More than just memory techniques, these actionable steps will exercise your mind and improve your performance.
Whether you are a business leader or team member, it can be both impressive and useful to clients and co-workers when you easily remember names and important phone numbers. You will perform better and stand out by recalling important information without referring to your smartphone or reference material.
But what if you're one of those individuals who has a hard time remembering names? Below are five easy steps you can take to improve your memory. To help explain each step, I provide examples drawn from methods used to help students remember the correct Ethernet cable wiring order, which is a string of colors needed to correctly wire cables with corresponding equipment. (You don't need to know the wiring order, but it is a great example, because a series of colors is difficult for most people to remember.)
Step 1: Get your data.
Imagine for a moment that you've lost your phone or you're having car problems and your phone has died. You have to borrow someone else's phone to dial someone close to you for help. Would you know their number? Sure, smartphones are convenient. We can reach people quickly and easily with the push of a button, but many of us would benefit from memorizing a few important phone numbers.
With ethernet cables, my students need to remember a particular string and order of colors as displayed in an ethernet cable wiring diagram. If the cables are incorrectly wired, you won't have network connectivity. As stated earlier, most people have a difficult time remembering the order of these cables. Instead, people need various aids to help them remember the correct order of wires. When working with students, I show them the ethernet cable color-coding diagram first and then explain the various prompts so they can remember the correct order of wires.
Step 2: Find something obvious as a starting point.
Memorization techniques need a memorable starting point, because you link to the rest of the information from this origin. Examine your data to see if there is an obvious and easy starting point that will be easy for your to recall. It is okay if you adjust or refine this starting point later.
The first two wires my students need remember are orange. I ask them, "What thing has a name that corresponds to the same color of those two wires?" Students will answer orange, because an orange is orange. So obvious you cannot forget. If, though, you're trying to memorize numbers, is there a number that corresponds with something you already know. For example, does the number match your birthday? Does your favorite sports star wear the same number? Usually, the first thing you think of is most obvious to you, and it's easier to build from there.
Step 3: Create images.
Images provide a strong network of information (versus a single digit or word). They say an image is worth a thousand words. Study your data and identify an image to represent each component, one after the other. Moving emotional images are better. Ideally, you relate each element to the next. If you need more explanation, learn more about these memorization techniques.
I show my students a cartoon image that displays characters (blueberries) with green eyes that are crying. These characters, I say, are sad, or "blue." This prompts students that the next colors are green, then blue.
In this same image, the cartoon blueberries are standing on land that has a color that corresponds with its name – Greenland. This gives blue, then green as the next color pair. You can conjure up images that represent numbers or anything you need to recall that pertains to your situation.
Step 4: Look for patterns.
We recognize patterns, and I believe this is because there is a multitude of networked information in them. Our brains notice similarities and differences in patterns. Patterns automatically produce links in our brain that help us notice and remember them.
Look through the information you're trying to work on recalling and find patterns that can be a useful memory prompt.
For our students trying to remember a wire color pattern, I point out that the first of every two wires have a white stripe. It does not change for the entire series – a simple pattern.
Step 5: Revisit and revise.
Revising information helps tell our brain that we want to remember it. This re-use of the information makes the memory stronger.
As you revisit each part of your information, think about why you selected the image or pattern as your memory prompt. Write out the information if you can. Whether or not you can write it, go over in your mind the reason why you thought of each image or pattern as your memory prompt.
Recall the information in your mind's eye. See each image you created and pattern you noticed and how it links to your data. You can repeat these steps until you retain your important data. The good news is the more you do this, the easier and faster it gets.