7 Memory Tricks That Make Things Easy To Remember

tricks to improve your memory

For me, one of the most frustrating aspects of getting older has been the realization that my memory isn’t as sharp as it once was. But memory problems aren’t exclusive to older adults—people of all ages can have trouble remembering things!

While it’s easy to feel frustrated when your memory fails you, don’t give up hope just yet, because there are some simple and effective tricks you can use to improve your memory and stop forgetfulness in its tracks!

Today I’ll be sharing 7 memory tricks you can use to better remember just about anything! Start practicing a few of these memory tricks, and I’m sure you’ll be surprised at how effective they can be. After those, I’ll share a few bonus tips for keeping your mind (and thus your memory) sharp as a tack. :-)

7 Easy Tricks You Can Use To Improve Your Memory

Memory Tricks

1. Visualize Your Purpose

I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve gone into another room to grab something, only to immediately forget what I went in there to get. There seems to be something about moving into a different space that resets our short-term memory, but you can guard yourself against these memory resets by practicing visualization.

Before you leave the room you’re in, stop for a moment and picture whatever your purpose is in your mind. Imagine yourself picking up that item, or doing that thing you don’t want to forget to do. Having a clear mental image of your purpose will make it much harder to forget once you leave the room.

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2. Use Musical Memory

Names, numbers, dates, and other pieces of information are easy to forget, yet we seem to have no trouble remembering songs and nursery rhymes from our childhoods. So what gives?

The musicality of rhymes and songs that makes them easy to remember, and you can use that knowledge to your advantage by making up a song about something you want to remember. Musical memory can also be useful for learning a foreign language—follow along with a foreign music video with the subtitles on, and you might be surprised at how much you’re able to remember!

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3. Get To Know Somebody

There are a lot of situations where forgetting something can be annoying, but few are as awkward as forgetting someone’s name. In our defense, remembering any fact about someone you don’t know very well is hard, so the trick is to make memorable connections between the name and the person.

Try looking at the person while repeating their name over and over in your head. Another approach is to introduce that person to someone else, which forces you to repeat their name out loud. And when the conversation with a new person is ending, you can always repeat their name while saying goodbye.

Memory Tricks

4. Create Reminder Images

When you need to remember something important, try creating a rich mental image of that thing, and the more senses you can involve, the better! For instance, if you needed to remember to submit a proposal by 10 pm, you could commit it to memory by visualizing that stack of documents with a ringing alarm clock on top of them showing that the time is 10 pm.

Picturing the clock, time, and documents, as well as the sound of the alarm ringing, is a rich mental cue that will improve your memory of the deadline and make it much easier to remember.

Mnemonic Devices

5. Use Mnemonic Devices

There are several kinds of mnemonic devices that can help improve your memory of things. Acronyms like HOMES can help you remember the names of the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior), and sentences like “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally” can help you remember the mathematical order of operations (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction).

Creating memorable mnemonic devices like these can help you remember all sorts of important information! I recently learned that the name Roy G. Biv makes a handy mnemonic device for remembering the colors of the rainbow (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.)

Memory Tricks

6. Summarize It

There’s a reason why teachers made you write book reports in grade school—because writing a summary of something you’ve read makes it much easier to remember! Summarizing requires you to read something, analyze it, and understand it deeply enough that you’re able to write about it in your own words.

Summarizing can be useful if you’re reading a document or book for work and finding it hard to retain the information. Just pause after each paragraph and jot down a short summary in the margin or in a separate notebook to instantly improve your memory of what you read.

Memory Tricks

7. Make It Interesting

We’re all better at remembering things that we are interested in. I’m sure you have no trouble remembering the names and faces of the person(s) you had a crush on in grade school, right? ;-) If you need to remember something that just isn’t that interesting to you, you’ll likely have a harder time hanging onto it.

The trick here is to get creative and come up with a way to connect the information you want to remember with something that actually interests you. For instance, my daughter Britta knows the Harry Potter series like the back of her hand, so it would likely be easy for her to remember something if she could connect it to an event or character in Harry Potter.

Memory Tricks

Bonus Tips For Keeping Your Memory Sharp

  • Exercise Regularly: Aerobic exercise and physical activities that require hand-eye coordination are both great for your brain. Anything that gets your blood pumping can help reenergize your brain!
  • Sleep Well: Your brain can’t operate at its best when you’re sleepy! Make sure to stick to a regular sleep schedule, and cut back on caffeine if that’s an issue for you.
  • Meditate: Mindfulness meditation is the practice of building awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and body. A 2010 study found that just 4 days of practice improved participants’ attention and working memory, even when they had no previous experience with meditation.
  • Keep Learning: Any activity that challenges your mind can help keep your memory sharp. Make time for reading, playing chess, or doing puzzles. You could also take a class on something, or learn a new skill!
  • Eat Healthy: Your brain needs fuel to work properly, so make sure to give it the best fuel possible! Make sure to eat plenty of fruits and veggies, limit your saturated fat intake, and get omega-3s from fatty fish.

What methods do you find useful for remembering things?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee

MORE IDEAS FROM

Bright Ideas

  • Jillee, Love the way you work to improve lives. Regarding ”Visualize Your Purpose” it is an awesome idea: the only problem is HOW do you remember your tip! Blessings, Bee

  • To remember your motel room number, make each number in order on your fingers and then tap your hand (in that configuration) on your thigh the number of times that number represents. In other words, say the first number is 2. Make the number two on your hand and tap it on your thigh two times. The next number is 5. Open all your fingers of one hand (5) and tap it on your thigh five times. I have not forgotten my room number ever since I developed this method!

