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How do I improve my memory???

I've noticed that sometimes in a technical meeting that I forget some task that needs to be done in a technical project, but we have just talked about it a minute before.  Know any techniques to improve both long term and short term memory?  I have Tony Buzan's books on the subject but are there any tips specific to programming out there?

Tim
Saturday, October 12, 2002

Do you feel uncomfortable taking notes because nobody else does at your meetings and you think you should be able to remember? Just bring a notepad along and scribbe away. I found that taking notes improved my self confidence and that in turn has helped me remember things without taking notes. In other words, fear of forgetting seemed to be a factor.

Big B
Saturday, October 12, 2002

We memory impared have to take notes and good notes at that.  It can actually impress and/or  intimidate others at a meeting.  Folks won't think you are stupid because you take notes.  Don't let them declare you official note taker though.

I know a guy who can remember practically every golf shot he ever took. The trouble is, he remembers just about everything else too.  It's extraordinary, no method, no technique, no training, it just sticks.  Most of us have to use every trick we find.

tk
Saturday, October 12, 2002

At a recent meeting, I used my PDA to record the conversation (with permission, of course). Proved to be invaluable, as 2 days later, I replayed the meeting, and was able to accurately implement the details that were involved and that were somehow missing from my notes. Recording the meeting also let me concentrate on the meeting, rather than on taking notes.

Evan
Saturday, October 12, 2002

Agree with the advise to take notes.

You can also try pycnogenol and/or ginko biloba (use tablets with standardized extract rather than ground up powder) and see if they do anything for you. They help me on occasions where my brain is just in a rut -- I am not sure they improve memory any, but they do jack up creative juices and ability to concentrate a bit (IMO, YMMV).

Though I would guess teh problem is that you start thinking about the first part of what they are saying and zone out on the remainder. Notetaking can help for this - you jot down at least a word or two of each subject they have to remind yourself later after you've finished your chain of thought.

X. J. Scott
Saturday, October 12, 2002

Years ago I read a memory book....I can remember the name..but it was a help.

In meetings, and when gathering information for a project, you MUST take some notes. Date and time goes at the top page...

I have some friends who have absolutely gifted memories, and can remember everyone’s phone number from high school more than 10 years ago!! However, during meetings these people still need, and do take notes.

I will often then take out my pda and portable keyboard. I refrain from doing this for some clients, since that unfolding of the cool accordion like keyboard from my pocket tends to cause a gadget disturbance.

Thus, on site, I do use my pda and keyboard a lot. All kinds of project notes, and bug lists, and “to do” lists are in my pda. I am very good at graffiti on the palm (using the pen), but hey I work on a keyboard all day. On a bad day I am slow at 85 wpm.  On a good day...much faster.  Hence, anywhere and any place I work, you are likely to see my palm and keyboard propped on the desk ready for action. In addition, stuff like directories, file names, and passwords are also stored in my palm. There is nothing more frustrating returning to a client a few months later only to forget passwords, and even the basic location of files for projects. Thus, most of this is in my pda.

I also of course use a billing application on my palm. It keeps track of the client, project, date,  time  and bill rate. With a few pen taps, my billing is done for the day (don’t even have to write down the date, or the time, as the “start/stop” timer function takes care of this and calculates elapsed time). I hate paper work, and the palm gets rid of most of it. I did purchase the billing application for the palm (it was cheap about $50). However, I did write the invoicing software on the pc side. The resulting invoices look very professional, and I only have to “sync” to create a invoice (no typing is required to create a invoice). Heck, I am a developer, I might as well use my own skill (eat my own dog food), and computerize this stuff right?

The other thing of course is all projects get their binder. If two projects are for the same client, then perhaps I share the same binder.

Regardless, I don’t think relying on the memory is the way to go. At least in my case, I have such a rotten memory, that I have to use the above paper and technology just survive a day.

And yes...projects do create paper!!


Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada
Kalla@msn.com

Albert D. Kallal
Sunday, October 13, 2002

You remember what matters, frequently the things you forget are the things you really don't want to do.  The trick is to spot those as they come along.  Making notes can be worse than not.  There is a tendency to believe your own notes and a tendency to gloss over things if you didn't understand them.  If you're taking notes you probably aren't listening.  Making an audio record isn't a bad thing but I think it might inhibit some conversations.

I usually have a pen and paper with me but if I'm gathering information, learning about someone's business I don't take notes.  I listen, I engage in the conversation, I ask questions and I fit the answers into a hierarchy as the conversation happens.

Actual technical detail is largely on the forms they use and the output they produce and any existing systems, whether computerised or not. 

My major task is to begin to understand their business the way they do, see it from their eyes.  That way they can begin to trust me.

Simon P. Lucy
Sunday, October 13, 2002

I just pay attention to the event without taking notes, then after the event ends, I take notes IF necessary. What I do most of the time is draw some mind maps. Or even sometimes I just jot down some key words.

Self-confidence is indeed the top factor (at least for me). Some years ago I HAD to write everything down as the event went, and in the end I didn't understand anything, and my notes were confusing.

IMHO, mind maps are the best tool to remember and learn stuff.

Over the time my memory has improved a LOT. Nowadays I remember lots of phone numbers, passwords (LONG passwords, with numbers and all), and even credit card numbers. I also remember most of the details on conversations. People sometimes get upset for that :)

Best regards,
Ivan V.

Ivan V.
Sunday, October 13, 2002

For many, memory correlates with interest.  In meetings I don't find too exciting, I try to steer things once or twice towards a "list of things."  To scribble down.  If you do it right, it makes people feel you care about their thoughts.  Especially if you make reference to "Ok, and Laura pointed out..."

