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How to Improve Your Memory

5 Worst Memory Problems

Different types of memory issues call for different techniques, says Scott Hagwood, a four-time winner of the USA National Memory Championship and author of Memory Power (Free Press). These are his tips for downloading the most reluctant information from your mental files.

  1. Names. The mind remembers visuals best, so put new names to paper. Read what you've written again before bed and it will stick in your mind better. Also, say the name aloud, which gives the brain another route to recall.
  2. Directions. If you're like most people, you're able to recall only the first two steps in a set of directions. To remember more, try the Roman room method: Picture your bedroom, and link movements through the room to those that will take you to your destination. "Turn left and go two lights," for example, might translate to pivoting left at your sock drawer and then pulling out two socks.
  3. Where you put your keys. Train yourself to put glasses and keys in the same spot every time. It's the only way to consistently remember because you always have more important things on your mind when you set them down.
  4. Where you parked. As you walk away, turn around and look at the location of the car to lock a visual image of the environment into your mind.
  5. Why you're here. You just came upstairs—but why? Think back to where you started and try to recall what was on your mind at that time. Better yet, carry something in your hand that reminds you of your mission, such as a pencil or hanger.

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