5 Strategies to Improve Your Memory

While you’re working on your word skills with the exercises in this chapter, also learn and practice the following strategies, which will help ensure that you can access the words you need, when you need them.

The following strategies will help ensure that you can access the words you need when you need them.

Memory Booster #1: Make up a story

For lists of words you want to remember short-term, such as a grocery list or a to-do list, experts recommend making up a story that links the words. The story should be as visual as possible (otherwise you’re just creating words to remember other words) and as silly or ridiculous as you can imagine. For example, let’s say you have three words to remember–lamp, strawberries, car. You could imagine turning on a lamp outdoors and finding strawberries growing inside the car and overflowing out the windows. The more imaginative or elaborate your mental pictures, the better your chances for remembering the items.

Memory Booster #2: Group words together

For long lists of words that don’t have to be memorized in order, group similar words together. You decide which categories to use. If you have a grocery list, you can “chunk” the items by location in the store, by food group, by size, by price, or by where you will store the items when you get home.

Memory Booster #3: Listen for the name

When you meet someone for the first time and want to remember his name, the first step is to listen! Most people are so focused on making a good impression that they forget to pay attention to the person they are meeting. Focus on hearing the person’s name. Immediately repeat the name (“Nice to meet you, Frank”), and use it again when addressing the person in conversation.

Memory Booster #4: Let a name tell a story

When you hear the name, think about how the name sounds and what images it evokes. For example, if you meet Marina Taylor, you can easily visualize a marina full of boats, and a tailor sitting on the dock mending sails. You can take the exercise a step further to help you recall this person, and their name, in the future. If Marina is a redhead, let every boat in the marina be painted red. It will be almost impossible to forget her name after such an elaborate visual image.

Not all names will be so easily translated into images. In those cases, use whatever associations come to mind. For example, if you meet Ted Stanley, who is balding, you might think that you have a cousin named Ted who is also balding. And that your cousin was married to a woman who used to live in Vancouver, which reminds you of Stanley Park. So you can imagine your cousin Ted sitting in the middle of the Vancouver park.

Memory Booster #5: Sound out difficult names

The first time you meet Wojciech Cieszko, you’ll probably have a tough time coming up with a story that fits his name. In such a case, ask him to repeat his name slowly. As he does, sound it out in your head and imagine writing the phonetic spelling out on a slip of paper. Now, mentally staple the paper to a mental snapshot of the person.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest