Everyone forgets things now and then. It generally isn’t cause for alarm. The fact is that life is complex, busy and filled with distractions. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like there’s enough time in the day to get everything done. No wonder you forget.
Still, these eight tips to help you remember might be just what you need.
- Make and keep a list
Don’t wrinkle your nose at the idea of making a list. What lists do for you is incredibly helpful, notably for keeping track of important tasks and goals. In addition, once you commit the items to paper, you don’t have to keep them in your head. Streamlining what you’re trying to remember helps free up memory. Besides, jotting things on paper is so much quicker and easier than endlessly searching your memory banks.
- Be sure to get a good night’s sleep
Too often overlooked, but an absolute necessity, is the importance of a good night’s sleep for a sharp mind and good recall. Lack of sleep is one of the causes of forgetfulness. In addition to not being able to remember things, waking up with less than sufficient sleep makes you crabby, out of sorts, unable to get motivated. One proactive solution to improving your memory is to make it a point to get a good eight hours of sleep a night. Strive to be consistent with sleep patterns, not staying up all hours and trying to play catch-up on weekends.
- Avoid using alcohol and drugs
Not only do alcohol and drugs not mix, they’re both bad for memory. Whether used independently or simultaneously, these substances can impair memory. Drug use, including use of recreational drugs, can produce memory lapses. Alcohol can cause memory deficits after only a few drinks. And binge drinking — consumption of five or more drinks in two hours for men, four for women — causes blackouts. When a blackout occurs, you can lose all memory of what happened the night or day before. These are serious episodes with potentially long-lasting consequences for memory.
- Work to rid yourself of distractions
It sounds impossible, but you can chip away at unnecessary distractions. Many of these are self-imposed instances where you tell yourself you must check your emails as soon as they come in, or you have multiple browsers open on your desktop at once, or you can’t say no to a co-worker who interrupts you constantly when you’re busy on a project. Distractions not only wreak havoc on your schedule, they also produce a confusing effect that’s harmful for memory. Work on ridding yourself of distractions to help facilitate the full use of your mind.
- Use reminders
The inventor of post-it notes not only had a brilliant idea, it was just right for the times. Little colorful sticky notes you can slap on a folder, calendar, refrigerator, desk and elsewhere serve to remind you of things you need to keep close at hand. Pick up your son at basketball practice. Pay the property taxes today. The meeting with your boss is at 3 p.m. In the same way, alerts, reminder calls, and emails keep you from forgetting things that are important. They’re especially handy if you didn’t get enough sleep last night, had a bit too much to drink with friends, or simply have too much on your to-do list.
- Only do one thing at a time
The human brain wasn’t designed for multitasking. Trying to do two things at once generally produces less-than-optimal results for both. It gets worse. Not only do you risk failure, you’re not able to focus completely on the task at hand. This splits concentration and causes your memory to work harder than it needs to. The easy answer here requires a little discipline. When you only do one thing at a time, once you’re finished you can move on to what’s next on your list with a clear head and a sense of accomplishment.
- Meditation can help
More than peace of mind results from meditation. The practice can also aid memory. In fact, people have practiced meditation for centuries as a means of achieving harmony and balance, as well as the attending effect of its calming influence. Studies of mindfulness meditation have shown benefits on attention span and memory.The key point to remember about meditation is that it’s not about shutting off all your thoughts. It’s about acknowledging them and letting them go. Then, all those jangled internal thoughts can untangle themselves and your mind can recalibrate. Another helpful way to meditate is through mindful walking.
Taking the time to relax isn’t a luxury. Consider this an absolute necessity. When you spend time doing what you enjoy, such as working on a hobby, engaging in recreational activity, participating in sports, interacting with loved ones, family and friends, you’re allowing yourself some much-needed downtime. Your mind needs a break from nonstop tasks. If you find yourself forgetting simple things, this could be a sign that your life is out of balance. Restore that balance by spending time doing what you enjoy. A little “me time“ is a great way to help you remember what matters.