15 Ways To Improve Your Memory And Boost Productivity

Smog experiment

Photo: AP

Lapses in memory can lead to embarrassing mistakes, especially in the professional world.Consider the debacle that Autonomy got into last month, when its CEO Mike Lynch claimed that he didn’t remember ever approaching Oracle about a potential acquisition. Oracle not only refuted the statement, but said it still had the PowerPoint slides to prove the meeting occurred.

Regardless if Lynch was just bluffing or if he sincerely forgot about the meeting, the lesson is that “memory lapses” don’t go over well in the business world.

To help you improve your own memory — and credibility — we’ve compiled 15 tips and tricks from some great articles at Psychology Today on how memory works. It turns out that your ability to remember is affected by more things than you probably think: the amount of stress you’re under, who you hang out with, and even the foods you eat.

recognise that your memories are fundamentally biased toward what you think is fair, because that's how you want to perceive the world

Try not to conform to the group, because your peers can greatly affect your memories

Dr. William Klemm, a professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, says in his column that 'when people reminisce in groups, like family reunions, political rallies, or other social groups, they tend to remember many of the same things, even when some of those things are factually wrong.'

To correct some of the effect of 'group think' on your memories, don't spend all your time with people who think like you do. For example, the news you watch on TV or read on the web should be from a diverse set of points-of-view, says Klemm.

Keep your stress level down, because anxiety makes you lose focus and concentrate on unpleasant emotions

Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says in her column that anxiety is one of the worst emotions you can feel before a memory-reliant event. Before an exam, presentation or any other big event, try to keep your stress level down by having a good night's sleep, and reassure yourself that you're perfectly capable of the task.

Look up or close your eyes when trying to remember something important — when your eyes are open, the areas of your brain that are working on vision are kept busy

To remember names, focus on a feature of a person's face and come up with a story or image to match the face to their name

For big lists, create a memory tree in your mind

Here's what Dr. Alex Lickerman at the University of Chicago suggests:

'If you're trying to memorize a large number of facts, find a way to relate them in your mind visually with a memory tree. Construct big branches first, then leaves. Branches and leaves should carry labels that are personally meaningful to you in some way, and the organisation of the facts ('leaves') should be logical.

It's been well recognised since the 1950's we remember 'bits' of information better if we chunk them. For example, it's easier to remember 467890 as '467' and '890' than as six individual digits.'

Routines are automatic and keep us on track, but a little shift in context can ruin everything

Former US Navy dolphin trainer Seth Slater recommends in his column that you should try a series of small contextual shifts to break up your preset routines. This way, you can continue all your familiar, memorized actions -- but still learn how to manage the small changes. So in the future, an unexpected change will be likely to produce a minor problem, instead of a huge disaster.

Being jealous may hurt emotionally, but envy can actually improve mental persistence and memory because it makes you focus intensely on the source

Psychology Today looks at Neuroscience

Walking can literally grow new memory storage, like sleep does

Eating foods with 'flavonoids' (like grapes, berries, tea leaves, cocoa beans and hops) makes the neurons in the brain more capable of forming new memories

These compounds interact with certain proteins and enzymes that are critical for memory, help birth new neurons and increase blood flow to the brain, says Dr. Gary Wenk, a Professor of Psychology and Medical Genetics at the Ohio State University. He also says that they haven't yet proven that these flavonoids can help with age-related memory deterioration.

Sugar helps too, but in a different way

Wenk says that sugar helps produce a neurotransmitter chemical called acetylcholine, which allows you to learn and remember things, and regulate your attention. A common way for us to produce the choline that makes acetylcholine is to eat lecithin, which is found in bakery goods like doughnuts and cupcakes.

Putting obstacles in the learning process can really help long-term retention

Here are a few examples of how to do that, from Dr. Adi Jaffe's All About Addiction blog:

  • Space your learning sessions apart.
  • Generate material through a puzzle, instead of just reading it.
  • Keep changing the physical setting of where you're learning.
  • Don't make all the material perfectly organised.
  • Use fonts that are a bit harder to read.

And it helps in the long-term to learn a new language, because it delays dementia

Researchers up at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, Canada found that 'discovered bilingualism delays the onset of Alzheimer's disease,' says writer Kristine Hansen in her column. It doesn't prevent it, but significantly helps delay the symptoms. You don't have to become completely fluent in a new language -- you just have to immerse yourself in it.

Certain vitamins also help fight off dementia, like vitamin B3 (or niacin) which is found in fish, beef, chicken, carrots, leafy greens and more

Now see some more psychological tips and tricks

NOW WATCH: Ideas videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.