Aging, digital distractions and general apathy can take a big toll on your short-term memory. Without flexing the muscle that is your brain regularly, you’ll be apt to start forgetting PIN numbers, directions (sans Waze) and that lady down the street’s name. But, with a little patience and practice, you can strengthen and train that melon to retain a bit more every day.
Body and Mind
Adequate sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet are proven to improve retention of information.
Your school years likely featured references to Roy G. Biv or All Cows Eat Grass. And sure it’s been a few years (or decades) since those days, but these mnemonic devices still ring a bell in the back of your mind. That’s because the associative power of the acronym encodes information, making it easier to recall. You can also associate data with rhymes or tunes, which advertisers often employ through jingles.
The Memory Palace
If you’d like to recall a set of data that’s more expansive than a simple acronym can encompass, consider constructing a Memory Palace. Also known as the Method of Loci, this technique has been around since Ancient Greece and remains a powerful recall tactic. The Memory Palace allows users to ascribe formerly abstract, unrelated information to a recognizable, sensory structure.
You start by imagining a location you know in great detail, such as your house. Then you craft a very specific sequence or route that you will take through the palace room by room. Fill these stops on the route of your palace (likely rooms or furniture) with the items you wish to remember.
A recent study by neuroscientist Dr. Martin Dresler tested a group of men’s retentive capabilities through memory challenges. Then came a training period where participants learned new recall methods. The set that practiced using the Method of Loci improved their results significantly after re-testing.
It’s a pretty involved process that takes some practice to master, but you can read more about it here.