Our memory is one of the integral parts of day-to-day
human life. Were using it every moment, consciously
or not, as we perceive the world and interpret it based
on our memories and experiences, or as we look for the
car keys, trying to recall where, exactly, was the last
place they were seen?
Its no small wonder that this part of our brain
would fall prey to such inefficiency and failure, given
the busy pace of Western life and the constant barrage
of information that the hippocampus must somehow keep
up with. At the same time, how can we fall complacent
when such an essential thing as memory doesnt work
properly? Many lifehackistas and personal development
fans spend hours, weeks, months and years dedicated to
other areas of their lives while they completely ignore
You should up your standards. Your memory should be a
finely-tuned, working piece of equipment that you can
depend on. So where do we start?
Clear Your Mind
Some of our memory inefficiency is no doubt caused by
the clutter in our heads and the ceaseless stimulation
of our senses and the barrage of information we so often
complain about. The other part of poor recall is inefficiency
in the way we store informationmuch like a hard
drive where write speeds can be affected by how much the
drive is trying to do at any one time, or completely halted
when the drive is full, and can be slowed to a halt by
inefficient methods of accessing that data.
Meditation is a scientifically proven way to clear your
mind and relieve stress. If you find your mind too cluttered
to recall importantor even not-so-importantfacts
throughout the day, adopt a regular meditation habit and
reap the health benefits that come with it.
Meditation goes something like this: find a quiet environment.
Focus on your breathing. Quit thinking and forget about
the world. Practice until you can actually forget about
the world and focus on your breathing.
The Getting Things Done system is perfect for clearing
your head because it eliminates the need to remember.
When youre not trying to hold on to and juggle so
much data all day, and you release the stress of trying
to retain so much information, thats probably when
youll find yourself able to remember everything
If you just use the info-dumping strategy of GTD, then
you stand to gain a lot of mental RAM back. Simply sit
down in the morningsand in the evenings, especially
if you have insomniaand rattle out everything you
need to do or consider onto a piece of paper, Word document,
task manager, or whatever takes your fancy. The important
thing is to remove it from your brain and free up attention
for things that dont need to be at the forefront
of your brain.
Fuel Your Brain
A starving brain is just like a starving person: it wont
work well. Give your hippocampus the things it needs to
One of the best things you can do for your memory is
get exercise. Ive put this under the Fuel Your Brain
section because the reason exercise works so well is that
it pumps oxygen to your head. Spend three hours a week
walking, running, swimming or doing some form of aerobic
exercises. If you already have an exercise regime that
doesnt involve aerobic exercise, youll need
to add at least three hours per week to get the benefits
of exercise on your memory.
The Virgina Woolfe quote is good advice: One cannot
think well, love well or sleep well if one has not dined
well. Of course, if you know anything of Woolfes
life, you know shes not an expert on mental health,
but in this case, she was right.
Just like if you failed to exercise, if you dont
eat well, your brain wont work well. Quit snacking
on chips and eat a variety of healthy foods. Avoid processed
grains like bread and white rice. What youre aiming
for here is maximum nutrients so your neurons can fire
and regenerate at will; fruits, vegetables, and brain
foods (such as anything containing omega 3 fatty
acidssardines, for one) should comprise the bulk
of any intellectuals diet.
There is nothing wrong with aiding your memory with a
shopping list or a mnemonic. If you need to remember that
Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit to help you learn to read
music notation, then you shouldnt be ashamed if
it makes your life easierjust be glad youre
not the other guy whos trying to memorize by rote.
There are plenty of systems and techniques that fall
under the heading of memory aids. Some are as simple as
writing a note on your hand or keeping a shopping list.
Some arentplenty of Tony Buzan-style techniques
are all across the web.