It happens to everyone at least once. You enter a room in your home, get in the car, or simply step outside and realize you do not remember why you went there, or what you needed, in the first place. Leave the area, and then frustration mounts when you realize after you leave home that the library books are still on the kitchen counter.
Short term memory lapses can be common especially if you are facing stress, lack of focus, or a last-minute distraction. While shortcomings in memory are usually harmless, if they become frequent or you find you forget more than just the small stuff, it can become a significant problem. If the short term memory lapses are just occasional, try these techniques to improve your short term memory and avoid those awkward forgetful moments.
Write It Down
Use magnetic paper pads, notebooks, smart phone apps, or even a napkin, if necessary, to write down important items. Magnetic paper pads on your refrigerator will help you compose shopping lists. Keeping notepads around where you are most likely to answer your telephone will prevent you from losing important information gleamed from conversations.
If you are bad with names, repeat the name back after you are introduced to someone. This can be a simple, "Hello, Doug. I am glad to meet you." Saying someone's name out loud as you look at them will help your brain associate the name with that individual.
You can also associate physical traits, hobbies, or other memorable elements to an individual. Many are more likely to remember "Doug who likes fly fishing" than just "Doug."
Keep Items Accessible
It is easy to forget where you lay car keys if you tend to lay them down anywhere at home. However, if you put hooks near your door so you can hang them up immediately upon arriving home, you are much less likely to lose them again.
The same can work to help you remember items. Place library books or movies needing to be returned near your mobile phone. If you are likely to forget your phone as well, place these items near the door or your car keys. Consider putting them in the front seat of your car when you think of them.
Develop Systems and Routines
"Vacuum once a week" can leave the chore neglected. "Vacuum every Wednesday after school" is specific and starts a system. Same can be done with handling items or running regular errands: assign them a day of the week and establish a routine.
Electronic calendars and to-do lists can send reminders. Calendars on your computer can sync with the ones on your smart phone. If you have these tools, use them to ensure important items receive the attend they need.
Tackle Challenging Tasks with a Plan
Sometimes, what seems to be a short term memory problem is procrastination because a task seems too burdensome. Lengthy job applications, Christmas shopping, or cleaning the garage can all seem like overwhelming tasks.
Start by breaking down large tasks into smaller tasks and making it into a checklist. These meets three objectives: 1) Writing down the smaller tasks makes them hard to forget, 2) Your large overwhelming task is broken up into smaller less burdening tasks, and 3) You have a plan to finish the item which means it is less likely to be neglected. For example, if you have a longer term plan, like a meal plan listing dinner items for a week or month, doing this creates complete shopping lists so you do not add to your frustration by forgetting items at the grocery store.
For large but less frequent responsibilities, assign the smaller tasks to different days and set up reminders to keep you track.
Mindfulness helps tremendously with short term memory. Rather than let stress or excitement short out your short term memory and put you in a forgetful frenzy, stay in the moment and think about each item ahead of you: "I need my car keys." "I need to put the library books in the car." "Great, now I can leave and I know I have everything."
These are tips that anyone anywhere can use to support their short term memory. Using these tips can help your short term memory, keep you organized, provide efficient solutions to life's challenges, and even bring peace of mind. If memory problems persist or are frequent, a more intensive intervention may be necessary. You can find more specific information about how short term memory functions and how it can be developed here. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your concerns.