  • For things like todo lists and grocery items, after I make my list I count how many and repeat the count back to myself followed by the list. For example, I review my grocery list by repeating, I have 10 items: Lettuce, tomato, milk, eggs… As I pick up items or complete my todo’s, I repeat the new count and what’s left. I have 9 items: Tomato, milk, eggs… If I can only recall 7, knowing I am only missing 2 helps me to remember.

  • If I need to remember if I turned off the iron, say, when I’m going out, I turn it off, then do a little dance flailing my arms about and singing out loud ‘iron’s off, iron’s off!’ The more ridiculous you can make it the more likely you are to remember it later. Also for things that you need often like car keys, have a place for them and always put them in that place. Then you don’t even need to remember! Another is to put something somewhere out of context as a reminder. It works by association. For example if I need to remember that I have an appointment that morning I will put something incongruous, say a toilet roll inside my bedroom door. I can’t get out of the room without seeing it and the incongruousness of it being there will remind me of the appointment.

  • Howdy! In the post about remembering things (slide 7), I wonder if you can tell me how to get that coffee mug DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. Thanks for any help you can provide.

  • When I put something down that I want to remember where I put it I say to myself (or outloud) “i’m putting the book in the side table in the family room”. “I’m putting the keys on the dining room table”. If I want to remember a name I make up a silly sentence about the person. I.e. Jilly has jelly on her nose. The word jelly will help me remember her name is Jilly. I’m the author of a book for women called, Getting Older, Better (and I’m trying to!)

  • I set an alarm on my phone that goes off every day at 10 PM to take my vitamins (10 PM, when I’m home). I also use Google Keep, a free app that syncs with your phone and laptop, easy to make check lists, or just lists. I keep SO much stuff there!

  • When you need to remember to take something with you put your keys by it. I would forget to take food home from the refrigerator at work until I put my keys next to the item. Couldn’t leave without it! Also lists are a huge help for me.

  • When I was a psychology major in college in the early 1980s, in my Learning & Memory class we learned that a thought has to stay on our mind (now I don’t remember the exact amt of time, and maybe the researchers have determined it has changed in the ensuing years or because of all the *stuff* we are bombarded with constantly) something like 2.? to 3.? seconds. Just knowing that fact, regardless the exact number, has helped me remember to repeat in my mind or out loud, email myself, text (when it’s just a few stops or items from the store) myself, or make a quick calendar item on my phone.
    Or write down at home. I think it’s a pretty handy tip!

  • It’s difficult for me to remember names, so here’s what I do when introduced to “Jane” — jane-jane-bo-bane, bonano-fano-fo-fane, fee-fi- mo-mane-JANE! You may recognize the “lyrics”!

  • Great topic and suggestions. I found a Podcast (free) for mind-memory development called Kwik Brain by Tim Kwik – it’s fun to listen to while cleaning house, driving or whatever. Thanks for all you do.

  • I read a lot which I have used as my “Brain Train”. I will read a page, close the book then repeat what I have read. Its a process somewhat similar to studying which I have found works for me.
    Two different ways to eliminate the “now what did I come in here for?” problem: I will go back to where I started from; or I will repeat the item as I am walking away. I think sometimes we have too much going on in our lives and it all gets crowded up there.
    One last item: I will make out my grocery shopping list but not pull it our when I get to the store. After I have made my rounds and before I cash out then I will pull it out and check it against what I have purchased. You’ll surprise yourself with how much you’ve remembered which gives confidence which in turn helps the memory work better. I don’t know how but I works for me.
    Great column!

  • Here is one for the order of the planets.
    Man very early made jars stand up nearly perpendicular.
    Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.

  • I keep a list of things I want to remember to do on my phone by composing simple notes to myself, empty dishwasher, cat box, water plants etc. I delete them as I get them done and add on to the list all day.

  • The reason you forget things going from one room to another as my friend explained it to me is Door Syndrome. The doorway steals it away. Sorry needed to add some humor to this.

  • Thank you Jillie;
    I am having the same problems with my memory and I’m only 73. I have to go see my Dad in Washington who is 99 and he remembers things better than I do. I’ll work on it and if I discover a suggestion that is worth repeating I’ll comment it to you. Thanks again.

  • Another good way to remember things is to change their shape or colour and connect them. For instance, if I am shopping and need to remember to buy lemons, bacon, eggs and bread, I would imagine bacon wrapped around a lemon big enough to sit on, with eggs as wheels and a bread seat. Making it move around the aisles of the shop picking up bits of itself also works. When you are trying to remember a shopping list, make sure you put things in the order in which you would find them in your supermarket and then your imagined object (in this case my Cinderella coach) is in a logical order to ‘build’.
    I use a similar idea remembering dates, names or anything else. The clue is to do something unusual with your information and to use as many senses as possible. Dates can be remembered by writing them in a circle, colouring in the numbers in your mind, putting the person sitting on top of it with a cake if it is a birthday, etc, rhyming the name of a new person with something else, or even thinking George with the eyebrows, or Sally with the glasses, or something else, memorable to you at the time. Don’t think clothing, unless you change it to something (like a witch). It’s no good thinking Sally in the red dress if you forget the face and then meet another lady in red. Hope this helps.

  • If you are not a visual person (you seem to be one, Jillie), you may be, like me, an “auditive” person. I’ve learned that if I say something out loud, it makes me remember it perfectly! So I do…
    And I so agree about the “keep learning” part. I’m alway baffled at people, sometimes much younger than me, who say “Oh, I’m to old to learn this new stuff”. Hell no! The day I’m too old to learn anything is the day they put me in my grave!!!

  • The English mnemonic for remembering the colours of the rainbow is ‘Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain’, referring to the War of the Roses.
    Thanks for all your great tips!
    Annie

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