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Improve your memory

Short term (or working) memory

“A beautiful Regal Tang Fish called Dory offered to help Marlin find Nemo, but unfortunately she had a short-term memory problem.
“I forget things almost instantly” she explained and promptly forgot who Marlin was. 
“Er can I help you?” She asked.” Finding Nemo, Ladybird, 2003

  1. Short term memory is what you can hold in your mind for about 30 seconds. 

  2. An average person can hold about 7 items. 


Short term memory allows you to remember the start of a sentence when you reach the end.  It is the same as a buffer in computer memory.  Most of what happens in short term memory is quickly forgotten.  Only if it moves to long term memory does it get stored.
Short term memory is easily distracted.  For instance if you look up a telephone number then dial and don’t get through you often have to look at the number again.  This is the type of memory lapse that occurs when you go upstairs for something and go into the room but can’t remember what you came up for.  You then have to back track to your train of thought and reconstruct what you have come for.

4 techniques for improving short term memory:

  1. Re-assess your filters

  2. Group ideas in fours (leaves space for thinking)

  3. Chunk information together

  4. Think about something for more than a minute

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.”  John Galbraith


Every day we pay attention to some aspects of the world we sense but not all of it. A simple memory change is to alter what you perceive as important.


Groups ideas into fours

If you are memorising or presenting information then by grouping ideas into a maximum of four items together you give yourself another three spaces to think and make connections. 



You can improve your short term memory, usually not by adding more items but by chunking things or recognising them as a single item.
For instance the list e n i o a s t c e b l r is difficult to hold in short term memory and fills it all up.  Many of you may cope by chunking this into nonsense syllables e.g. enio ast ceblr. 
celebrations however can be held easily and along with several other words too.
Have you ever been totally confused when someone repeats a telephone number back in different chunks say 01 42 28 54 9* * ?
Mobile numbers can be difficult to remember most start 07 so then you can group the other numbers into pairs (or 3s) so instead of 0774739 etc you have 07 74 73 etc


Think for a minute

Either at input create a memory trace of more than 1 minute or retrace a memory back to a thought pattern that lasted longer than 1 minute. 


“We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things, and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to erase them.”
Johann van Goethe


Long term memory

“We are so constituted that we believe the most incredible things, and once they are engraved upon the memory, woe to him who would endeavour to erase them.”
Johann van Goethe

Long term memory is the main storage area of your mind.  The term is used by psychologists to describe any memory held for more than a few seconds.
If you deliberately pay attention to something for a couple of minutes using any technique it will go into long term memory.  One method for this is to organise the information is some way.  This will connect it to memories that are already in your mind. 

 “He who is not sure of his memory, should not undertake the trade of lying.”
Michel de Montaigne


Semantic memory

This is the memory concerning knowledge about the world such as the names of the planets, how many eggs there are in a dozen.


Episodic memory

This is the terms for incidents that you remember such as a wedding or what route you took to work.


Procedural memory

Remembering how to do a sequence of tasks such as change gear in a car.


Sensory memory

This is the short memory of your senses for things that have occurred very recently (within the last second).  This is why single frames moving very fast at the cinema give the appearance of motion because you have persistence of vision.  Similarly your auditory system remembers sounds for a small amount of time after they have occurred. 


The three types of memory are connected but brain damaged individuals have shown that it is possible to lose one without losing the other. 

“Luckily Dory remembered that she could understand ‘human’!”
Finding Nemo, Ladybird, 2003

Free copy of an ebook on mind mapping and sun diagrams for memory and creativity

Free webinar on the journey technique for improving your memory


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