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Does Synaesthesia Provide Benefits at a Workplace?


Synaesthesia has been commonly recognised as an asset for musicians and writers, but does synaesthesia provide benefits to ordinary people like myself at a workplace? I have been wondering about this question for a while.

My work is hectic. Every day, I rush from one meeting to another. Five to six meetings a day is normal. 5pm is the time that I can finally sit at my desk, and start doing my work without much interruption.

In the old days, I used to notice my colleagues taking their notepads to meetings, and writing down meeting notes page after page. I felt embarrassed that I hardly ever took any notes. So I decided to copy what everyone else did, and pretended I was writing down things. But I have never gone back once to check my notes after a meeting. I concluded that everyone was just doing this to please their bosses or meeting organisers.

One day, a few years ago, I was waiting for the lift to go to a meeting on a different floor. One of my close friends joined me as he was heading to the same meeting. As usual, he was holding a pen and a notepad. I sighed, “I wish everyone could stop pretending taking notes. It’s such a waste of time.” He looked confused. I added, “oh, please don’t tell me you seriously read your notes after a meeting.” He said of course.

Finally, I realised that people were not pretending. That was quite a discovery from my side, and made me wonder why I could remember everything, but most of other people could not.

One of the reasons, I think, is to do with the ability of seeing calendar images. I use my work calendar extensively. If I want to be organised, I put things in the calendar. For some reason, once a meeting or an action item is in calendar, the image of the calendar comes up in my mind whenever I need the information. My work calendar is jammed with meeting invites. The image of those meetings sitting in swimming lanes, based on time, helps me remember which meetings I have been to, and what topics were discussed, and who were at the meetings. I suspect it is a result of my time space synaesthesia. I also notice items sitting under a future calendar date invoke clearer images. Once a date has passed, it turns into a darker picture and eventually fades away, but the picture of the next day becomes much brighter.

I have to admit with my increased meeting commitments, to remember so many action points coming out of so many meetings each day is no way an easy task. I recently started using my iPad to capture a few points at some meetings. Even though I still do not usually go back to check my notes after meetings, the image of iPad notes alone does the magic trick.

What happen if I forget some action points? There is nothing to worry about. Sooner or later, I will remember. A name or a face is the strongest trigger for me to recall what I need to do for that person. I sometimes do a floor walk just to trigger off my work list. Whilst I am walking, any person passing by, or sitting at his/her desk who was at a meeting I attended or whose name was associated to a topic can definitely invoke the image of the meeting room where the topic was discussed. After a few minutes of floor walk, I mentally take back to my desk a few items to action.

People may not relate this kind of behaviour with synaesthesia. But I become more and more convinced that it is a form of synaesthesia. I find it very beneficial to my busy working life, not only help me organise my work, but also make me learn a wide range of concepts quicker.

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