Memory is a big subject – much bigger than a blog post! But nothing is more frustrating than not being able to remember something you need – it feels disorganized and out of control. Forgetting things wastes time and frustrates us.
For some, failing memory is an indicator of a bigger problem. I’ve heard that not being able to find your keys is normal, not remembering what keys are for is not, and should be checked by a doctor. For the majority of us, our inability to recall information is a symptom of lives which are complicated, crunched for time, and overloaded with responsibilities.
So what are we to do? I believe that taking one small step can make a huge difference: intentional remembering. Often, we forget things because we have not made an intentional decision to try to remember it. We hear a person’s name at a party, but we don’t focus on it and figure out a way to remember it. We complete tasks while distracted, leaving only a weak impression on our memory of what we’ve done.
If we want to remember something, we need to give our brain a “trick” for recalling it. For example, when I want to remember that the underwear goes in the third drawer down – instead of the fourth (which I was tending to repeatedly mix up) – I made up a little verbal phrase to remind myself: “under goes over.” This may sound silly, and it kind of is, but the point is that by taking a few seconds to tell my brain a riddle or a clue, I’ve now made a deep enough impression to remember.
Another example is the “number of items” trick to use when out and about. Every time you leave the house, count how many items you are taking with you. Perhaps it is four: a coat, a cell phone, gloves, and a purse. Every time you move to a new location (into the car, out of the car, into the office, out of the office, etc.) count to see if you’ve got 4 items. You don’t need to check for all four individually, just the total number. If you’ve got 4, you are good to go! If you don’t have all 4, then stop and think about what is missing. This little trick is very helpful to avoid the problem of leaving items behind.
To help with people’s names, come up with an association for every name. For instance, say silently to yourself “Blond Betty” or “Tall Tim”. The very action of pairing a name with another word makes it easier to remember.
If you have trouble remembering where you put things down, enhance your memory by increasing the number of senses involved in the task. Try establishing a designated place for frequently misplaced items (hook for keys, dish for eyeglasses, corner of a desk for cell phone, etc.), and then when you are learning this new place, take time to stare at your hand as you put it there (for a second or two), and say “I am putting my keys on the hook” out loud, which gives your brain three impressions: the kinesthetic feeling of hanging keys, the visual input, and the auditory sound of where you put them.
There are limitless numbers of tricks you can use, and there are no wrong ones. The key here is to be intentional about helping your brain remember. And if you forget something, don’t berate yourself. Self criticism hampers growth, so just tell it to be quiet and leave you alone:)
What tricks do you find helpful for clearing the mind clutter and being intentional about remembering?