I hear this all the time “I can’t seem to remember anything anymore.” “I apologize, what is your name again?” and my favorite “I can’t find my phone. Can I call you back?”
I think many of us are just overwhelmed with all the things we need to do in a day. We aren’t suffering from memory loss as much as we are trying to get our “to do” list accomplished. We live in a fast paced society and we rely on our gadgets to help us get it done. We don’t memorize phone numbers anymore, or passwords for that matter. We don’t need to do math in our head or rack our brains to remember who sang that song about bananas. With a few key strokes, the answer is there and no brain cells are activated.
Yet, we do need to exercise our brain and be able to recall names, places and dates. It’s important in social and business relationships that we remember who we met and a little bit about them. Networking is what builds our community and it has to be more than a facebook or instagram post. In our jobs, we need to be able to do a presentation without relying on notes. Engaging your audience means keeping eye contact and speaking confidently about your subject. In social situations remembering peoples’ names goes a long way in making a good impression.
What can we do to help our powers of recall work more efficiently? I’m so glad you asked, otherwise all of this wonderful material would go to waste.
Three keys to help strengthen our memory are: Imagination, Mindfulness and Practice. A way to remember these steps is to turn them into an acronym-IMP-the first three letters of the word Important. (See what I did there? I can tell you're already having fun).
Imagination is an important step in the technique of retaining names, numbers, lists and dates. Visualization helps us to cement this process of memorization. Think about a story you read when you were a child. For example, can you recite Green Eggs and Ham? I’m sure that while you are thinking about it, pictures from the story are popping up in your mind. That’s where your imagination comes in.
When you meet someone for the first time, make sure you hear her name correctly. Repeat her name and look into her eyes as you shake hands. (Only for a second. Stare too long and it becomes creepy). Now, find a defining feature that stands out and link her name to it. For example, her name is Lynn. It’s possible that you know another Lynn and you can make a quick comparison to the new Lynn. She can stay in your mind as Little Lynn or Light Hair Lynn. You can also try to rhyme her name with her defining feature: Thin Lynn. When you say good-bye repeat her name again. Saying someone’s name at least three times helps keep them stored in your memory file. Three time's a charm, just ask BeetleJuice.
When you are trying to remember a list, the power of creativity helps. Let’s say you have five points you want to make in a meeting. Put a number next to each point and a picture that will trigger your memory. Rhyming also helps. Soon you’ll be just as good as Dr. Seuss.
For example: Five Ways to Engage Your Audience
- Be passionate about your message
- Speak clearly
- Be organized
- Have a call to action
- Tell personal stories that relate to your message
Number one rhymes with sun. Picture a bright sun high in the sky with your main message written across it. You can design it anyway you want. The more detailed you can make it, the more memorable it will be. Sunlight spotlights your passion.
Number two rhymes with shoe. Visualize your shoe with a large mouth. Your shoe is talking to you loud and clear. The reminder is speak clearly.
Number three rhymes with bee. Picture a large beehive being built by very organized buzzing bees. The point “be organized” will be easy to remember.
Number four rhymes with floor. Think about a living chessboard that is in an action packed game. See the Queen belting out orders to the other pieces. The picture of the action packed floor will be your call to action
Number five rhymes with dive. See yourself diving into a large pool full of fish. Each fish is telling their own story all at the same time. Personal stories add an impact to your message, so dive into yours.
When you can see the pictures in your head as you move from point to point, your speech will flow that much easier.
Mindfulness. Take a moment to breathe deeply and focus on what’s in front of you. When we do that, we are present. We can be so distracted that it can feel hard to quiet our mind of all that we have to do. When you are completely aware of your surroundings it makes it easier to concentrate on the task at hand. This helps you retain what you are reading or listening to.
Check your posture. How are you sitting or standing? It does make a difference. When you are trying to solve a problem, sit up straight. It will help you feel confident in your abilities. It helps your circulation and blood flow. You will find your memory works better and will also put you in a positive mood.
Practice. Just like learning a language or a dance step, practicing something new takes time. The more you work on bringing your ideas to life in your mind, the easier it becomes. You will become aware of staying in the present and focused on listening to the person in front of you. You’ll find that your attention span, along with your memory gets better. You’ll be amazed just how clever you are when you are developing fun images to connect to names, dates and lists. It will become a habit that becomes easier as you do it.
IMP-Imagination, Mindfulness and Practice will play a very important part in your day to day life. I carry a very funny slideshow that lives in my head. Not only does it help me with my memory, but it keeps me in a great mood. Yes, I crack myself up. I hope you do too.
For more tips on having a great memory check out this wonderful book by Grandmaster Kevin Horsley “Unlimited Memory"