Do you have trouble recalling or retaining information? Chances are that we all experience this since we are bombarded with thousands of facts, opinions and messages on a daily basis. We are constantly processing information online, at work, during our commutes and it’s hard to retain the important stuff when there are so many distractions.
Here are 10 tips for helping things stick and to exercise the most important muscle you possess:
1. Establish a Routine – I rarely lose my keys, wallet or cell phone, because they are always on me or I put them in the same place every time. This applies to information as well, because if you organize emails and critical documents in specific folders, you will know exactly where to go first. Happens to me all the time at home and work. Organization may seem like a chore, but it pays off!
2. Fight Habits – This is difficult since we are creatures of habit, but if you want to remember something, break the routine that you established in number one. I’m a very organized person, so to recall something I’ll either add it to my to-do-list or for a more effective reminder, I’ll put items in plain view so that I can’t ignore them the next time I enter the room or come home. Basically leave yourself a “paper trail.” Sounds cheesy, but works.
3. Consume More Brain Food – There are thousands of studies out there about foods that will improve your memory, because they are filled with antioxidants and vitamins. A few of these include green tea, blueberries, salmon, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dark chocolate can all boost recall and retention. Experts even say a glass of red wine every so often will help as well. Moderation is key on that last part as too much can lead to no recollection of the night before haha!
4. Get More Sleep – Your brain and body need down time to repair themselves and stay sharp. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll tax your memory and start forgetting things. Sleep has always been a battle for me and when I don’t sleep enough, I sometimes find myself forgetting silly things. So let’s all catch up on rest to keep our minds alert eh? Check out these apps that might help you improve your sleep.
5. Mental Workouts – Who likes zoning out to YouTube videos or escaping in a good movie? I think we all do, but try to play some brain games on your tablet or smart phone instead. There are tons of apps and websites out there. Just Google brain or memory games and I’m sure you will be challenging yourself and having fun at the same time.
6. Create Stories in Your Mind – Facts and figures by themselves can be easily forgotten if there isn’t any context involved. As you are being introduced to new information try to associate that with your surroundings. I personally can remember movies and quotes with the best of them. As such, I am a very visual person and I either associate information to one of my favorite movie scenes or create an acronym that will help me remember. Find a way to use your imagination and things will stick with you longer.
7. Write Things Down – I’m very passionate about this one as I’m always taking notes and making to-do lists. Without those, I truly would be lost. You can even take notes on your smart phone or tablet. Try it sometime if you already don’t do this, because studies have shown that the physical act of writing something down does help you recall that information later.
8. Get Creative – This one relates to number six. In addition to visual stories, you can write poems or songs to help remember important facts. This can be very powerful as I still recall “Never eat shredded wheat” when remembering the clockwise order of north, east, south and west on a compass.
9. Focus – Paying attention seems like a very simple concept, but in this world where everyone seems to have “self-diagnosed attention deficit disorder,” it’s not as easy as it sounds. Studies show that it takes about eight seconds of focused attention on a specific item to make it a memory.
10. Exercise – A healthy mind and a healthy body go hand-in-hand. As previously mentioned, your brain is a muscle and when you work other muscles, your blood is flowing and that stimulates your mind. When I am running outside or on an elliptical inside the gym, a lot of my best ideas come to me during this time. Not to mention you are also eliminating stress from your mind and body.