YESTERDAY, we saw how the first of three simple steps — the power of exaggeration — could improve your power of recall.

For example, creating a bizarre story linking 10 items you need to buy can effectively help you to recall them without the aid of a written list.

The other two steps that will sharpen your memory are your powers of observation and your ability to make connections.

Observation

Most of us see things around us but we don’t observe them closely.

Have you ever parked your car in a multi-storey carpark only to wander around confused about where you left it after an hour’s shopping? 

If your answer is “yes”, then you need to boost your observation powers.

People who “lose” their cars in multi-storey carparks blame it on their poor memory, but it is really poor observation that is the problem. 

To ensure that the “lost car syndrome” does not happen to you again, enhance your powers of observation.

As you get out of your car, take a good look around you to see where you are.

Link your location to something permanent like a distinctive pillar, a fire extinguisher or the lot number of the parking space.

Some carparks are organised according to zones, such as the red zone or green zone. You should use these to enhance your powers of observation to help you recall where you parked your car.

Another common excuse that many people give is that they can’t remember names or the faces of people they meet.

Again, this is not due to a poor memory. What they suffer from is a bad recall system.

If you are unable to remember the name of a person or his face, it is probably because you did not pay enough attention.

What you need to do is to look at the person carefully, and when he introduces himself, observe the environment you are in and connect him to it.

This will create some kind of marker in your mind to help you recall the person.

If he has any distinguishing features, for example, a loud tie, you can try to recall him as “William Tan with the loud red tie at the book launch party”.

Repeating his name at least seven times in a conversation will etch him in your memory too.

Give this technique a try and remember, practice makes perfect.

Making connections

The third step in improving your memory involves enhancing your ability to make connections to the things that you want to remember.

Let’s say I give you the following string of numbers to remember: 6024742829303152365366

Give yourself about two minutes to see whether you can commit this to memory.  If you can, congratulations!

However, if you try to remember this again after half an hour, chances are you will find it difficult. The reason for this is because the numbers look random and your brain finds them difficult to register. 

But if you were to make some meaningful connections to the numbers, you could easily recall them even after a few months or even years! Here’s how:

    * The first two digits “6 and 0” refer to 60 seconds in a minute. 
    * The next two digits “2 and 4” refer to the 24 hours in a day.
    * There are 7 days in a week and 4 weeks in a month.
    * The numbers “28 29 30 31” refer to the number of days you can have in a month.
    * A year has 52 weeks and 365 or 366 days (the latter for leap years).

Now that you can see the connection, test whether you can remember the numbers above.

Never say die

Your memory is a great asset which, unfortunately, is being used less and less, thanks to electronic devices like computers and cellphones. These store information that we use on a daily basis such as phone numbers and meeting details, which are recalled with a touch of a button.

These devices make us more productive but are slowly taking a toll on our natural ability to remember and recall information. It is important that we embrace technology but not let it overpower us.

For that reason alone, you should make a concerted effort to use the strategies that I have shared in this article to challenge your brain’s natural ability to remember and recall vital pieces of information.

And make sure you have fun doing it — that will help your memory too!