20 Memory Tricks You’ll Never Forget

How to retrain your brain.

By Patricia Curtis from Reader's Digest | March 2008

Can’t remember where you put your glasses? Blanked on your new colleague’s name?“Forgetting these types of things is a sign of how busy we are,” says Zaldy S. Tan, MD, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “When we’re not paying good attention, the memories we form aren’t very robust, and we have a problem retrieving the information later.”

The key, says Harry Lorayne, author of Ageless Memory: Simple Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young, is to get your brain in shape. “We exercise our bodies, but what good is that great body if you don’t have the mental capabilities to go with it?” Sure, you could write everything down, keep organized lists and leave electronic notes on your BlackBerry, cell phone or PDA. But when you don’t have access to those aids, or if you want to strengthen your brain, try these expert-recommended strategies to help you remember.

     

  • Brain Freeze #1


    “What the heck is his name?”

    • Pay attention. When you’re introduced to someone, really listen to the person’s name. Then, to get a better grasp, picture the spelling. Ask, “Is that Kathy with a K or a C?” Make a remark about the name to help lock it in (“Oh, Carpenter — that was my childhood best friend’s last name”), and use the name a few times during the conversation and when you say goodbye.

    • Visualize the name. For hard-to-remember monikers (Bentavegna, Wobbekind), make the name meaningful. For Bentavegna, maybe you think of a bent weather vane. Picture it. Then look at the person, choose an outstanding feature (bushy eyebrows, green eyes) and tie the name to the face. If Mr. Bentavegna has a big nose, picture a bent weather vane instead of his nose. The sillier the image, the better.

    • Create memorable associations. Picture Joe Everett standing atop Mount Everest. If you want to remember that Erin Curtis is the CEO of an architectural firm, imagine her curtsying in front of a large building, suggests Gini Graham Scott, PhD, author of 30 Days to a More Powerful Memory.

    • Cheat a little. Supplement these tips with some more concrete actions. When you get a business card, after the meeting, jot down a few notes on the back of the card (“red glasses, lives in Springfield, went to my alma mater”) to help you out when you need a reminder.

  • Brain Freeze #2


    “Where in the world did I leave my glasses?”

    • Give a play-by-play. Pay attention to what you’re doing as you place your glasses on the end table. Remind yourself, “I’m putting my keys in my coat pocket,” so you have a clear memory of doing it, says Scott.

    • Make it a habit. Put a small basket on a side table. Train yourself to put your keys, glasses, cell phone or any other object you frequently use (or misplace) in the basket — every time.

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