Nice Going Einstein!

September 4, 2007

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Einstein made it a regular practice not to cloud his thinking with anything he could look up in under two minutes … who can argue with logic like that? Although, I could have probably recommend a better hair stylist.

It’s said that one day a colleague of the famous scientist Dr. Albert Einstein asked him for his phone number. The colleague became perplexed when he watched Einstein grab a phone book to look it up. Baffled, the colleague asked, “You don’t know your own phone number?” Einstein replied, “Of course not! … Why would I remember anything I can look up?”

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Einstein made it a regular practice not to cloud his thinking with anything he could look up in under two minutes. I think there’s a lot to be learned from that mentality. By depending on readily retrievable resources rather than our own memory, we are relived of the mental burden of ‘having’ to remember.

Clearing your mind and establishing a more systematic approach can also make you much more creative. Why? Try imagining your brain is like an old fashioned, telephone operator, switch board. There are only so many lines available. When your creative genius tries phoning your conscious thought, it keeps getting a busy signal because your conscious thoughts are ‘tying up the lines’ trying to remember your grocery list, your 4:00p soccer game, and that you need to stop for gas on the way home.

Einstein’s logic of associating all phone numbers (including his own) with a single retrievable resource makes a lot of sense. So, what are some ways we can apply this ‘Einstein thinking’?

With the goal of clearing your mind, try using these resources to ‘remember’ for you:

  • Calendar: This may seem obvious, but I know a lot of people who don’t use a calendar to track event. The secret is use just one calendar to track all your meetings, holidays, etc.
  • To-do list: Use just one list to capture all the things you need to get done, but remember use just use one!
  • Shopping list: Never walk into a store without a list or there’s a good chance you’ll be back to get the one thing you went in for, but forgot to get.
  • Password manager: With so many user name and passwords these days a secure password manager like RoboForm ( is a godsend. It also projects you from key loggers.
  • Books to read list: When a friend or colleague recommends a good book, add it to your books to read ‘queue’.
  • Restaurants to try list: Again, as restaurants are recommended to you, jot them down. It’ll make your night on the town planning much easier.

(Originally posted 06/29/07, reposted with audio 09/04/07)

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