Dec 18 2009

Remembering A Name

If you are one of those individuals who find it difficult to remember names don’t worry, you are not alone.  Most of us have had this experience, and there is no reason to be embarrassed or upset.  Odds are, the person whose name you forgot, has had the same thing happen to them at one time or another.
Because the ability to recall the names of people you meet in social or work situations will always be a benefit, here are some simple techniques to improve your memory of names and faces dramatically.

First, we need to adjust our priorities, realizing that every new relationship can be an advantage in one aspect of another.  Acknowledge every new relationship as a priority.  Once someone has introduced themselves, try to focus on the individual and repeat their name.  While doing this, try to make a mental connection between their name and something familiar.  When I met a woman whose name was Tiffany, I noticed that she was elegant, so I mentally linked her name with the upscale Tiffany store.  Try to stay in the moment, and not worry about what you are going to say next, and most important, relax, and focus on that person.

After the initial introduction, start using their name in a conversation during your introductory meeting or sometime shortly afterwards.  Ask them a question about themselves or their business and be sure to use their name in the process. Three times should be enough to remember. Be sure to act as natural as possible and not to overdo it.

Another method may be association.  As humans, we are naturally programmed for face recognition, so it just takes a little extra effort. Take time to study the individual and become aware of any physical image or mental characteristic that might you help remember their name.  Is the person small or large, heavy of slim?  How about hair color or posture.  It might even be easy to associate a person with a picture. The more you study a person, the easier it will be to recall their name.

It might be a good idea, when you get home or back to the office to write down the names of the people you’ve met along with a few facts or characteristics about them.  Some suggest to write down their names a few times a week for at least the first month, as a highly effective device for face and name recognition.

It might be interesting to know that human faces are not processed by the human brain in the same way as other information, in fact, the human brain contains many different areas, each which are responsible for a different purpose.  While some areas of the brain are able to take over the functions of other areas should they be damaged, the region dedicated to facial recognition is not one of them.  Should this area be damaged, an individual will actually lose the ability to associate faces with names, even those of close friends or relatives.

So when meeting someone new, either in a work situation or a social situation, make a conscious effort and commit to remembering their names using the easy steps outlined above.  It is the best way to make a lasting impression.

Dec 8 2009

How Can I Improve My Concentration?

Whenever I’m driving and I’m not quite sure where I am, I always, mindlessly, turn down the radio and try to rid myself of any outside distractions.  I never realized that I did this until my teenage son pointed it out to me. He’s an adept multitasker, just like everyone born after 1990 or so. So – why do people tend to do that? It’s not like having a radio blaring in the background stops you from reading street signs. Talking to your copilot in the passenger seat doesn’t stop you from taking a turn, or stopping at a light.

For me, as well as many adults, it is much easier to focus your attention on one problem than to attempt to multitask and pay attention to several areas at once. As it turns out, it takes up a lot of brainpower to tune out a radio, or carry on a conversation while you’re driving, or even if you’re just eating dinner. To make things even worse, there’s a whole symphony of chemical reactions happening in your brain that may cut down on your ability to divide your attention.

One factor is aging.  As we get older, our attention capacity declines, and it takes a greater effort to initiate your processing requirements, and ignore any outside distractions. In other words, old people don’t forget things because they’re old, they forget because it becomes difficult to carry on daily activities, and try to remember past activities at the same time.

It’s not just about being old, though. Fatigue and depression are two major factors that contribute to an inability to concentrate on more than one task at a time.  If you are tired or stressed, it’s just not as easy for your brain to concentrate on a whole list of things at once.  The harder your brain has to work just to keep you awake, the less energy it can devote to other things, like watching TV.

There are a few corrective measures you can do to improvements your multitasking skills:

For starters, get really good at one thing at a time. The less you have to think about something as you do it, the more brainpower you can put toward something else.

Don’t just work with one part of your brain. You need to stimulate all areas. That means speech, thought, logic, emotion – all of it. There are a lot of things you can do to wake up your whole brain, but basic social interaction is one of the best.

Keep it simple. If you’re having trouble concentrating, then remove all unnecessary stimuli. By focusing intently on one thing at a time, you’re much more likely to do well at it. Wear earplugs if it’s noisy where you are. Close your eyes if you need to think clearly. Be alone. These things will help you focus on the task at hand.

Work on your memory. There are a lot of memory training exercises that you can do to keep your memory strong. Memory takes up a lot of concentration, so the better you are at observing and recalling things, the less your brain works to do the rest.

So make it easy, turn off any outside distractions, and you will be amazed at your ability to focus on one, or on several tasks. It just takes a little practice.

Dec 3 2009

Techniques for Improving Your Short-term Memory with Simple Exercises

Your short term memory is good for more than just cramming for tests, or preparing a speech or presentation. Developing your memory will help reduce your risk of mental degeneration as you age, and work to delay problems like Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Here is a quick guide on how to help prep your brain to remember everything you want to remember.

The first rule for improving your memory skills is to pay attention to the task at hand. Attempting to block out anything that can distract you will increase your focusing abilities and make learning easier. Televisions, loud music and a hectic environment will only complicate the memory process, causing your brain’s processing speed to go down. You need to focus, blocking out distractions.

It just takes a little practice, but it’s possible for you to remember just about anything you want. And remember, the harder the task, the more concentration you’ll need.

Another way to improve short-term memory is to use a variety of physiological cues, whether it be visual, auditory, or even linking a certain memory to a similar experience. If you have trouble remembering names, try to find an association of something or someone familiar to you. Who do they remind you of? Do they look like someone or someone that you already know , like a celebrity, or a relative? Perhaps the sound of their voice reminds you of something. If none of those are working, try using repetition by repeating their information. This helps create a specific neurological pathway in the brain that makes information easier to recall.

A great way to improve short term memory is by association. This can be applied to names, places, vocabulary, and a variety of other things. If you have trouble locating your car in a large parking lot, try to associate the aisle number with something that is familiar to you. Look around and see if there is anything in the immediate area that is recognizable. And, if all else fails, take a picture of the aisle and row location with your camera phone! Numbers can be especially hard to remember, but there are even tricks to lock those into your brain. For instance, you can turn the rhythm of the spoken numbers into a jingle or a rhyme to help you remember. If your social security number is the same number of syllables as the words in a tune you like, sing the numbers to that tune. You’ll never forget them!

As we get older, repetition and focus becomes more important. The processing speed of your brain begins to slow down. As we age our “working memory” which is mostly short-term memory, is never fully stored and never becomes a part of our permanent memory making it easily replaced by another bit of information that takes the same pathway as the first. Because our brain size decreases, we lose the efficiency of our brain functions, and facts that were easy to remember when we were younger, take more effort, and practice. Simple tasks such as the placement of keys, or the name of a new acquaintance take extra effort. Just as exercising the body make you physically stronger, exercising the mind will make you mentally stronger.