Monday, January 24, 2011

Managing Data Bits with Categories

I had an insight on my short-term memory problem. For lack of a better term, I've been calling it my "Data Bits" problem since it entails having a hard time retaining a significant quantity of individual pieces of information. It has had its strongest impact at my restaurant job when I'm cooking, because when items need to be replenished at the buffet I'm notified which individual foods need to be cooked, and the time between pulling the foods out and cooking them can make it difficult for me to retain all the information.

I realize now that this is an issue of crow epistemology. Simply, I'm having a hard time remembering because I'm challenging my ability to hold a certain quantity of things in my mind at once. It might be easy to count twenty people, but to visualize them all distinctly is impossible. There are but seven food items of which I'm in charge of, but even at that I'm working nearly at the edge of my capacity to remain aware of everything.

My solution is to group things into categories. To further elaborate on my problem, when I'm given all these individual items to remember they're all entirely unique and demand a certain amount of energy from my mind, so if I have to cook six of the seven items then my RAM is pretty well loaded. To ease the burden, I need a way to tie everything together, like placing stuff into a box for easier carrying.

The food items can be classified into two categories: Things that need to be prepped before cooking and things that are already prepped. The former need to be floured and battered before I cook them, whereas the latter are immediately ready. By making this distinguishment I go from holding entirely distinct items to groups. Furthermore, each item becomes easier to remember by way of this association since it gains significance in accordance to its dominant attribute (prepped/not-prepped), so even if there's multiple members in each group I have an easier time singling out which ones I need. It becomes even easier when I need the entirety of a group, for then I can forgo retaining its individual members and leave them be implicit in the category's symbol ("Prep," "Group A," etc).

I've tried this out the last cooking shift I had, and to my surprise it made things much easier. I haven't taken yet to spreading the suggestion around my workplace, but when given a list of items it all unjumbles into their appropriate categories in my head, and when I look to the storage I know exactly what I need and am not straining to try and remember everything. Given further practice, I think I can make it so that my capacity for forgetting items reaches zero; the categories just make things that much easier.

This would be a great idea to make a restaurant workplace more efficient. (And I give you the idea free!) Language, for instance, could be sped up and simplified by establishing categories, thereby reducing speaking. Instead of, "I need items A, B, C, D, E, and F" people could say "I need A B from [Group X] and all of [Group Y]." Both communication and understanding would increase in pace.

This does not, however, touch upon my difficulty with trying to piece together words that are spelled out to me. I cannot think of any way I could form a category to fit the individual letters in as I'm fed them, so each letter as such remains a distinct item which challenges my crow epistemology. Further thinking is needed.

It may not solve the difficulty entirely, but I think the categories will go a long ways towards doing so.

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