If your memory is anything like mine, you’ll regularly bemoan your inability to remember people, places and names. Having a bad memory impresses no one, and can even be career-limiting. The good news is that there are tips and tricks to help you improve your memory; here are some of the best ones I’ve encountered.
1. Turn the information into an image
Ever forget where you’ve parked the car? A good tip is to use imagery – especially if you’re a visual person. For example, if your car is parked in row C11 of the shopping centre car park, picture a cake with eleven candles on it.
2. Convert the information into a story
Most of us find it easy to recall compelling stories, so why not spin a story around whatever it is you’re trying to remember? This technique is particularly useful if you are trying to memorise a speech or if you’re studying for an exam. Connect different elements into memorable storylines to make it easier for you to remember them.
3. Sleep well
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep is important to “consolidate” memory. Not getting enough sleep has been shown to impair memory. Adults require at least eight hours’ sleep a day, so make sure you get your quota.
4. Use acronyms
Communications expert Andy Bounds suggests using acronyms to remember key messages in presentations, whereby the initial letters of key points are turned into a memorable aid. He offers his “4Ps” as an example of how to structure presentations: Position, Problem, Possibilities, and Proposal.
5. Use association
A great way of remembering an acquaintance’s name is to associate their name with a distinguishing feature or characteristic they have. For example, if you met someone called Stuart at a networking meeting who appeared to be very red and flustered, picture him ‘getting himself in a stew’ to help you remember his name. The more vivid the image, the better it works.
6. Make the information ‘meaningful’
This tip also uses the power of association to boost memory. If you can associate elements of what you are seeking to remember with something more familiar, you will recall these elements more easily. For example, to remember the number 10661224 might prove difficult, but you can break up the number into chunks, for example 1066/12/24, and link the ‘chunks’ to familiar scenarios: 1066 was the year of the Battle of Hastings, 12 is a dozen and 24 is two dozen. The technique is particularly effective if you can make personal associations with facts or ideas, and is useful if you need to remember important numbers, for example, for a presentation.
7. Use repetition
This is a very effective method of remembering the name of someone you’ve just met. Find ways to repeat their name in conversation, either with them or with others. For example, end your sentences with their name: “It’s true that wages are rising faster than inflation; you’re absolutely right, Stuart”.
Unlike muscle, memory is not something that can be ‘exercised’. It’s simply the way our brains organise information. To improve our memory, we need to tweak or change the way we think in order to support our memories’ work, for example, by using some of the internal ‘aids’ described here.