You don't really need notes though when you feel comfortable and Empowered, buzzword or no.

Sammy
Sunday, October 13, 2002

Nice thread.  There are visual learners, auditory learners, and those who are both.  Myself, I'm a visual learner.  Throughout the day, I always carry a notepad and have found that the act of taking notes, turning the auditory into visual, is often enough.

Most of the time, I never refer back to the notes, but the process of taking them is helpful.

One trick that I'll use is to draw a large arrow in the margin next to any "action items" (cheesy phrase, I know) that come up, even if they're "look into XYZ and get back to Jeff".  The more important, the bigger the arrow.  Then, when I've got a few spare minutes, I'll go back through the last few pages of my notepad and get these things done, crossing out the arrow.  If an item slips back past a few pages, it probably wasn't that important.

Bill Carlson
Sunday, October 13, 2002

Oh, yes Bill! I agree on the arrows/reworking of notes.

And having a variety of colored pens can really help to make sense of the notes as you are organizing them.

Designer colors, metallic glitter pens, smell pens, etc -- whatever it takes.

Sarain H.
Sunday, October 13, 2002

Make sure your memory loss isn't the result of a medical condition.  Think I read somewhere that depression can cause poor memory.

qwik
Sunday, October 13, 2002

I have also used mind maps, but sometimes I 'forget' to use them.  When I really concentrate on making mind maps consistently, I find that my memory improves.  I took a history class and I can still recall some of the people and things that they did years later, due to the fact that I used mind maps while taking notes in the history class.  It is sometimes hard to really concentrate on making a mind map when you have to be 'engaged' in meetings, although they work good when you are part of a 'captive' audience (in class)....

Tim
Monday, October 14, 2002

"On a bad day I am slow at 85 wpm"

I've already figured that :-)

Leonardo Herrera
Monday, October 14, 2002

I keep a running 'to do' list.  Every evening, the last thing I do is review it for the next day.  It really helps to spend about 30 seconds saying, "Let's see ... is there anything I am forgetting..."  Often that triggers recollections of tasks that I otherwise would have forgotten.

When I get to work, the first thing I do is review the list for the day (this is especially valuable on monday mornings when last week is already a distant memory).  As the day goes on I cross things off the list.

I recommend using a steno pad or something for the lists (as opposed to keeping them on slips of paper) so that you can refer back to old lists. 

Unfortunately in many offices people will forget the 11 things you did well and remember the one thing you forgot to do.  Most professionals I have ever met have found that they need some informal system.  Find one that works for you.

Good luck.

R Whittle
Monday, October 14, 2002

Nobody has mentioned any books yet (apart from the original poster). I like Harry Lorayne's "Page-a-Minute Memory Book." It's effectively a step-by-step memory course. Now, if I could just remember where I put it :-)

Another of his (co-written with Jerry Lucas) is "The Memory Book." Not as concise, but perhaps more interesting (more and longer anecdotes, as I recall).

BTW, a search on google for "memory improvement" finds about 858,000 links.

Steve Wheeler
Monday, October 14, 2002

I would also think that having meeting minutes produced with action items would be worthwhile.

If there are no minutes how can the project manager/team lead know what tasks you are meant to be doing.

Obviously, taking notes is worthwhile too.

John.

JohnG
Monday, October 14, 2002

Minute taking depends on the purpose of the meeting.

If its a project planning/status meeting then yes, there should be minutes taken. 

If its an exploratory meeting with a client then I wouldn't be interested in any minutes.

Simon Lucy
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Have you ever tried single pointed meditation, which improves your minds ability to focus and concentrate?

This method can be as simple as sitting down and focusing your attention on a candle flame for about 10 minutes.  Then incrementally increase your sitting time until you are able to concentrate for longer periods of time.

You will most likely notice considerable improvement in your ability to remember.

J Morrison
Tuesday, October 15, 2002

You should try art of Living course.Its main guru is Sri Sri
Ravi Shankar  from banglore ,India.
The exercises really cool down your brain and help u take more.

Hell Raiser
Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Programming destroys your memory (or so I tell myself). I often send an email to my boss after a meeting to clarify what was assigned. The email says something like "according to my notes, these were the issues discussed, these were the tasks proposed and out of those I am going to do task A and task B. Please let me know if I am leaving anything out".

This does a couple of things: it shows you are proactive, it eliminates the guessing game of "what else what I supposed to do" (which rents space in your head, leaving less brainpower to do your work,) it provides a common reference point between you and your boss, and it gives you a CYA audit trail, just in case.

sf_fish
Thursday, October 17, 2002

"I would also think that having meeting minutes produced with action items would be worthwhile.

If there are no minutes how can the project manager/team lead know what tasks you are meant to be doing."

Agreed. Even if your memory is impeccable, what about everybody else's? Meeting minutes and action items can also contain scope creep.

sf_fish
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Well, first you...

... <blink, blink>

What was the question?

Sorry, couldn't resist...
Thursday, October 17, 2002

If my manager starts giving me a list of things to do and there are more than 2 things on the list, I have to go and get my notebook.
I think I have a good memory, with all frequent phone numbers and passwords memorized. I can remember where everything is in my programs without documentation (yes I'm going to write it some day, hopefully before I get hit by a bus).
But I can't keep what my manager says in memory between leaving his office and getting back to my desk. Well maybe I could but I'm afraid some little thing would drop out.
The same is true for the freelance work I do at home. I have notebooks going back to 1995 with the lists of everything I've done for every project. If I wanted to write a programming autobiography, I have all the notes! (don't worry, I won't).

PC
Saturday, October 26, 2002

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