This Simple 1-Minute Activity Has Dramatically Improved My Memory Recall

Success in daily work — especially when it comes to building relationships — depends on good memory. Retaining the most important information is all about building the right associations.


This Simple 1-Minute Activity Has Dramatically Improved My Memory Recall
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We all know the struggle: A hectic day, a million tasks, 10,000 things to remember. And yes, we have reminder apps on our phones, sticky notes on our computers, and daily journals to help us manage it all.

But it’s often in random moments when memory recall is most important: hallway conversations when you strain to remember that one thing you wanted to share at the last meeting, passing commentary with clients or prospects who ask about product features you just reviewed, casual chit-chat with investors and colleagues who want the 411 in the (virtual) office. These are the moments when our reminders are too often inaccessible.

That’s why strengthening those neuropathways — ensuring more consistent, speedier recall of important facts and details — is critical, both in business and in personal life.

Health experts have long urged a litany of must-dos to help: a daily round of Sudoku or a crossword puzzle, taking an online language-learning class, or playing strategy-based games.

For me, however, there’s something more in line with actual experience that makes memory recall easier. It’s one simple activity that involves two steps.

1. Associate and combine. 

I often find that when I associate two things consciously and visually in my mind — specifically, one thing that’s new to me and one thing I know very well — it’s easier to remember the new thing. I then turn them into one “entity” so I can remember them together.

Let’s say, for example, a client brings in a new stakeholder to help with ongoing deal negotiations. You’ve been working with your primary contact, Frank, for a while and know his name well. The new stakeholder is introduced as Leonard. When he’s introduced, picture his name written out. Then, combine the two so they’re associated together — like “F&L” or something similar.

This is probably a given, but I also consciously bookmark the moment as key — like a snapshot of the moment in your mind. This will help with step 2.

2. Revisit all key moments and information from the day.

Take one minute at the end of your day to do a mental check of all key moments that you’ve “bookmarked.” Walk through your new associations and re-visualize the new people or information you need to remember. By forcing a recall, you cement the memory.

That’s it — simple. I don’t recommend doing this for a lot of information, however. This exercise forces you to identify people/information that are the most critical to your professional work or personal life. In my experiences, it’s best not to push past five to seven “bookmarks” in a day. I consider this a boon, though; this allows me to focus on what really matters and spend less energy on what doesn’t.

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