Here is a confession. I panic on average three times a day because I don’t remember where I put my keys. I make an extensive shopping list only to notice in the supermarket that I left it on the kitchen table. Each time I want to tell someone about a great band I discovered, the name slips my mind. And worst of all, I usually need more than one introduction to actually remember someone’s name. Sounds familiar?
I admit, I have probably always been chaotic and easily distracted. But things have definitely gone from bad to worse. Now I am determined to do something about it. I’m going to get focussed again! Are you with me?
Make lists whenever you can
Although digital distractionis probably an important cause for my lack of focus, there are some apps that actually make my life a lot easier when it comes to remembrance.Google Keep is where I keep my lists of virtually everything. I still like the manual shopping list, but when something pops up in my mind on the way home, I am more likely to add it to my Google Keep list, rather than look for a pen and piece of paper.
A word is never just a word
The thing with apps is, that you need your mobile for them. What if you run out of battery? Or: not only did you forget your shopping list on the kitchen table, your mobile was lying just next to it! 'Elaborative processing' is an acclaimed method to help memorise lists. If you associate each item with more extensive information, it will be easier to remember. So next time I forget my shopping list, I will remember I need fresh eggs (because I made a terrific cake and used them all) and cheddar cheese (because of Jamie Oliver’s cheddar fetish) and garlic (because I don't want to kiss the guy I invited over for dinner).
Mark places on your personal map
Another app that I discovered recently is dot. It is a mapping app that you can use to mark places you don’t want to forget about. You put a blue dot on a map, add some info and a hashtag. Even a photograph if you like. The cool thing is that you can dot anything. It is not only about restaurants, or about tourism. It can be about hairdressers, skating, breast feeding places,... whatever. You just put it on your own personal map. And you can also share your dots with friends. Definitely worth a try!
Put (imaginary) tags on people you meet
Nevertheless, apps can not always come to the rescue. When meeting new people for example and trying to remember their names. Apparently the American president Franklin Roosevelt had this extraordinary gift for remembering names and faces. The curious technique he used was 'labelling' people. Each time he was introduced to someone, he imagined their name written across their foreheads. For 60 % of the people, visualising plays an important role in remembering. I will definitely try this at the next cocktail party!
Do it the Roman way
The Romans already understood the importance of visualisation. Probably the eldest mnemonic technique is the ‘method of loci’, described by Roman rhetoricians such as Cicero. It was used to remember the points to be made in a speech in their proper order. The orator would think of the layout of a familiar building. Then he would imagine objects, symbolising the points to be remembered, at the various loci (places within the building). When giving his speech, the orator would mentally walk through the building and stumble upon each of the objects indicating the consecutive themes of his speech.
Train your brain
We go out of our way to keep our body in shape. But our grey cells could also do with a workout from time to time. Luckily there is an app for that: Lumosity. It was created by scientists and game designers to enhance people's cognitive skills. I can't yet say it really works, I've only just got started. But it is definitely a fun pastime in waiting rooms and airport lobbies!