6 ways to improve your memory now
We’ve all had the answer on the tip of our tongue in an important meeting, or been this close to a game-changing fact to share with the team, if we could just remember what it was we used to know.
Memory can be a capricious workmate, but there are ways to boost your capacity to create, consolidate and recall information, shifting your knowledge from short to long-term memory along the way.
Here are six simple steps to help you get there (tip: write them down, if you want to remember what to do!):
Take a deep breath and concentrate – for eight seconds, that is. Studies have shown that eight seconds is the minimum amount of time required to move something from your short to long-term memory. When you are trying to absorb an important piece of information, stop and think about it for a bit before your mind moves on.
2. Chew gum
Research shows that chewing gum improves our ability to remember both visual and audio stimuli. The act of repetitive chewing while consuming information seems to have a positive effect on the ability to focus and concentrate, helping to filter out distractions and improving your long-term memory in the process.
3. Consume caffeine
Popular wisdom suggests that caffeine helps keep you alert and ready to learn, but recent research from John Hopkins University found that consuming caffeine after you have learnt something is when the real effect takes place. Their research suggests a well-timed cup of coffee can help you strengthen and consolidate what you have recently processed, improving your memory recall of that information for up to 24 hours after.
Memories can be recorded and then deleted just as easily when we are asked to memorise copious amounts of information. Sleeping helps shift our memories into the neocortex, where long-term ‘storage’ occurs. In fact, the majority of memory consolidation happens when we are asleep. So whether you renew your commitment to getting eight hours a night or create an office space to encourage afternoon powernaps to improve memory, make getting sleep a priority.
Exercise is like sleep – it has multiple benefits to physical and mental health, and it helps improve your memory. Regular exercise aids memory directly through increased oxygen to, and the stimulation of cell growth in, the brain, and indirectly by reducing stress and anxiety. It also improves mood and sleep – all factors known to have significant impact on our cognitive abilities.
In addition to creating an exercise routine, consider combining your one-on-one meetings with a walk around the park to get those memories flowing.
6. Write things out
Put the details of what you want to remember down on paper. You may never return to the list you’ve made, but studies show the very act of writing something out longhand helps you better recall that information than if you had typed it out.
Taking notes the old-fashioned way requires more mental and physical effort, serving to imprint knowledge on your (pre-iPad) brain.