Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Memory

Things you can do to keep your memory sharp in today's distracting world

Posted Sep 22, 2012

In today's world, where just about everyone is overscheduled, it's easy to feel like your memory has become a sieve. Forgetting to return phone calls, misplacing your keys, not remembering important dates, names on the tip of your tongue that won't come to you—if these kinds of experiences seem to be happening to you more and more, you're not alone. Many people, even children and teens, are complaining of "early Alzheimer's moments."

However, in many cases, these memory slips are not due to aging. While it's true that memory tends to decline with age, it's also true that the high-pressure, hectic lifestyles that so many of us lead these days can have a significant impact on our ability to remember and retrieve information. In many cases, it's because we rush through something so fast or multitask most of the things we do that we aren't giving our brains sufficient time to process and store what we need to remember.

But not to worry. Whether it's normal aging or overscheduling or both, there are some fairly simple things you can do to overcome these frustrating lapses in memory. In its September 2012 issue, Harvard's Men's Health Watch outline some memory-boosting tips and tricks to help keep your memory sharp. Here are a few of the suggestions offered:

  • Establish routines. Have specified places where you leave common things that you use frequently or daily, such as your keys, glasses, and cell phones. If they're not being used, take the time to put them in "their" place. The little amount of extra time that it will take to put them in a designated location will likely save you much more time on the back side, especially when you're rushing out the door and need to find these things quickly.
  • Slow down and attend to the details. By paying closer attention to what you are hearing, seeing, and doing, you're giving your brain more of an opportunity to store information about the experience that will help you retrieve the information later. If you're used to rushing through everything to get through your to-do list, you're going to have to train yourself to do this. But once you do it, it will become a habit.
  • Avoid what Dr. Anne Fabiny, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, calls "the major memory busters in today's fast-paced society"—distracting or noisy environments and multitasking. Easier said than done? Yes. But if your goal is to boost your memory, it's an important effort to make. Distractions, noise, and multitasking can result in significant memory problems.
  • Get enough rest. Many people steal time from what should be their sleeping hours to get more done, but this is a short-sighted strategy. Without enough rest, not only does our productivity suffer, so does our performance. There is no way around it. For optimal performance, the brain needs adequate rest. Cheating your brain out of rest is cheating yourself.

Many experts also believe that eating certain kinds of food can enhance memory. For more information on memory-boosting foods, see:

Brain-Boosting Foods

The Today Show

The Dr. Oz Show


© 2012 Sherrie Bourg Carter, All Rights Reserved

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Sherrie Bourg Carter is the author of High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout (Prometheus Books, 2011).



About the Author

Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D.

Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D., psychologist and author of "High Octane Women: How Superachievers Can Avoid Burnout," specializes in the area of women and stress.

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