Working Memory is about all the things that are on your mind at any given moment.
It’s like the RAM on your computer. It’s how your mind juggles and makes sense of the various things that you care about as you go about your day.
It’s something we kind of take for granted.
To help ourselves manage our working memory, many of us reflexively rely on some kind of notepad. As we work on things, we jot things down. Jotting things down is one form of “resolving”, at least temporarily, something our mind has been hanging on to. This lightens our mental load, letting us devote our attention more fully to what’s in front of us. The act of writing can also help clarify what may have previously been hazy.
Working memory vs. knowledge bases
This way of jotting things down willy nilly can feel messy, even improper - like we’re somehow doing notes wrong. But this is your working memory! If what you’re jotting down is too neat and tidy, you’re probably keeping it in your head too long. Your threshold for what is acceptable to write down is probably too high.
This is the key difference between your working memory and your knowledge base. A knowledge base is for the nuggets of knowledge that you want to record for posterity. Like the hard drive on your computer. For the knowledge base serve its purpose successfully, it makes sense to put a little extra thought into how things are written and organized. Plus, a knowledge base is often thought of as a showcase for others. It’s where formal insights are published.
We often think of notes as serving the purpose of a knowledge base. But working memory needs an outlet of its own - usually via notes of the quick, messy variety.
Your notes shouldn’t slow you down.
When we have a lot going on - a lot on our minds - it’s especially essential that we have a working memory solution to help us out. And while we need to be able to seamlessly capture thoughts without thinking twice, it can also help to compartmentalize things - so that we’re able to effectively shift gears and have the most relevant content at our fingertips when the time comes.
A tool for working memory should be fast and ergonomic, optimized for instant capture, but also for compartmentalization and retrieval. It should let you work in a way that fits your mental model. It shouldn’t burden you with extra cognitive overhead that only undermines its primary purpose. It provides a space to clear your mind, stash things for later, and clarify your next steps. It serves only to help you find greater focus and peace of mind in your day-to-day.