Using Aide-Mémoire

Creating Memory Aids and Checklists

Using Aide-Mémoire - Creating Memory Aids and Checklists

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Aide-Mémoire are simple but very effective.

Before an aircraft takes off, its crew members must carry out hundreds of checks to ensure that it is safe to fly. Just one missed check could mean the difference between a smooth, successful flight, and a disastrous one.

So, how do they ensure that they don't forget an important safety check? They use an aide-mémoire, in the form of a pre-flight checklist.

An aide-mémoire is a structured list of points that you need to consider when solving a particular problem or working through a complex process. In this article, we'll look at how you can develop and use aide-mémoire.

About the Tool

The term "aide-mémoire" is French and translates as "reminder" or "memory aid." The first known use of the term for an English audience was in 1846, in G. Lewis's book "Aide-Mémoire to the Military Sciences."

People use aide-mémoire routinely in areas as diverse as the analysis of computer systems, the construction of financial proposals, and military planning. As an example, hospitals use aide-mémoire to guide their surgical and cleaning staff on the proper way to disinfect surgical rooms. This reduces the chance of infection.

Aide-mémoire can be anything from a short checklist to a report or booklet with many pages, and they can be very effective for reducing mistakes and improving effectiveness. For instance, you can use them to guide people through new or complex tasks, or you can use them to ensure that they don't miss important steps in routine processes or in high-stress situations.

Aide-mémoire are also useful for helping you solve problems. For example, you can create one that helps you get your website back up if it's gone down, fix common malfunctions in a machine, or investigate declining sales.

Often, use of an aide-mémoire will make the difference between carrying out a task effectively and making a mess of it, particularly when you are under pressure. This helps you avoid costly mistakes. They're also very useful if you need to carry out a series of similar tasks, as they're great for ensuring that lessons learned during one project (for example, in an After Action Review) are not forgotten in future projects.


The term "aide-mémoire" can also refer to a list of actions from a meeting, or a summary of an agreement. These are specialist uses of this wider idea.

Developing an Aide-Mémoire

To develop an aide-mémoire, you start by brainstorming a list of points, headings, or checks that you need to consider for your process or situation.

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Then, use your initial list in a typical real situation or practice scenario, to work through a problem or task. As you or your team members work through each point, review the list, and see whether there are any additional points that you need to include, or whether there is anything that you need to change.

As you develop your aide-mémoire, consult with people who might have relevant experience or expertise, to ensure that it is as comprehensive as possible.

Structure your aide-mémoire in a way that will best communicate its essential information. You could set it up as a simple, one-page word-processor document that you can open on your computer desktop and share with your team, or it could be a booklet with several pages that you can keep close for when you need it.

Effective aide-mémoire are succinct and specific; they use simple, direct sentences or phrases, and they don't have long paragraphs or wordy passages. They can even use diagrams or graphics, if this highlights something that you need to remember.

What's really important is that you update your aide-mémoire whenever you learn something new that you want to remember – by doing this, you can steadily improve the quality of the work that you do.

You could also consider making it a shared document or wiki, so that other people can use it and improve it when they learn something new.

Tip 1:

Consider presenting your aide-mémoire as a flow chart , if you need to work through steps in a particular order.

Tip 2:

In many cases, you can start using your aide-mémoire right away. However, where safety is important or where the cost of getting something wrong is high, you'll need to test your aide-mémoire to make sure that it is comprehensive.

Tip 3:

Where you can, avoid unnecessary detail. If your aide-mémoire is too long and complicated, people won't use it.

Key Points

Aide-mémoire are structured lists of points or headings that you use to solve common problems. The term "aide-mémoire" is French, and translates as "reminder" or "memory aid."

You can use aide-mémoire for any project, situation, process, or task where you need to remember essential steps or points. They are particularly useful where you expect to repeat this type of work – here, they help you carry lessons learned in one project through to future projects.

A good aide-mémoire should be succinct and specific. It should use simple, direct sentences or phrases, and it shouldn't have long paragraphs or wordy passages.