I forget things. Not mundane stuff like chores because I’ve learned the art of “to do” lists. What falls through the memory cracks for me, unfortunately, are recent conversations with friends or colleagues, visits to new places, special occasions and sometimes, even vacations.
Aside from the embarrassment and worry this memory loss causes, I also get frustrated because somehow I manage to remember professional things in complete detail. This annoying imbalance and the fact that I’ve never been to the 92nd Street Y led me to sign up for a type of class I’ve never take before: Total Recall: A One-Night Memory Workshop.
I learned multi-tasking is killing my ability to remember and I need to focus on one thing at a time to better embed memories.
This is a tough pill to swallow because I pride myself on making the most of every minute to stay on top of things. I return calls and emails while skimming the paper and commuting to work. I read Twitter and Facebook while talking on the phone, eating lunch and paying bills. At night, the TV plays while I chat with my husband, prepare dinner, throw toys for the cat and think about all the things I have to get done the next day.
My attention is clearly divided which, I learned at the workshop, means my brain is not acquiring enough information to form a complete memory.
The brain essentially works as a library. It acquires information, stores it and finally retrieves it. Like everyone in our class and the majority of those asked, I assumed memory problems occur in the retrieval phase. Surprisingly, most problems crop up in the acquisition phase.
Attention and focus are how our brains acquire information. The more attention and focus we pay to something the better our brains store that information. If you ever repeated something out loud while studying, you’ve used one of the tricks to focusing your attention to embed something into memory.
Interestingly enough, research has shown that if you also try to retrieve that new information within 24 hours of acquiring it (i.e. simply think about what you learned, observed or experienced), you’re more likely to remember it better in the future.
In my case, it’s clear that I remember professional things better than some personal things because at work, I more frequently focus on one thing at a time. At home and on vacation, I’m trying to pack too much in and not focusing enough on important moments preventing my brain from embedding the information into memory.
In today’s world, I just don’t see how it’s possible to abandon multi-tasking forever but now that I’ve heard how it hinders my ability to remember, I sure will do less of it at home, vacation and holiday weekends like this one.
I also learned these 3 useful tips for remembering little things that can be easily forgotten. I’ve already put them into practice and they work! Give them a try this weekend!
3 Tips To Remember Things We Commonly Forget
- Don't Lose Your Keys, Wallets, Cell Phone: If you’re someone that always forgets where you put your keys, wallet, cell phone then a “forget-me-not spot” will help you. All you have to do is put a basket, bowl or box in a dedicated spot and ALWAYS put keys, wallet, cell phone in that place as soon as you walk in the house.
- Remember Movies & Books: If you end up re-renting movies or borrowing books that you’ve already read, only to remember you’ve seen/read it before once you’re part-way in, this will help. Next time you watch or read something, talk to someone about the movie or book in detail after watching it. Talking about the plot, the characters and your impressions of them is like repeating something out loud when you’re studying. It helps embed the subject into memory.
- Remember Names: If people’s names go in one and out the other, make first impressions (good or bad) work in your favor. Alliteration helps, too. For example, if you meet a bubbly woman named Pam, give her the nickname (quietly in your mind, of course) Perky Pam.
What are your special tricks for remember things?