Almost all of us have experienced frustrating tip-of-the-tongue moments or forgotten something important leaving us scrambling at the last minute – a birthday or anniversary, a deadline or meeting at work. Not so the elite “memory athletes”. The current World Memory Champion is a medical student from the United States, Alex Mullen, and he can memorise the order of a deck of cards in 17 seconds – a world record.
That might seem so extreme that you will dismiss the next point: anyone can improve their memory. There’s nothing fundamentally different about a memory athlete’s brain. It’s a case of training and techniques that anyone can master. And reassuringly, Mullen says he sometimes still forgets where he put his keys.
Medical practitioners need to be able to recall thousands of illnesses, symptoms, treatments and side effects so it is no wonder they practice memory techniques. Or London cabbies who train for two years for “the knowledge.” Having a great memory is an important skill for anyone. It makes learning a new skill even easier, helps with languages, impresses at work and makes daily life less of a chore.
So how do you go about improving your memory?
Brain champ Mullen retreats to a memory palace and there are two main forms – the Roman Rooms or the Journey method. Both work by taking an ordinary context – the rooms in a house or a well-known journey, and attach the items you want to memorise to them. So in your mind you can walk through the house or go on this journey and when you encounter objects or places they are attached to the new things you want to remember.
Part of the reason this works is because “memory” isn’t just one thing. Our spatial memory – finding our way around a house or to work – is different from the memory we use to recall a shopping list. So these techniques work by attaching the two. You don’t need to actively recall the layout of your house, it’s unconscious. So you leverage that for things you do need to work harder at remembering.
Studies say that 30 minutes of practice a day will shoot your memory abilities way up. But you don’t always have time to create a mind palace, or you need to remember to remember something. Like when you are driving, which is where a lot of great ideas or to-do list items surface in your brain.
Which is where MessageMia comes in. Even while driving you can take notes by calling Mia using your normal hands-free kit and the toll-free number. Record your message and Mia will transcribe it and email it back to you.