Optimizing Your Memory
First published by Genius Awakening
Practice makes perfect when it comes to just about anything, including your memory.
Developing techniques to hone your recall of everything from names and phone numbers to more complex processes can make a world of difference.
Here are some tips to help optimize your memory.
Put these into practice just a little bit each day to up your brain power.
Multi-tasking gets all the praise, but it can detract from everything, including memory. Whatever you’re doing, do it. If you’re trying to remember something that you must later remember, focus on that.
2. Organize and categorize
This works best if you have a list of things to remember. Breaking up the list into categories and fitting each piece into one of those categories allows for greater recollection when you need it. When you need to find information in a book, typically you look at the index or table of contents. You probably have a series of files on your computer or on your desk. Compartmentalizing that which you have to remember can work in a similar fashion.
3. Use visualization
Visualization can be a powerful tool for all sorts of things, including memory. Instead of just trying to remember that you have to stop at a friend’s house to pick up a book, actually envision yourself driving or walking there, going to the door, seeing your friend, and getting the book. The more elaborate your visualization, the better your recall of the information will be.
4. Word association
This is a great technique to use to remember names. Memorizing some of the symbols on the Periodic Table of Elements, for example, can be a challenge. Lead is Pb and is based on the Latin root word for lead: Plumbum. Thinking of a word association (especially one that’s kind of humorous or unique) can help. For example, “I’m plum out of lead.” I thought of that word association roughly 23 years ago. I’ve never forgotten it.
5. Repeat, repeat, repeat
Thanks to technology, we hardly have to remember phone numbers. But what happens when you do? A dead phone battery and no pen or paper to write it down means you’ll have to rely on your memory (maybe). Repetition seems obvious and simplistic. It is, but it works.
6. Tell a story
This is an instance where creativity can pay off. Suppose, for example, that you have to remember to pick up apples and milk from the store. You also have to go to the post office and stop at the veterinarian’s office for vitamins for your cat, Boots. A story to help you remember these things could be something like: “Boots was peppy after taking her vitamins. She decided to run all the way to the post office to mail her package. Luckily she took an apple for her journey. By the time she got home, she was so thirsty she drank an entire gallon of milk!” Silly? Absolutely! Memorable? You bet!
You’ve undoubtedly made your acquaintance with Roy G. Biv as you learned about the visible color spectrum. When you learned the planets, you may have also learned that “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles.” Sure, you have to change the mnemonic a little since Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet (thanks for that, XXVIth General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union!). Mnemonic devices are not just for grade school. Create your own. They stick!
When you’re given a number to remember, think of how you remember it. You’re probably not remembering it in individual digits. There’s a reason that phone numbers and social security numbers are broken up the way they are. Our brains have a more challenging time processing long strings of numbers and data. The more chunking you can do, the more likely you are to recall the data.
9. Physical activity
As you age, you can see changes in your physical self. There are also a number of cognitive changes happening. Similarly, as you work to improve yourself physically through exercise and activity, you improve cognitive function through physical movement as well.
Post by Jackie Stinson, Former FLVS Media Specialist