through menopause, or because of some 'natural' personality flaw. But remembering future events, and remembering what you're doing or have just done, are memory tasks that, like any other memory task, are subject to your skills. Skills can be learned.

To learn or improve a skill, you need to know effective strategies and how to practice them. This book helps you understand these memory and attention failures, and shows you how to overcome them.

As always with the Mempowered books, this fully referenced book, based on the work of cognitive researchers, helps you permanently improve your memory skills by explaining what you need to know to use these strategies effectively and appropriately.

Publication date: June, 2011

File size: 208 pages

ISBN: 978-0-9876522-6-3

Why read this book?

What this book is about

What this book should do for you

1. How memory works and why it sometimes fails

Memories are made of this

Why people fail to remember

Know thyself: a quiz

2. Remembering to do things

Memory for future actions is different from other types of memory

Retrospective memory

Forgetting routine actions is not a failure of memory

3. Short-term goals and short-term memory

Working memory

Working memory and attention

Age and attention

4. Forgetting what you’re doing

Short-term memory problems are attention problems

Action sequences are why we make action slips

Common types of action slip

Situations when action slips are most likely

Have I done it already?

What makes some people more prone to absent-minded errors?

How to prevent action slips

5. Structuring your goals

A hierarchy of goals

Ordering your goals

The problem of suspended intentions

6. Circumstances that affect your remembering

Event-based retrieval cues are better than time-based

Is being too busy a valid excuse?

Wanting to remember is not enough!

Timing and complexity

7. Are some people better at remembering intentions?

Age differences

Individual differences


8. General strategies for remembering intentions

Strategies people use

Effective strategies for remembering intentions

Mental strategies for better recall

Using environmental memory aids

9. Strategies for specific tasks

Remembering appointments

Remembering anniversaries and birthdays

Remembering arrangements

Remembering errands and chores

Remembering to take medicine

10. Your master strategy

Assessing memory tasks

Deciding on your memory strategies

It’s not all about memory

We fail to achieve intentions for many reasons

Believing in your abilities

The bottom line

Appendix A: Theories of prospective memory

Is prospective memory fundamentally different from retrospective memory?

Theory explains many characteristics of prospective memory


Appendix B: External memory aids

Context-based reminder systems

Appendix C: The coding mnemonic

Appendix D: Specific strategies for specific tasks

Glossary of terms

Chapter Notes