The importance of forgetting

Yesterday I mentioned that one of my key mind mapping tools is Personal Brain.  If you’ve ever used the Brain, you know that “mind map” is a bit of an understatement of its capabilities and how easy it is to accumulate a lot of knowledge and interconnected information.  Over the past couple of years my work project brain has proven invaluable for me and my team as a way to collect important information, documents, and – best of all – connections between the disparate parts of the project.

I’m at a point now, though, where the project is going through significant changes, almost to the point of being a “new” project. My dilemma: How to “forget” the parts of the old project that are no longer important and start with an “empty mind” to build up the new project without the baggage of the old.

In his book Brain Rules, author John Medina writes, “It’s easy to remember, and easy to forget, but figuring out what to remember and what to forget is not nearly so easy.” Later in the book, Medina describes why forgetting is so important:

The last step in declarative processing is forgetting.  The reason forgetting plays a vital role in our ability to function is deceptively simple. Forgetting allows us to prioritize events.  Those events that are irrelevant to our survival will take up wasteful cognitive space if we assign them the same priority as events critical to our survival.

This is no less true in the context of knowledge/concept work.

Fortunately, the Brain allows you to forget “thoughts” without deleting them altogether.  Unfortunately (for some), the Brain doesn’t offer any help on which thoughts to forget and which to remember.

That’s completely up to me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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