Lately I’ve been feeling like my short-term memory is nearly gone. Maybe it’s the stress of midterms, maybe it’s the ton of classes, homework, meetings, my job (meta), but I often find myself searching through my purse for something that is immediately necessary, but can’t remember what it actually is so I just hope that I’ll know it when I find it. I tried googling solutions to Adult Onset Stupidity, but sadly AOS isn’t recognized by the American Council on Mental Disabilities. Yet. Thankfully, Brainscape already compiled a list with memory improvement tips, but I would like to expand on my own strategy to ward off dementia in my early twenties; I’ve started writing down everything I do in a day. The ironically tricky part is actually remembering to do it.
As these things usually go, I heard from a friend that her friend started writing down every single task or event, however insignificant, that occurred during the day. Anything from taking a shower to going to the bank to getting groceries or taking a taxi, she made a note of it. According to my second-degree source, her memory improved exponentially only a couple of weeks into it. While this level of information separation is perfectly legitimate for my own purposes, when writing on behalf of Brainscape, I actually check my sources. There are about a billion (link to search results) articles that recommend this practice.
The fact that we remember things better is due to the same psychological concept behind taking notes in class. Usually, the more notes we take the less we actually have to go through them later. In a study conducted during a lecture, psychologists at the University of Nevada observed students who took notes, and those who didn’t. Both groups reported remembering only about 40% of the content, but those who spent 75 minutes diligently jotting (or typing) away were able to recall many more key facts than the rest. By writing things down we are creating a spatial relations between the information we are hearing and the physical task of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys). We are linking the spatial part of our brains to the verbal, filtering out all the unimportant or irrelevant parts. This improves your working memory, which is what is used to measure the Intelligence Quotient. Basically, it makes you real smart. You just have to remember to do it.
Most of you probably organize yourselves by writing To-Do lists. They help you visualize what tasks you have to complete and allow you to manage your time more efficiently and not forget about, say, ridiculously important meetings with your junior class dean. ”Have-Done” lists work the same way to help you get an overview of how you spend your days and improve your memory in the process, with the added bonus of letting you know what activities you waste too much time on. For me, it was television watching.