Everyone forgets things now and again, but if you’re regularly forgetting things – appointments, commitments, things you’d said you’d do – it can become a problem.
You might think that there’s nothing you can do – maybe it’s ‘an age thing’, or ‘just how you are’ – but like so many things that we might think are beyond our control, there are things you can do to improve memory.
1. Don’t Multi-Task
When we have a lot to do, it can be difficult to focus on just one thing at a time, but focusing on multiple tasks leads to:
- Having multiple unfinished tasks and nothing completed
- Forgetting to do some of the tasks because you’re too busy trying to do everything at once
- Poor quality work
- Confusion because you keep forgetting what you’re supposed to be doing
It’s much better to focus on one thing at a time – make a to-do list if you need to – but finish each task before moving onto the next one. You’ll find you’re much better at staying on track and remembering what you need to do if you relax and stop trying to do everything all at once ‘while you remember’!
2. Get Better Sleep
(See our blog on getting better sleep here)
If you don’t sleep well, your brain won’t function as well. We all know we forget things when we’re tired and groggy, so consistently poor sleep habits are not going to help improve your memory, especially if it’s already a problem.
Most people need about 6-8 hours of sleep per night, and it’s important that it’s good quality sleep. So watch your caffeine intake, and make sure your sleep environment is comfortable, dark and quiet.
3. Stimulate Your Brain
If you don’t keep your brain active and challenged, your cognitive function can start to deteriorate – so you’ll find it more difficult to concentrate and remember things.
The good news is, there are plenty of things you can do to stimulate your brain and keep your mind sharp. There are plenty of apps you can get on mobile devices with ‘brain games’ designed to challenge you with logic puzzles. You can also do more conventional puzzles such as sudoku – anything with a logical, problem solving focus.
You will find that if you do these things regularly, you’ll get better at them, and your memory and problem solving abilities will improve.
4. Use Mnemonic Devices
The devices we use to teach our children can be used just as effectively by adults to help them remember things:
- Acronyms – You may have used something like ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’ to remember the orders of the colours of the rainbow – this is an acronym. You can make one up by using the first letter of each word of whatever it is you need to remember to create a sentence, so that rather than trying to remember something abstract and disjointed, all you need to remember is a simple phrase that can be used as a memory trigger.
- Visualisations – This technique requires you to imagine yourself in a situation and play through step by step what you did or what you need to do. So if you’ve lost your keys, you might imagine yourself coming home and play in your mind where you might have gone; or if you have to remember a procedure, particularly if you’re good at knowing what to do in the moment but struggle when it comes to explaining the theory, you would imagine yourself in the situation and take yourself through each stage.
- Rhymes – There’s a reason music and songwriting uses rhyme – it sounds good, and it makes things memorable. You may have learned ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived’ to remember the history of Henry VIII’s marriages – it’s the same basic technique.