Personal Development

Improve Your Memory

I forgot to post on this topic last week (…pause for laughter…), but this how-to on improving your memory seemed quite useful.

It’s bad enough when you feel that you have very little time to do the tasks you need to do. Why do things twice? Improving your memory means only having to learn things once, saving you time and making you both more efficient and more effective. The how-to has a warning that improving your ability to recall does not guarantee success in life. Maybe not, but it isn’t as if being forgetful has helped me any, either. I might as well improve this skill as it can only help.

Some of the tips in the how-to relate to mnemonics, which most memory articles and books advocate. I think that habits should be made out of physical and mental exercises. Poor health will make it more difficult to remember, so to keep sharp, you need to keep healthy. Repetition helps, and repetition helps.

Some of the tips seem to have generalizations that could be more useful:

Put black ink at the end of your palm to remember any important thing for the next day or for that day itself. Whenever you see the black dot, you’ll remember what to do.

Actually, I think the general idea of using reminders, as David Allen mentions in Getting Things Done, is more useful. Recently I wanted to motivate myself to wake up early. The night before, when I was programming but needed to go to sleep, I KNEW that I wanted to wake up early so that I would have time to continue programming before leaving for my day job; unfortunately, when the morning would come, I would have a hard time getting out of bed. So I took an index card and wrote out my morning schedule:

  • 5:30AM – 6:00AM — Shower and get dressed.
  • 6:00AM – 6:30AM — Eat breakfast and make lunch.
  • 6:30AM – 7:00AM — Brush teeth, shave, etc.

I rarely need an hour and a half to do all of those tasks, but I have cats. The idea is that by 7AM I should be ready to go no matter what, and if I get finished earlier, I can always work on Oracle’s Eye Prime for longer.

Anyway, I took the index card and placed it on top of my alarm, which was moved from my bed stand to a shelf. The next morning, when the alarm went off, I first realized that it wasn’t where it used to be. Then I realized that I couldn’t get to the alarm without touching this index card. I didn’t even need to read it as I immediately remembered why it was there in the first place. I tried it last week, and almost each day without fail I was up and ready to go. The only time it didn’t work was when I was feeling sick, and I gave myself permission to not work that day. Otherwise, I didn’t feel a need to go back to sleep because I reminded myself that I wanted to give more time to working on my project. By the end of the week, I didn’t even need to put the index card on top of the alarm as I had built the habit of waking up early.

So the reminder helped me to remember my motivation. If I can “improve my memory” with similar results, how can I not succeed?

One reply on “Improve Your Memory”

The memory improvement stuff seems like alot of work. I mean you can try to work your brain that hard if you want. For me it’s easier just to write stuff down.

In any case your index card idea is a good idea.

For years my dad has been telling me that computers were meant to show task lists schedules, clocks and timers. I mean really what was it built to do, it was built for productivity in mind. So he probably has a point, get a schedule program, to do list, or whatever, and let the computer remind you when you need to do something.

I guess we all have different ideas and different things to try, you just got to try it until it works. You never know, the best idea may be no idea. You may just switch off on techniques and that works. You may stick with tried and true, or may not even care.

As the old Nike commercials used to say “Just do it!”

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