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Don’t Forget a Name Again, and Other Tips to Help Hone Your Memory

Multitasking? Try multi-forgetting. Here are 6 reasons we may be forgetting more, and how to help fix that.
January 04, 2016

It's getting harder to remember things. And it’s not just because you're always busy—more and more information is coming at you every day.

As a business owner, you're juggling dozens of informational bits every day that are all critical for you to remember. But is it possible to really improve your memory? Here are six reasons you may be forgetting more these days, and tips on how you could start remembering things again. 

1. You're multitasking too much.

Many people believe that multitasking allows you to get more things done. While it may superficially, you're most likely performing those tasks at a lower quality. By trying to complete many tasks simultaneously, you’re switching from one action to another and may have to mentally reset each time you move to a different activity. This just may not be efficient for your brain.

Memory tip: Stop multitasking. Focus on accomplishing one task at a time. As a result, you may ultimately do each one more quickly, and the quality of your work can go up.

2. You've got too many distractions.

In the age of the Internet, your devices are most likely controlling you more than you’re controlling them. All those dings and rings from notifications constantly interrupt your work, which can make it difficult to remember anything.

Memory tip: Get control of your computer devices. Shut off electronic interruptions or at least turn off the volume on your phone and computer. Then close the door to your office or go someplace where you can focus on a task for at least 30 minutes in order to get it done.

3. You have less time for details.

Strong memories are created when you notice specific details. According to Joseph T. Hallinan, author of Why We Make Mistakes, people gloss over many details of things they've seen before. Their brains take a "memory shortcut" and immediately put these things into familiar categories. This may result in the merging of memories instead of keeping them separate.

Many people believe that multitasking allows you to get more things done. While it may superficially, you're most likely performing those tasks at a lower quality.

Memory tip: Take an extra five seconds to notice one distinct characteristic about a familiar item or situation, and make a mental picture of it. When that image is associated with this memory, it can make it distinct from all the others, and that may make it easier to retrieve.

4. You have no daily action plan.

Most people approach each day with a long list of things they want to get done. Unfortunately, this vague agenda often gets hijacked by other distractions.

Memory tip. Use a to-do list function on your smart phone to stay on track. Each night, identify two tasks that need to be done the next day before anything else, such as reading emails or checking your social media feeds, gets in the way. At the end of the day, reflect on your success or failure in accomplishing these two tasks, and focus on one change that you can make to get better at getting things done.

5. You're not listening.

Ever wonder why you forget someone's name a few seconds after you're introduced? It may be because you weren't really listening when they introduced themselves. (You could have been distracted by what you were going to say next.)

Memory tip: When you meet someone new, repeat their name back to them in your follow-up comments. For example, “Kelly, it's so nice to meet you,” or “Kelly, how has this event been so far?” Repetition may help long-term memory. It may also help to get interested in the person you're meeting and what they're telling you. Really zeroing in on what they're saying may help you focus better.

6. You're not getting enough sleep.

Rest enables people to consolidate and retain their memories. Being consistently tired can wreak havoc with this process.

Memory tip: Try getting enough sleep rather than trying to do that one extra piece of work that keeps you up late. Work on scheduling breaks during the day in order to reduce stress and fatigue.

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This article was originally published on December 26, 2014.

Photo: Getty Images