Short Term Memory and Numbers - Tips and Techniques For Better Memory

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Have you ever had problems remembering a phone number you looked up in a phone book or using an on line search? Do you have to write a number down to make sure you dial it correctly? Maybe you think you have a poor memory, or that you are losing your mental acuity.
I say- maybe not.
There are a range of things that have a large influence on your ability to remember in the short term.
Common factors affecting memory A common destroyer of short term memory (and long term memory) is chronic stress and/or poor sleep (these often go together).
You need to be fresh and alert for good memory.
A tired stressed brain struggles to focus and to process information.
If you de-stress and get plenty of sleep you will find that more than your memory will improve.
Another reason people may have poor short term memory is that they have busy minds.
Perhaps you are always thinking.
When you put your keys down, and you are thinking about something else (perhaps an idea, or work troubles), your short term memory of where you placed the keys is very poorly primed.
A poorly primed short term memory means that you have little chance of forming a longer term memory of where you placed the keys.
And the consequence is that you then have to go through the house to find where you left those keys.
Developing coping habits is a common technique to circumvent the "lost keys" problem.
No doubt, if you have been on this planet for a few years, you have developed a habit of putting essential things such as keys, wallet or purse, and phone in one or a small number of places.
Even when you are busy or preoccupied, you can put these items in the usual place under automatic pilot.
That way, you can nearly always find them quickly.
An alternative or addition to developing coping habits is to pay attention to where you place an object.
Repeat in your mind the words "I placed the keys on the coffee table".
Then as you walk away, visualize where you placed the keys.
Focus and attention help prime short term memory for long term storage (as does emotion- but that is another article).
But- how do you remember longish numbers in the short term?
  • Focus- stop thinking about other things (e.
    what you are going to say to the person you are calling)
  • Avoid distraction
  • Read the numbers, then close your eyes and recall them by saying them out loud, then check it was correct
  • Use rhythm when saying and recalling the number (e.
    dit dit dit, dah dah dah.
    dit dit dit, dah)
  • Break longer numbers into 3 digit chunks (with a remainder chunk of 1 or 2 if needed).
Why do these things help? Focus helps raise the importance of an action or item in your brain.
This helps prime memory.
Repetition and the act of recalling both help prime memory, even in the shorter term.
(Your brain locks in repeated events for easy retrieval as it has evolved to efficiently process repeated events.
It sure is better than learning a much repeated process over and over again).
Rhythm is one of the tricks used by many people with amazing memory abilities.
However, I have not found a great deal of research on how this works.
But it does make a useful difference for most people when it comes to remembering numbers.
In essence, you are remembering them by their sound and cadence, not their meaning! Saying the numbers out loud places the numbers into your auditory memory.
Temporary auditory memory lingers longer in the memory than temporary visual memory.
Our brains probably evolved with longer retention of sounds in memory to help with mental processing of speech.
Why do we need to remember things? Isn't that what PDAs and cutting and pasting is for? I'll answer with one simple reason.
You need a good short term memory even for simple things like understanding someone speaking a sentence, and even for speaking an unhesitating and well crafted sentence yourself.
One major learning difficulty is related to poor auditory short term memory.
So, why not muscle up your short term memory by using it and improving it.
Want to test your ability to remember numbers? I have placed a list of numbers and instructions on a web page (the link is provided in my SIG file below).
The test lets you find out how long a number you can consistently remember.
Use the principles suggested above and see how you do.
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