Remember To Work On Keeping Your Memory

207 reads

American mathematician Norbert Wiener had a reputation for being a little absent-minded. According to one story, when his family moved to a new Massachusetts home, his wife insisted on supervising every detail of the move because she couldn’t depend on Wiener to remember the important details – like their new address.

Wiener went to work on the day of the move with a piece of paper his wife had given him; on it was written his new address. During the course of the day he used the paper to work out an equation and then discarded it. At the end of the day Wiener returned home to his old address, now an empty house.

At the door he suddenly remembered that his family had moved, but he had no idea where his new home was. Spotting a little girl riding her bike down the street, he called out, “Excuse me, I’m Professor Norbert Wiener, and I’ve just moved. Would you by any chance know what my new address is?”

The young girl replied, “Hi, Daddy! Mom said you’d forget.”

According to Wikipedia, memory is the faculty of the mind by which information is encoded, stored and retrieved. The good news is that memory can be improved. There are many ways that you can train yourself to have a better memory.

Like every other skill, it takes practice and a commitment to improve. Many of my friends think my memory is terrific, but they don’t know my tricks. Like most people, I forget 50 percent of what I hear within hours, so I make a point of writing things down.

I also have a special phone dictation line at my office. I can call it 24 hours a day, seven days a week and leave all sorts of messages, letters, notes and so on. And I don’t go anywhere without my iPhone, paper and pen. I am constantly writing myself notes and leaving them where I can find them. I’ve been known to put notes on my steering wheel and dash in my car, on my office chair and phone at work. I put them on the floor by my bed so I see them when I wake up in the morning, on my bathroom mirror or in my sink.

Name association is another arrow in my quiver. When I meet someone and want to remember their name, I associate names of other famous people with the same names and repeat them over and over to myself. Similarly, to help me with phone numbers, I think about how I can connect the number to a significant date or event. Repetition aids retention. I repeat things over and over, which helps me remember names, phone numbers and key statistics. Also I’ve learned that if I write things down enough, I will remember them.

A study by UCLA researchers found that older people can improve their brain function after just 14 days of following some simple, healthy lifestyle strategies. Incorporating healthful food, physical activity, stress reduction and memory exercises seem to help improve cognitive function.

Here are some of the health strategies participants worked into their daily routines:

  • Memory exercises, such as crossword puzzles and brain teasers were worked on throughout the day.
  • Five small meals a day in order to prevent drops in blood glucose levels, because glucose is the main source of energy for the brain. Participants also ate diets rich in omega-3 fats, anti-oxidants and low glycemic carbohydrates like whole grains.
  • Daily relaxation exercises to prevent the release of cortisol, a hormone that can impair memory and damage memory cells.
  • Daily walks.

Up until about 10-15 years ago, it was believed that we were born with a fixed number of brain cells that eventually died out. Now scientists know that brain cells regenerate throughout our lives. And one thing seems clear: To keep the sharpest memory you can for as long as you can, get moving. Aerobically, that is. Studies have shown that people who engage in aerobic exercise perform better cognitively and show increased brain volume. In another study, participants who exercised showed lower rates of dementia. That’s because exercise actually encourages neuron generation in the part of the brain that processes memories.

Back to the absent minded professor. He observed to a colleague, “People attach much too much importance to memory.”

“I disagree,” said his colleague.

“Disagree with what?” asked the professor.

Mackay’s Moral: Pale ink is better than the most retentive memory.


misner's picture

Dude, Where are my Wheels? Why Networking Helps – Even in the “Hood”

I recently visited Los Angeles and drove through an area that I grew up around.  I was regaling my wife with a story about a job I had in a pretty tough neighborhood when I was in college.  At the end of the story she said, “you have to
Harvey Mackay's picture

Resourcefulness = “Of Coursefulness”

A firm needed a researcher. Applicants were a scientist, an engineer and an economist. Each was given a stone, a piece of string and a stopwatch and told to determine a certain building’s height. The scientist went to the rooftop, tied the stone to
johnsullivan's picture

Sourcing Is the New Recruiting

I have some excellent news for you. Sourcing is the place to be in talent acquisition today! Recruiting as it has traditionally been known is going away. Increasingly companies are adopting recruitment process automation, and that means that there
harvardbusinessreview's picture

How to Prepare for a Panel

Make sure to connect with the moderator beforehand.
johnsullivan's picture

HR Roundtable: The Value of a Multi-Generational Workforce

In the classic rock anthem My Generation by The Who, lead singer Roger Daltrey screams, “I hope I die before I get old.” He echoed a sentiment of the times, but he never knew that he was also doing what...
adamgrant's picture

Why Women Volunteer for Tasks That Don’t Lead to Promotions

Here’s a work scenario many of us know too well: You are in a meeting and your manager brings up a project that needs to be assigned. It’s not particularly challenging work, but it’s time-consuming, unlikely to drive revenue, and probably won’t be
johnsullivan's picture

How Personas Change Sourcing Outcomes

It’s really intimidating to walk into a room full of people you don’t know. We’ve all had that moment of panic, scanning the room for any semi-familiar face and praying it’ll work. Just one person. I personally hate that feeling....
misner's picture

Body Language When Networking

Body language can be a powerful attractant or deterrent when it comes to building relationships with others. People assess you visually within the first fewminutes of meeting you.  I’ve been asked a lot about body language by the media over the
adamgrant's picture

This 4-Day Work Week Experiment Went So Well, the Company is Keeping It

A first-of-its-kind four-day work week experiment in New Zealand has come to an end after two months, but the trial went so well the company actually wants to make the changes permanent.While lots of research has shown the numerous benefits a