Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why? Do you have trouble remembering where you left your keys, your glasses, or your car in the parking lot? Are you finding it harder and harder to recall new names?
If the answer to any or all of these questions is a resounding “yes,” rest assured that you’re not alone. Research shows that people’s memory actually starts to slip in their 40s with one study even pushing that number back to as early as 35. If your brain sometimes feels like it’s Teflon-coated and nothing sticks, here are five simple tricks to keep those details from sliding into the mental abyss:
1. Pen to Paper
It’s been proven that the act of writing something down – with pen and paper, not a computer – is extremely effective in implanting that task or fact in your brain. Whether you have a new bridge strategy or have just met a group of new people, get out your notebook and make a physical note of the details, which will turn into a mental note that you can more easily retrieve later.
2. Say Your ABCs
Having a tip-of-the-tongue moment with a word or a name? If you can recall the first letter and it’s a consonant, run through the vowels, i.e., P-A, P-E, P-I, etc. If you can’t even remember the first letter, go through the entire alphabet and sometimes the act of vocalizing the sounds can unearth the fact from the deep recesses of your mind.
3. Talk to Yourself
I used to practice this trick as a child. My grandmother would send me to a nearby store for, say, milk, bread, butter, and Dr. Pepper. The whole way to the store, I’d repeat those items over and over again, so I was sure to remember them all. The same strategy works as you grow older. If you’re headed upstairs for your glasses and to make the bed, continuing to repeat those tasks will ensure that your initial goal will remain front of mind, even if the laundry hijacks you along the way, and you won’t waste steps.
4. Spell It
Another way to remember several tasks at once is to use a mnemonic strategy. For example, if you need to walk the dogs, email your daughter, defrost the steaks, and iron a blouse, it’s easier to pare that list down to W-E-D-I. And you’ll retain the tasks even better if you can switch the letters around to form an easy-to-remember word like “wide.”
5. Everything in Its Place
This tip seems pretty intuitive, but how many times have you finally found your keys on the nightstand or your glasses in the pantry? When you put those items that you use on a regular basis back in the same place every single time (even park in approximately the same spot at frequented stores), you’ll spend less time hunting for them. And if you don’t put the item back where it belongs, retracing your steps can often lead you right back to where you put it – even if you have no memory of putting it there.
Share your clever memory tricks.