Top Ten Tips on...

Boosting Memory

28 August 2022
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
These top 10 tips offer practical suggestions to help you remember things...

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associate whatever you are trying to remember with something that's already in your memory bank. This is probably the most important technique, since if you can make the connection or association, then it will be easier to recall the new because of a familiar association.


Remembering numbers

it’s helpful to break a string of numbers – for example a telephone number – into smaller units, each of which has a memorable association. Suppose you have to remember the number 7476499. Here’s how it would break down for me, to be easily memorable. Firstly, I know a jumbo jet is a 747; then, as a Beatles fan, I can easily remember the numbers 64 from their song ‘When I’m 64’. And then my favourite ice cream is a ‘99’ – t he one with a flake in it. So, without any further help I think jumbo jet, Beatles song, ice cream – and it will automatically give me 747 – 64 - 99



suppose you are trying to remember list of items - say an umbrella, a dish and a clock. Then you could perhaps make a story up about somebody walking with an umbrella, because it was raining, carrying a dish underneath their arm and noticing the time from the town hall clock. That’s a narrative, a story. And the story is it's always easier to remember than the individual component parts.


Clocking in

the idea here is that you create a time sequence that helps you remember a set of items. So think of a clock face and think of four things you want to remember – for example, a tank, a photo, a bag, and a mobile phone. So you might say I woke up this morning and fed fish in the fish tank. I then mid morning I went to a shop to pick up a photo that I’d had enlarged for me. I then went supermarket shopping on the way home, and set my alarm on my mobile phone to phone my mum at 8pm. So as before, it is a narrative, but this time it is also anchored against specific times or parts of the day – morning, mid-morning, home time and 8pm



many people are visual, and that means we can, we can think of something visually more easily than anything else. The most obvious patterns are geometric patterns. So you can associate numbers of items with particular geometric shapes: a line (2 items, one at each end); a triangle for 3 items – one on each corner; a square for 4 items, and so on – each item on a corner. And recalling the shape will not only help you remember the words, but how many – if you are working with a square, you know there will be 4 words.



an acronym is a word, each letter of which starts a new word – and those are the words you want to remember. A well-known acronym is smart. and each letter in that word represents another word that you want to remember: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time framed.


Learning names: repetition

refer to the new name as often as you can, as early as you can, to embed it in your mind – and look at the person as you use their name. So, for example, if someone introduces themselves as Jacinta, you can say: “Jacinta? Hi. How do you spell Jacinta?” Then as they spell it to you, you learn it, and then repeat it again – “Jacinta…thank you.” So in a quick and short exchange, you’ve used that name 3 times – and written it down – which also helps you embed the name.


Learning names: seating plan

let’s assume you want to learn the names of say 16 people in your class. Simply write down all their names as a map of where they are sitting. Writing it down helps embed the name, and also removes you from an initial worry of remembering those names instantly – because you can refer to your plan or map. Interestingly you are more likely to remember their names if you are not putting yourself under pressure to remember them…!


Learning names: misdirection...

once you’ve asked each person to introduce themselves, set the class an icebreaker activity, the length of which should be proportional to the number of people in the class. If there are only 5 people, it can be a short activity – if there are 30, then it needs to be a longer activity. And this is because while the students are fully occupied in the activity, you are learning their names, using the seating plan. So when the activity has finished, you can actually refer to people by name, without looking at the seating plan – which will be impressive. And, as part of the magic, they are surprised and impressed – “how did you know our names so quickly?” And the reason they are impressed is because they have no knowledge of how you did it – because they were fully engaged in their activity, they had no awareness of you carrying out your activity! Magicians use this device a lot – they distract their subject, so the subject pays attention to one thing, and as a result does not notice what the magician is doing. For example, asking a subject to choose a card and remember its number will absolutely concentrate the subject on that task – and not be noticing what the magician is doing at the same time – it’s called ‘misdirection’…


Numbers as anchors

perhaps the most effective of the memory aids, this involves creating a visual association for each of the numbers 1 to 10, so that whenever you think of that number, a relevant visual associated with the shape of that number comes instantly to mind. You should come up with your own visuals, but one such list could be:

1 = telegraph pole

2 = swan

3 = open pair of handcuffs

4 = sail on a toy yacht

5 = pregnant woman

6 = cherry on a stalk

7 = front of a boat

8 = snowman

9 = balloon on a string

10: a gate (0 is the gate, and 1 is it’s post)

Then when you have a list of words to remember – such as a shopping list, or things you want to remember when you’re driving but can’t not them down, you associate what you are trying to remember with the associated shape for the number on the list. For example, suppose you wanted to phone a colleague Harry when you got into the office – then imagine Harry sitting on top of your telegraph pole. You next want to collect a parcel from the post room – so imaging a parcel sitting on the back of a swan…and so on….

Effective Top Tens - Podcast
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