Have you ever run into a client whose name you can’t recall or forgotten a password? If so, you are not alone. We all struggle from time to time to remember simple, everyday things.
Thanks to modern technology, there are a lot of gadgets and software out there to help you. You can look up names, dates and details of cases in your firm’s practice management software. You can keep up with important dates in a Google calendar, accessible from any internet-connected device. You can even use CRM (customer relationship management) software to help you remember details about your clients, like their children’s names, birthdays, previous cases, etc.
Unfortunately, none of these modern conveniences help when you encounter a client whose name has escaped you at the grocery store or at your kid’s soccer game. That’s when good, old-fashioned memory tricks come to the rescue.
Repeat the information
You can do this either aloud or in your head. For instance, when meeting a new person, use their name repeatedly in conversation. Scientists researched how long something would stay in your working memory before it started to decay and found that the memory is all but gone after about 18 seconds, so make sure you continue to repeat the information for at least a minute to have it for future recall.
Focus solely on new information
While there is a time and place for multitasking, new information requires focus in order for your mind to retain it. As much as possible, try to remove extraneous sensory input in order to effectively memorize information. That includes turning off TVs, radios, etc. and limiting interruptions. So, when meeting with a new client put your cell phone away and let it be known that you should not be disturbed unless there is a true emergency.
Associate information with a specific place
This trick is known by many names such as, the Method of Loci, the Journey Method and the Roman Room Method. Researchers believe that this is an ancient memory technique probably developed by the Romans, hence the name. This practice involves thinking about things spatially and associating objects in your environment to the information. For instance, when learning about a crime or accident scene in your new case, think about it spatially by relating different aspects of the scene to items in your office. Your client’s car may be your computer monitor, while the 18-wheeler who crashed into your client may be your keyboard, a picture frame or your office door. This will help you to recall a specific setup on the fly.
Link the information to something you already know
Known as linking, you associate new information with other information that is familiar to you. Some examples include recalling a newly introduced person’s name by mentally linking them to someone else you know with that same name or remembering the date of an event by linking it to another event (maybe a family member’s birthday) on the same day of a different month. When you link information, you can visualize the new information by thinking about the old information. Your new acquaintance named Kate now makes you think of your grandmother, Kate, and your client’s trial date on September 29 is tied in your mind to your daughter’s birthday on March 29.
Create an emotional connection
This works especially well for seemingly mundane information like pin numbers, dates or names. Remember this information by connecting it in your mind to something important to you. For example, your bank pin may be 1875. Remember it this way: 18 – your age when you graduated high school, 75 – 1975 the year you were born. According to Zaldy S. Tan, M.D., director of the Memory Clinic at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, “If you don’t make a conscious effort to learn your PIN, your short-term memory will flush it out immediately.”
Stick to a routine
It may sound simple, but doing the same thing over and over again will create an inherent memory, as well as a habit. Elizabeth Edgerly, Ph.D., chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association in Northern California and Northern Nevada, gives this example. “If you put your keys in the same dish every day, you’ll always, without fail, know where they are,” she said. “Having a good memory often has to do with developing good habits.”
Talk to yourself
Just do it in a low voice so that others don’t think you are crazy. It might sound weird, but there’s science to back this up. When you speak aloud your brain is focused on what you are saying and not much else. “An enemy of memory is multitasking,” according to Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging. Whether you repeat the name of a new acquaintance to yourself or tell yourself aloud which parking garage level your car is on, you will be focused on that information, and since you both said it and heard it, you are more likely to retain it.
Visualize things you need to remember
If you are making a trip to court and need to do three tasks while you are there, on the way there visualize yourself walking to those three parts of the courthouse where the tasks need to be completed. Dr. Tan from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says to “visualize what you want or need” to make the idea more concrete. If you start to forget what you are supposed to be doing, Dr. Edgerly suggests that you “ask yourself what you wanted before you left, whom you were with, or how you were feeling” to help job your memory.
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