Writing things down, on paper or on-screen, is the best way to make sure you remember important info and tasks, but sometimes you've got to rely on your plain old brain to keep essential data sorted and handy. Whether it's a client's name, a password or combination you want stored only in your head, or answers for an upcoming test, there are plenty of techniques and tools to help you lock in important stuff and pull it out when needed. After the jump, we round up some memorable memory-boosting hacks. Photo by furryscaly.
10. Nap to improve memory and learning
It may not seem like you're learning anything when you close your eyes and doze off, but taking a daytime nap can help you reduce interference—the brain's resistance to learning new material, rather than what it already learned earlier—and help your recall, as suggested in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The key number in a study on nap-learning was 90 minutes, but it seems like general how-to knowledge sinks in better whenever you take any kind of siesta. Photo by cell105.
9. Boost learning power with strategic "distractions"
This doesn't mean switching from your GRE prep to Nintendo Wii, but switching up your studying from one subject to a slightly different one—moving, say, from one CSS function and then back—forces your brain to try and hold onto the first thing you were focusing on, according to researchers. The momentary distraction might also help reduce your stress level, helping your concentration even further. (Original post). Photo by Sam Pullara.
8. Visualise reminders with the Palace Technique
Whether it's your home, an office, or some other place, there's a space most of us can walk through in our minds. Turn that mental space into a list organiser by using the "Palace Technique." The LiteMind Blog has a good overview of the technique, which has you associating each thing you need to remember with objects you'd see in a walk-through—milk at the front door, printer paper on the floor mat, paper towels on the kitchen table, etc. When you need to remember, just stroll through your (mental) home, and you should recall the associations. (Original post)
7. Draw a name map
Got a meeting with the higher-ups and want to make a positive impression? Bring a notepad or just an index card and map out the players' names, or just seating positions, as soon as you sit down, along with some identifiers ("Jim/beard, #4/glasses," and the like). From covering my fair share of board meetings for newspapers, I can attest to the benefits of writing notes and quotes from mapped numbers and later follow-up, rather than hoping your overwhelmed mind can juggle it all at once. (Original post)
6. Recall lists using dramatic imagery
You're heading out the door, and you're absolutely sure you're going to forget to drop off the mail, or buy the milk, or both. Blogger Bert Webb might suggest focusing on an image of dropping letters into a mailbox that looks like a giant milk jug, or perhaps a mailman made entirely of liquid milk. In other words, anything that pushes your list items pass your brain's boring/mundane filter is far likelier to stick. (Original post)
5. Never have to write down countless, unique passwords with a single master pattern
The safest place to store your passwords is in your head, and you don't want to use one password for all your logins. This isn't so much a "memory" hack as an efficiency tip, but it only forces your noggin to come up with one really great password system rather than lots of highly forgettable variations. Choose a base password, like an abbreviated or acronym version of a favourite phrase or song, then create a system for changing it up site to site, like using the first three letters of the site name, the first four consonants or first two vowels, whatever fits for you. Clicking "Forgot your password?" and waiting on verification emails will be a distant memory, one you can feel just fine about forgetting.
4. Remember names with repetition techniques
Networking does you no good if you can't remember what to call the person you've already schmoozed the next time you meet them. How-to website eHow recommends simply saying the person's name multiple times after you're introduced, as in: "Hi, Bob, it's nice to meet you. So, Bob, where do you ...." But other tips from CareerBuilder/CNN might work better with the visual-learning crowd, such as writing the person's name on their forehead in your mind or associating them with a linked image, like imagining someone named Leonard as, say, Leonard Nimoy. (Original posts)
3. Convert long numbers to words
Whether it's a hardcore software password or your car's VIN, long strings of numbers are hard to keep straight. Using a technique like the Major system or its modified cousin, the Red Table, the long string of disconnected digits become a lot easier to grok. Check out this conversion helper, which even has its own convenient Firefox extension. (Original post)
2. Make your own memory devices with mnemonics
Many of the tips and techniques we've posted stem from the science of mnemonics, which utilises all the senses to aid learning. If number-to-word methods or vivid images don't work for you, browse this great introduction and learn how to use three-dimensional images, symbols, and your own sense of humour to en code must-not-forget items and happenings. The most important tip? Make your memory device something funny or positive—we all have enough negative reminders, and have gotten pretty good at channeling them out. (Original post)
1. Train your brain with SuperMemo
Free Windows application SuperMemo helps you remember concepts using spaced repetition. SuperMemo is based on years of research by learning expert Piotr Wozniak, who sought to find the exact moments when one is just about to forget something they just learned. Available in several versions for Windows, Pocket PC and Ye Olde Palm Pilots, SuperMemo is a serious tool for super remembrance. (Original post)
What methods or tricks do you use to make sure you can't forget the important stuff? How do you augment your paper and program lists with mental training? Which ingenious techniques are we missing? Share your experiences and pointers in the comments.