My kids will tell you that I have a history of forgetfulness, and like most people, my memory started to get worse as I got older. I believe the main reason for this was mental laziness, so I decided to do something about it.
Off an on over the years, I’ve done a lot of things to try and improve my memory, such as keeping a diary and trying to pay more attention.
But, there you have it ‘? did you notice what I said? The problem was the word ‘try‘. I was ‘trying’ to do something about it, but not doing something about it.
According to Yoda (of Star Wars fame):
‘Do or do not, there is no try.’
Recently, I made a conscious decision not to try but rather to do, and I think it’s paying off.
Top 7 ways I’ve improved my memory:
- Regular exercise. This is my big one. Regular exercise such as going for a daily walk, a regular swim, bike ride or even session at the gym helps the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
- Pay attention. Usually when we forget something it is because we never locked it away in the memory in the first place. The guys in white coats tell us that eight seconds is the time it takes to put something from short-term memory to long-term memory. Concentrate on the thing you want to remember for at least 8 seconds before moving on to the next thing. Think about why you need to keep this information and why its value to you.
- Remembering names. I’ve been particularly bad at this one. When you meet a person for the first time, always repeat their name back to them within the first few minutes of the conversation. This helps lock it in.
- Chunking. It is easier to remember small chunks of information than a lot of information. For example if a phone number is 0424145363 it is easier to learn three smaller numbers 0424, 145 and 363.
- Use a mnemonic device, such as relating things in a sequence. It may be a sequence of words, such as a rhyme, or it may be an order of items, eg., I have five things to do – first do this, second, do that etc. Use your fingers! ‘? this brings me to no. 7’?
- Use an anchor. This is the process of using an object to remind you, such as tying a piece of string around you finger to remind you to get milk or putting your jogging shoes in front of the door to remind you to remember your gym gear etc.
- Visualisation and association. Visualise what you have to do before you do it. Imagine all the things linked by a silly story.
All those things aside, the other thing you have to do is learn to control stress and anger. I learnt this one some years ago. (In fact, I wouldn’t be much of a coach if I couldn’t deal with these biggies.)
When you are stressed or angry, you are unable to concentrate.
Also, slow down on the alcohol (it damages the ends of your neurons [dendrites]), and lastly, don’t forget to practice some or all of these techniques as often as possible.
Do these memory exercises often enough and they will become habit.