Sunday, February 13, 2011

How I Remember Things

I have been blessed, I am told, with a good memory. Friends often ask me how I remember distant events, off-the wall facts, and bad jokes. I generally reply by asking them how they don't. In truth, I don't know exactly how I remember things but I have developed some habits that help me. I learned to memorize stuff. I found out at an early age that when all else fails, rote memorization almost always works. Here's how I do it: I read a sentence or recite a fact. I read it aloud. I close my eyes and speak what I just read. Then, I go to the next sentence and repeat the process. Then I go back to the first sentence and recite them both together and proceed like this until the entire paragraph, poem, chapter, or verse is locked in memory. I may even write it out, in longhand, from memory. That's how I learned the Gettysburg Address many years ago. The next day, I come back, read, recite and maybe write it down again until it is locked in. It may sound boring, but the key is repetition, repetition, and repetition. If the item to be remembered has a rhythm or a tune, so much the better. Poetry sticks much faster than prose. I also write things down. The act of writing makes things stick more quickly and firmly in my mind. I date all of my notes. I may not remember exactly what was said or done, but I will remember when I said or did it. I review my notes regularly and often. The act of reading them further sets them in my mind. If I want to keep something in the front of my mind, I write it on a card or piece of paper and put it in my tickler file to be read once a day for a week, then once a week for a month or so until it becomes part of me. Then, I refer to it once a month for as long as it is important. I read through my notes and suspense items early in the morning when my mind is fresh. Then, I go about the business of the day. And I remember.