From employee and business contact names to speaking points for your next big presentation, if you’re like many leaders, there’s probably a lot of activities vying for valuable real estate in your brain. So, here are some ways to help boost your memory and retain important information.
According to Miller’s Law, the average number of objects we can hold in our working memory is seven – give or take two. Beyond that, performance on memory tasks tends to fall off. So, while it may have gotten you through a few college exams, cramming in as much information at the last minute isn’t the best way to create long-term retention.
Instead, you’re better off learning new information slowly and more intentionally. For example, if you’re preparing for a big presentation, set up regular study times in advance and try to replicate the actual environment you will present in as close as possible. The regular repetition in actual conditions will more thoroughly imprint the content in your memory. And because you’re not struggling to simply recall crammed information, your presentation will flow naturally, and you’ll be perceived as more knowledgeable about the topic.
Cut back on the multitasking
If you believe you are a champion-level multitasker, statistics show you actually probably aren’t. Studies have revealed that only about 2% of people are able to effectively multitask, the rest of us are just fooling ourselves. Multitasking creates interruptions to our brains’ moment-to-moment processing of information. So, if you’re trying to retain information from a phone call while at the same time checking email and responding to text messages, and you’re not part of that 2%, there will likely be some gaps in your memory about the call.
In order to allow information to really sink in and stick, it’s important to be in the moment. When you’re on a conference call or in a meeting, make it a point to push other stimuli aside and really focus on the task at hand. You’ll be better equipped to add to the discussion, because you won’t be constantly trying to catch up and fill in the gaps. It also shows respect to the person leading the conversation.
Employ mnemonic devices
Mnemonic devices are one of the most tried and true methods for retaining information. Basically, a mnemonic device is a tool or learning technique that helps you better organize, retain, and recall information from memory.
A few common examples of mnemonic devices include:
- Acronyms – If you work in the business world, you’re probably already very familiar with acronyms. For example, ROY G BIV is a popular acronym to help remember the colors of a rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.
- Rhymes – Think about all the nursery rhymes that are forever imprinted in your brain. You couldn’t forget them if you tried, right? Putting information into rhyming sequences or short poems is a great way to help recall it later. An example most people have recited since grade school is, “i before e except after c, or when sounding like a in neighbor and weigh.”
- Chunking – With this technique, you’re basically condensing a large block of information into more easily memorable “chunks.” This method works especially well with numbers. One common example is phone numbers. Instead of remembering seven individual numbers like 5-5-5-6-3-2-7, it’s much easier to remember the three numbers that have been grouped together like 555-63-27.
How do you commit information to memory? What are some other techniques you have tried and how did they work? What are some times your memory failed you? Let us know in the comments section below.