Forgot my keys; automating memory

I left my keys at home this morning. They were hanging on a hook by the door, and I forgot to pick them up on my way out. I realized this after a half-hour bike ride to work–and worse, after saying hi to one of my mentors as he was walking towards the building, which necessitated a quick shuffle and slight embarrassment when I realized that I couldn’t lock up my bike and go inside. Fortunately, he’s an awesome sort of mentor who is likely to see this as one of my growth opportunities rather than incontrovertible proof that I’m permanently scatterbrained.

When I realized I’d left my keys, I started back to the house. Maybe I could get my keys and then come back to the office to get my–oh, wait, I can’t get into the house without my keys. I thought of Plan B: well, I could work from the deck, where there’s an outdoor power outlet and some Internet access. I could stash my bike under the deck if I needed to have lunch, although I could probably get by with just the energy bars and water I had in my bag.

I called W- up and confessed that I’d left my keys. Fortunately, he hadn’t gone all the way to work yet, so he promised to meet me near my building and drop my keys off.

Also fortunately, I brought my netbook, so I could put that waiting time to good use by writing my morning pages instead of fretting. I found a bench at the nearby park, leaned my bicycle against the seat, and squeezed in and started typing.

What can I do to lower the chance of this happening again?

One of the reasons why I hadn’t realized I’d forgotten my keys until now was that I didn’t lock the door behind me. W- was still there when I left, so he saw me off. If I go through the montions of always locking the front door whenever I leave, that will act as a safeguard.

I should also get out of the habit of throwing my keys into the bag, where I can’t immediately verify if I have them. If I clip them onto the handlebars instead, then they’re more visible. So I should get used to the routine of locking the door, then clipping the keys onto my bicycle.

On a related note, I forgot my lock when I dashed to the supermarket the other day. No one stole my bicycle while I was there (hooray!), but it would also be good to make that systematic, too. If I get into the habit of looping my lock around the seatpost or using a bungee cord to secure my lock to the rack, that would make sure that my lock and my bicycle are always together.

Lastly, I used to step through a checklist of my morning routine, which reminded me (among other things) to pack my badge, my keys, and my lunch. I’d stopped doing it because the routine felt, well, routine and easily-remembered, but perhaps that’s precisely when a checklist is needed. So I’ll go back to using that checklist, too.

One of my weaknesses is having these little moments of inattention. This occasionaly gets in my way, so it’s something I need to work on. One way to do that is to work on being more mindful. Another way is to build routines so that my subconscious can get better at telling me when something feels wrong and I need to pay more attention. Sooner or later, I’ll sort this out!

Good thing: I can come up with multiple backup plans quickly. If I do end up locked out and in limbo, I can head home, stash my bicycle, and either work on the deck or walk to the library. Good to know I have options!

Also another good thing: It’s much better to learn this lesson now, rather than in the middle of winter or before a client meeting. =) Always look on the bright side of life!

5 responses to “Forgot my keys; automating memory”

  1. Tom says:

    I make it a habit to put all the stuff I need in the morning (cellphone, watch, keys, etc) near the one thing I know I won’t leave the house without (my wallet). I do this as soon as I take one of those things out of my pocket so that I won’t forget to put it in the right spot later.

  2. Sacha Chua says:

    That’s an excellent idea. I’ve sewn a small zippered pouch that uses that idea, and it’s been great for making sure I have my wallet, badge, iPod Touch, phone, and earphones. I just need to consistently put my keys into it, too. Maybe I need to make one with a pocket and a strap so that I don’t worry about my keys scratching up the iPod any worse than it already is…

  3. Although I don’t bike to work (good for you though). If I did I would probably have a spare key at the work place.

    I am the type who would rather have several backup plans rather than keeping things consistent as it does keep me on my toes at times.

  4. Sacha Chua says:

    There’s another great idea – I should stash extra keys in all of my bike bags. =) Work is harder because my cabinet key is on the same keychain (I don’t have a permanent office), but my bike bags should do the trick.

  5. Bernie says:

    Ha! Thanks for the nice compliment!

    That said, I had a totally different perspective on it. As someone who is ofter thinking of 10 things at once, I often forget my keys, badge, etc. It is the price I pay for trying to maximize the use of my brain and my time. Like you, I try to avoid it, but I am ok with it from time to time, too.

    Certainly no need to be embarrassed.

    P.S.Consider getting a cabinet at work. They have some spare ones. Or provide your manager with a spare key.

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