How to jog your memory

The busier life becomes, the easier it is to forget names, numbers and important dates. These mnemonic tricks can help you out.

People's names


  • STEP 1: Repeat the name when you first hear it: "Nice to meet you, Harold."
  • STEP 2: Think of a relative or friend who has the same name: "This fellow has the same name as Uncle Harry."
  • STEP 3: Make a mental joke about this person's name: "This fellow is quite bald to be named Harry." Keep the joke to yourself, though.
  • STEP 4: Find a melody or rhyme in the name, as both aid memory: "Anne Maureen plays the tambourine."
  • STEP 5: Ask the person to spell the name, if it is unique, to etch it into your memory.

Phone numbers


  • STEP 1: Look for a connection between the numbers and your life (ages, birth dates, number of siblings) to anchor it to your memory. Also see if the numbers resemble a historical date, such as 1492.
  • STEP 2: Find a formula that fits the number. For example, 347-8643 could be "3 plus 4 equals 7, and 1/2 of 8 and 6 are 4 and 3."
  • STEP 3: If you have a phone nearby, examine the keys to see if the phone number spells anything memorable.
  • STEP 4: Sing the number to a familiar tune until you've memorized it.

Birthdays and anniversaries


  • STEP 1: Fill in all important dates on a calendar at the beginning of every year. Hang the calendar in a prominent position and check it on a weekly basis.
  • STEP 2: Set up the reminders available on many e-mail systems so you receive an e-mail message to prompt you on an especially important day.
  • STEP 3: To remember the general time frame of a birthday, imagine the person in a costume appropriate to the birthday month. For example, imagine him or her in a pilgrim outfit if the birthday is in November or in leprechaun attire for a March baby.
  • STEP 4: Use your sense of smell to remember your wedding anniversary. If you got married in May, perhaps the scent of lilacs will remind you of that special day.

Overall Tips & Warnings

  • Employ as many senses as possible to fix an item in your memory. Sight and smell are especially effective at anchoring memories.
  • Regular exercise, a balanced diet and adequate sleep increase your overall alertness and make it easier to remember things.
  • The use of alcohol, drugs or medications can decrease memory performance.
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