I spend a good 85% of my time at work skimming through documents, proof-reading and absorbing (through open-plan office osmosis) conversations going on around me so I know what is happening. The other 15% I spend talking to clients, carefuly composing ranty emails and fighting the urge to kill my colleagues. When I make a coffee, I thumb through the newspaper looking only at the pictures and the headlines and then when I go home I scroll through FB, fet and other newsy internet sites, reading not much more than the title, before half-watching some stuff on tv and doing some reading in bed at night that usually also turns into me skimming through the words so much that I have to often go back and read pages again because I’ve got no idea what is happening.
Most of the stuff I scan through registers with me for a short time – usually enough for me to form some sort of arm-chair opinion about it or to spark a blog topic, but then it is very quickly forgotten. I don’t usually retain the story lines of movies I’ve seen (unless I liked them and watched them multiple times) or remember with a lot of depth what someone has said to me (unless it hit some sort of nerve and I replayed it over and over in my head a few times).
As a result of this, I’ve become very good at skimming through vasts amounts of data and information, but horrendous at remembering anything. Most of my conversations with M go something like this:
M: “You said blah blah blah.”
Me: “Did I?”
M: “You did blah blah blah.”
Me: “Did I?”
M: “Don’t you remember blah blah blah?”
Me: “Nope, not at all”
Honestly speaking, I was getting really worried for a while that I might be starting to get dementia or had some sort of memory-loss issue, because I was doing or saying stuff and literally having no recollection of it whatsoever. But then I started to really think about what was wrong and I realised that I wasn’t focussing on what I was saying or doing, I wasn’t being ‘mindful’ of my words or actions and that got me to thinking about why that was the case.
I used to be fantastic at remembering stuff. I was one of those people who didn’t have a diary or calendar, who didn’t need to write stuff down at all, but now I know that if I put something down intending to deal with it later, it ain’t ever getting done. I have to immediately pay my bills when I get them and deal with emails as soon as I receive them. I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve woken up in a cold sweat at 3am because I’ve suddenly remembered that I forgot to do something. And if that isn’t ironic, I don’t know what is.
I’ve also noticed with my writing that I’ll often misspell things or leave words out and not notice it at all. I’ll re-read things ten times and not notice what I’ve done, and I was never like that.
So, the question is, has all the skimming that I do day-in-day-out really affected my ability to pick out mistakes and remember things or am I just becoming an old fart and this is part and parcel of being a newly minted 39 year-old?