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How to improve your memory today

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Many of us are poor listeners. When we do listen we tend to forget about 75% of what we hear within two months and between a third and a half of what we hear within 8 hours. This is exacerbated by the digital age of speed where everything seems to be happening at once, and where so many of us repeat the self-defeating behavior of multitasking day in and day out.

PAUSE. Speaking of remembering, without reading back, what was that statistic you just learned? How much do we tend to forget within 8 hours?

If you didn’t remember that between a third and half of us forget what we learn within 8 hours this may be an indication of weak working memory skills and you may be a victim of what memory expert Hermine Hilton calls the Seven-Second Syndrome. When a person fails to “lock in” new information, it can be lost in as little as 7 seconds.  The problem with our brain, and with memory and other cognitive skills, is that if we don’t use them we lose we lose them.

Our minds can only juggle so much. If we don’t exercise our brain, and in particular the prefrontal cortex where working memory resides (along with other executive skills such as planning and organising), working memory will get worse rather than better. Improving your memory won’t happen overnight but there are some tricks to help you remember new information and for it to sink in. Let’s look at an example.

Remembering names

One of the most common and most frustrating things to forget is someone’s name. Have you ever been at a party and by the time you have been introduced to a second person, you have forgotten the name of the first person you met? If so, you are not alone. Many people have trouble with names rather than faces. You don’t often hear “Your name is familiar but I can’t recall your face”.

Memory trick: Listen and repeat

Naturally, step one is to listen carefully to the new name when you are first introduced. Step two is to immediately say the name aloud. “Glad to meet you, John.”

Repeating the name aloud right away is very important. In fact, you should say the name to yourself several times while you’re with the person. “John, I hear you work in L&D. How do you like it?” Finally, at the end of the conversation, repeat the name again. “Hope to see you again, John.”

According to the book, You Can have a Near-Perfect Memory, by Mort Herold, researchers have found that those who repeat another person’s name at the time of introduction are 30 percent more successful at remembering the name later on.

Improve your memory by writing it down

The act of writing things down helps new information to sink into your long-term memory – as does reviewing it periodically. One trick is to enter the information in your smartphone or computer. Consider creating a note on your phone including people’s names and a small fact about them and refer back to it before you think you might see them again. “John Anderson. Works in L&D.”

Boost your memory – and sharpen your mind

To find out more about tips and tricks to improving memory, read our eBook "Boost your memory – and sharpen your mind".

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