We live in a fast-paced world saturated with information that is both important to remember and easy to forget. According to Richard Saul Wurman’s fascinating book “Information Anxiety,” a weekly edition of The New York Times contains more information than the average person living in 17th-century England was likely to encounter in an entire lifetime. In order to process and control this vast influx of facts, ideas, opinions and data, you need to awaken the sleeping giant that is your memory.
Memory is a verb not a noun! It is a conscious and aggressive act on your part. With appropriate training and coaching, your memory ability, and thus your mental ability, can soar to unexpected heights. The following techniques and strategies are examples of my approach for significantly improving memory (implicit, declarative, procedural, short-term and long-term) for all types of information.
One of my favorite exercises is designed to remove distractions and increase concentration span. There are many reasons why you may become unfocused; predominantly, this happens when your eyes separate from your mind, thereby distracting you from your objective. An effective way of bringing them back together is to fix your eyes on a mandala, an intricate design used by Tibetan Buddhists for meditation.
Over the years, I have adapted their approach to significantly raise and sharpen the level of my observation and concentration. Every mandala design has a central core, and I fix my eyes on one for two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the afternoon. You can access many versions of the mandala via the Internet and in the books and calendars found at the Asia Society in New York City.
Many of my clients and students have successfully used this technique for more than 10 years. If you practice on a daily, consistent basis, your overall concentration can improve by about 20 to 25 percent over a six-week period. Try this technique prior to an important meeting, presentation or exam. The primary benefits of the mandala include reducing sensory input to a single source, centering your attention, quieting the chattering in your mind and reconnecting your eyes with your mind.
When you have to remember an appointment, visually associate it with an event or location rather than a specific time. Time is cyclical; an event or location is unique, and therefore it tends to stand out in your memory.
Prior to attending a business or social meeting, acquire a detailed list of all those attending. Prepare a visual substitute of everyone’s name on the list and connect their title, and any personal information, to the visual image of their name. For example, let’s say that one of the names is Joe Jenusky. Phonetically, his last name sounds like a combination of genius and ski, which you can visualize as a brain on skis slaloming down a slope. Is this strange or unusual? Sure, but you’re picturing it as you read this.
Similarly, the name Joe might make you think of G.I. Joe, so visualize the brain skiing while it’s dressed in a military uniform. When you arrive to the meeting, you will find that you have already done 70 percent of the work. Now all you have to do is link the names and mental images of the attendees to specific features of their faces. Your boss and colleagues will be impressed!
Another simple but very effective technique to prevent you from forgetting your keys, glasses, reports, umbrella, etc. is to look at the items, touch them and state out loud, “I am putting my keys on my desk now.” Simply by doing this, you are applying three of your senses to the item in question, thus preventing you from paying attention to the distractions coming into your office.
If you are ever the victim of “tip of the tongue” syndrome, where you find that a name, fact, statistic or location eludes you, simply draw a circle on paper. In the center, draw a question mark. From there, draw lines outward toward the edge of the paper and begin to ask yourself questions pertaining to the missing information. What was the subject? Who was there? When did it happen? What was I wearing? Why is it important? What is it related to? As you pose these questions, write them down on the lines emanating from the center of the circle. If the information is in your long-term memory, you will sense a little click in your mind; the curtain will open, and the mystery will magically unfold. This is called the Casablanca Strategy because you are rounding up the usual suspects to uncover the missing information.
Information is power! Memory is superpower!
Frank Felberbaum, author of the highly acclaimed book “The Business of Memory,” is a leading expert in memory and brainpower training.