Whatever the field in which you're training or being trained, there’s one thing that can improve the experience – a better memory. Whether the subject is chess, computer coding or cookery, better recall will help students reach mastery sooner and with fewer headaches. So are you simply cursed (or blessed) with whatever memory capacity your brain was born with?
Not at all, say psychologists who have long advocated a variety of techniques to improve your memory. Some of these are so difficult that they qualify as “memory athletics” with champions spending long hours of hard graft to boost their recall. Journalist Joshua Foer has written an entire book entitled Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything about his adventures among these “athletes,” detailing their techniques including “chunking” and “coding your numbers.”
But let’s assume you have other things to do besides exercise your brain for hours on end. If you’re busy (or lazy) there are still plenty of ways to tune up your memory. Psyblog recently outlined seven, including ideas for the forgetful like engaging in a bit of meditation that require a few minutes of your time. But for the truly no sweat solution for an unimpressive memory, we’ve sifted through the list for the tricks that take absolutely no effort:
Predict your performance
Simply asking ourselves whether or not we'll remember something has a beneficial effect on memory. This works for both recalling things that have happened in the past and trying to remember to do things in the future.
Use your body to encode memories
We don't just think with our minds, we also use our bodies. For example, research has shown that we understand language better if it's accompanied by gestures. We can also use gestures to encode memories. Researchers trying to teach Japanese verbs to English speakers found that… participants who used hand gestures which suggested the word were able to recall almost twice as many Japanese words a week later.
Say words aloud
If you want to remember something in particular from a load of other things, just say it out loud. A study found memory improvements of 10 percent for words said out loud, or even just mouthed: a relatively small gain, but at a tiny cost.
Look at a natural scene
One of nature's beneficial effects is improving memory. In one study people who walked around an arboretum did 20 percent better on a memory test than those who went for a walk around busy streets. In fact you don't even need to leave the house. Although the effects aren't as powerful, you can just look at pictures of nature and that also has a beneficial effect.
Now you have no excuse for not improving your Swiss cheese memory.
London-based blogger Jessica Stillman covers generational issues and trends in the workforce for BNET.com.