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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

3 Amazing Mind Tricks That Will Help You Remember Small Details

By John Brandon October  2014

It’s all in your head. No, really—your capacity to remember the name of a new investment company, which products are going to present the fiercest competition for your startup, and how to find that bistro downtown where you are meeting a new employee is part of the untapped potential in your brain. Let’s dispense with the old “non-truism” that we have only tapped 10% of the capacity in our brains. Cognitive scientists doubt that’s true.

What is true, though, is this. You can teach yourself to remember details about your day and recall that information when you need it most. Like, say, when you are about to present the case for why someone should invest in your company or that the new employee in your company is named Greg. I’ve used these tricks before, especially during business conferences when I can’t jot down a reminder or record a memo on my phone.

1. Say the Information Out Loud Five or Six Times

I can’t say there is any proven science behind this trick, but I have used it many times at CES in Las Vegas each year when I really wanted to remember a new company name. There’s something about saying the information out loud a few times that works for me.

You might repeat the name and location of a new investment company, or the widget you noticed on the show floor. It seems to help if the name is unusual, like Twitch or Uber. Maybe it’s because you are hearing the information and speaking it or because you are isolating that information in your brain as separate from things you’ve read and only heard. Either way, it works.

2. Associate the Information With One Other Thing

I recently had a meeting near downtown San Francisco and, just as I was driving to the location across town, I realized the GPS on my phone was directing me to the wrong address in the same area.

I didn’t have time (or the guts) to pull over in heavy traffic to look up the company name, but it wasn’t a huge problem. I had memorized the street name. It’s a good backup technique I use, because this seems to happen quite a bit. The company was on Gilbert Street. When I read the address at my hotel, I thought about the composers Gilbert and Sullivan and how they made comic operas way back in the 1800s. I’m not sure why, since I’m not even a fan of their work, but it worked. I spoke the street name to Siri on my iPhone and set that as the new destination in San Francisco. Eureka, instant recall. And, close enough—it’s a short street.

3. Create a List of Items With the Thing You Want to Remember on the List

This one last trick I use at business conferences and seminars routinely. Sometimes, it helps to take a bit of information you want to remember—like the name of a new mobile app or a new contact—and mentally make a list of a few other related items.

Let’s say you want to remember the name Lyst, the fashion site that is creating buzz in the mobile shopping space. You’d create a list (no pun intended) of other well-known retailers, such as Macy’s and Best Buy, and then recite the list. Maybe it’s the fact that we all make shopping lists for eggs and milk or the fact that our brains remember information in lists better than isolated items. (That might even explain the incredible popularity of list articles like this one!) I’ve used this trick before, and it works, especially if the items are a bit unusual.

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