Your memory is one of the greatest tools you could possibly have. Indeed, what could be more important than processing and retaining the huge amount of information that you receive every day of your life? It’s good to know then that you can improve your memory, and by doing so you can make those minutes count. If a book, article or report really matters, then being able to hold onto that information is vital. If you can’t remember it, then you wasted your time absorbing it the first time. Here are 20 tricks to help you improve your memory.
20. Pay Attention
Easy ones first. If you’re not paying attention, you’re not going to remember a thing, because you were never aware of it in the first place. To start improving your memory, all you have to do is focus and make an effort to concentrate. Whether working alone or with others, filter out distractions and analyze what you’re doing. If you put something down, whether it’s a task or a notepad, consider why you’re doing it and how you’re going to take it up later; otherwise it’ll be forgotten.
19. Put It In Words
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If you can’t remember something it might be because you’re thinking about it in the wrong way. Instead, inserting the item that you want to remember into a particularly vivid or memorable device can greatly improve your ability to recall it. You might do this by creating a rhyme (adding “Noisy” to “Nora”, for example) or creating a humorous phrase. Whether you need to remember a name or fact, the rules of spellings are an ordered series, like the colors of the rainbow or the planets of the solar system. Giving the item additional associations in a new phrase can ensure that you effectively hold onto it.
18. Visualize It
Image: Serge Arsenie
This is where things go beyond facts and rhymes. It’s long been debated whether people think in words or pictures, but the truth is that our memories actually use a combination of the two. If you have placed the item you want to remember in a sentence, imagine the scene as a picture, adding features and details, and let it really come to life. When you’re imagining Noisy Nora, you can add a picture of her walking around and banging a drum, for example, or if you want to remember Chris Ladder’s name, then imagine him climbing up a wall. By creating a full, vivid scene you can moor the item in your memory for easier recollection.
17. Focus More Effectively
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You remember you had to concentrate? Well put it in action! If you want to remember a fact or the context in which it arose, focus on it and briefly repeat it to help it stick in your memory.
16. Place It
Image: Annie Mole
One way of adding detail to the item you are trying to remember is to place it in a real world context. By combining your appreciation of a real location with a vivid scene, bringing to life what you are trying to remember, a whole series of cues will help you find what you are looking for. The so-called Method of Loci was known to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, and originally saw the subject literally walking through a location in order to recall the series of objects that it contained. To emphasize this device you can put the items you want to remember in a geographic sequence you are familiar with, such as on a train line or walking through the rooms of your home.
15. Repeat It
Can you remember what you just read? Repeating what you’ve learned can assist your ability to recollect, and even saying it out loud can help. For example, if someone introduces themselves to you, you can reply: “Nice to meet you,” before repeating their name. By repeating the verbal cue you’re connecting a name to a face – and reinforcing what might otherwise be an elusive detail. But…
14. Rehearse It
Repeating a fact until you’re hoarse isn’t the best way to latch onto it. Instead stagger out drills so that you’re exercising your short-term and long-term memory, and building up a familiarity with your subject.
13. Put Yourself In The Picture
This one is so effective you might be doing it already! The secret is to put yourself in the middle of what you’re trying to remember, relating it to yourself and to your experiences. If you want to remember things, keep in mind why they matter to you. This process, called the self-reference technique, is at the heart of all associative memory techniques and is a guaranteed time saver. If you meet someone called David, think of another David you know and your relationship with them. Then you can worry about getting to know the new David!
Image: Uwe Hermann
Most people can only remember seven things, give or take two items. That means you might struggle to remember things like your Social Security Number or cell phones numbers. One way to deal with this is through chunking – breaking down the pile into a manageable, meaningful series of items. If you’ve got a string of numbers, break them down into meaningful digits that have a particular association for you. For example, if you were trying to remember the phone number (212) 995-1960, you might recall the dates 1995 and 1960 and imagine strong visual cues relating to those two years.
11. Pair Up And Visualize
Image: dierk schaefer
A more arcane way of chunking, combining several different techniques, is through the Dominic System. In order to remember a sequence of numbers, assign a letter to each of the numbers from 0 to 9, then pair up the letters and connect them to easy-to-remember people or celebrities. Hence 11 might be AA, or 39 might be CN – so on reading 1139 you might imagine Chuck Norris going to Alcoholics Anonymous. By creating a stream of vivid images it quickly becomes possible to memorize a surprising amount of information.
10. Get It Right
If when doing something for the first time you get it wrong, there is every possibility that you will memorize the wrong method. This means that it is essential to get things right the first time around and to build from there. So when learning something new, remove distractions and really focus!
9. Create Cues
If you’re trying to remember to do something regularly, build it into a routine, so that one task starts another. If you need to check your emails at the start of a day before writing a report, ensure that your process moves fluidly from one step to the next, so it becomes an automatic response. Alternatively, if you need to do something at a specific time you could set up a cue beforehand – for example, finishing a cup of coffee will remind you that you must perform a particular task at a particular time.
8. Make It Easy
Organize your life so that you can fit into a routine, finding things where you left them, and in that way run smoothly. This will save time immediately, but will also free up your concentration to focus on the things that are harder to remember.
7. Eat Right
You’ve now got a ton of tips to help you think better; now we want you to live better. Your brain isn’t (at all) immune to what’s going on in the world around it, so it’s time for some mental TLC: a happy brain is a brain with a long memory, and believe it or not, changing your diet really can boost your memory. Specifically you want to be looking out for antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids, both of which appear to assist memory.
6. Drink In Moderation
Right, so you’re paying attention? Quit drinking so much. If you can’t remember what you did the other night, that’s because drinking too much alcohol damaged your brain, impairing the cells relating to memory. However, that doesn’t mean you need to go teetotal. People who drink in moderation are thought to perform better in cognitive and memory tests and to be at a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
5. Sleep Right
If you’re tired you’re not going to be focused or concentrating. Get the rest that you need otherwise you’ll struggle to hold onto anything.
4. Get Fit
As it turns out, mind and body really do go hand in hand: it has been clinically proven that physical fitness has a direct (and positive) relationship with cognitive performance. Without regular exercise, plaque will build up in your blood vessels; that’s what causes heart attacks. Before that happens, though, the plaque flows through your body and gets stuck in your brain, cutting off the flow of blood. If you want to feed your brain, get moving!
3. Don’t Worry So Much
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At an everyday level, stress distracts you from concentrating and getting things done. If you can’t focus, you won’t remember what you should be doing – so clear a space and relax, and things will become clearer.
2. Use Aids
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If you want to make a record of something without writing it down, you can leave yourself a visual cue that you need to do something. For example, putting your watch on the wrong hand, tying a piece of string around your finger or putting your phone on the wrong side of the desk when you need to make a call will all remind you that you have something to do. Just make sure that you connect the out of place object with a strong visualization of what it is you have to do.
Image: The U.S. Army
Just as your memory can get better with practice it can also deteriorate if you don’t focus. Make sure to stay in shape by regularly exercising your brain, rather than falling into lazy habits and letting things slide. By exercising your memory you can save yourself huge amounts of time as well as make yourself a more productive and more efficient individual.