Tips for memory difficulties

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  • Reduce sound distraction - wear headphones;
  • Reduce visual distraction - turn your desk to face a blank wall;  use screens; keep your desk tidy.
  • Book a quiet room for a period of concentrated work.
  • Minimise interruptions e.g. warn your colleagues that you are trying to concentrate on a piece of work, and ask them not to talk to you until lunchtime.
  • Write things down, so that you don’t have to keep remembering them. ‘Buy birthday card!’ ‘Milk!’ 
  • Collect a list of questions to ask your manager, rather than constantly interrupting.
  • Put a note where you need it e.g. for things to do on the way home, put the reminder on your bag; put notes for a particular meeting with the papers for that meeting.
  • Use apps such as Toodledo https://www.toodledo.com/
  • Diary reminders (you can use these to schedule tasks as well as meetings).
  • Avoid multitasking, and try to complete each task before starting the next.
  • Put all appointments in your Outlook calendar (you can adjust the warning times).
  • Set phone alarms.
  • Set reminders of forthcoming deadlines.
  • Depending on your role you may want yearly, termly, monthly or weekly plans.
  • Make a daily task list (you may have a standard list, to which you add extra items).
  • Schedule work for particular times. Some people like to do the most complex tasks first thing in the morning, when they are freshest.
  • Schedule time for particular tasks, if you find it difficult to get the time for them.
  • Remember to keep checking your plan, and record any new tasks.
  • Improve your ability to judge how much time to allow by recording how much time jobs actually take.
  • In many administrative and finance roles, it is helpful to set up systems (or use existing systems) so that you can easily check what work has already been done.
  • Before you deal with an item, check what has already happened (to avoid paying the same invoice twice).
  • Create a record of what tasks need to be done for recurrent activities e.g. those that happen on a monthly or yearly basis.  This will prompt you next time.
  • Give your resources a permanent home, and always put them back in the correct place.
  • Take regular time to do your filing, so that you can find materials again.
  • Use trays and folders (physical and electronic) to organise your flow of work.
  • Talk to your colleagues to create systems that work for everyone.
  • Make sure that when you are dealing with something you also record what you have done, and put it in the right place e.g. the file for paid invoices.
  • Break your overall plan into smaller sections, then when you are ready to work break those sections into manageable chunks, then concentrate on one at a time. “The way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.” 
  • Some people make a  visual overview of the whole, so they can see where their current chunk fits in.
  • Find out how long you can concentrate for (which might be as short as 15 minutes). Design chunks to last that long. 
  • Set your timer, concentrate on the chunk, and when the timer goes stop and take a brief minibreak to allow your brain to recover. 
  • Tick the chunk off, then start the next chunk. 
  • This technique helps you to make progress, even on days when you are struggling. You can revise your work next day.
  • Photocopy your standard daily tasks list, and add any extra tasks.
  • Tick things off as you do them.
  • If you have difficulty following a list, cover up the items you haven’t yet done, so that you can only see the next task.
  • Train yourself to keep returning to the list, if you can’t think what to do next.
  • Check that you have understood correctly e.g. ‘So the first thing is for me to …’
  • Do not rely on remembering verbal instructions.  Ask for a written reminder, to which you can refer.
  • Some people make audio recordings, to which they can listen again.
  • If the instructions are about an activity in the future, you may want to create a reminder that you will see when you come to start the task. E.g. Put a post-it on a form ‘waiting for authorisation from X’.
  • Take the time to write down answers, and create reminders for yourself.  Most people don’t like being asked the same question over and over again.
  • For important information, you may need to work to get it into long-term memory, for example by repetition.
  • Some people find it easier to learn by doing, so will want to carry out the new task several times, not just know how to do it.
  • Taking regular breaks allows your brain to recover. 
  • Sitting at a computer all day isn’t good for you, walk around regularly.
  • Drink enough water to remain well hydrated.
  • Take a proper lunchbreak.  If possible go outside for natural light.
  • Eat healthily to maintain steady blood sugar levels.
  • Try free Workrave software workrave.org to prompt you to take a break.
  • First mind dump all your ideas (by writing or using a mindmapping software), so that they aren’t lost.
  • Secondly start to think about how they fit together.
  • Keep things short and easy to read.
  • Use colour, pictures, flow charts.
  • Print of screenshots which you can annotate.
  • Keep examples of completed forms.  Highlight key fields.
  • You may want to ask a colleague to check that your notes are correct and that you haven’t missed anything out.
  • Make an overview and keep it by you so that you can see where you are in a process.
  • Use mindmaps to map a subject and see the connections.
  • Use colour, pictures, icons.
  • Use screenshots and photographs in instructions.
  • Use flow charts.
  • In Outlook use colours to mark status, and flags
  • Use crib sheets, screen shots, check lists.
  • Think of a visual image and also visualise words beneath it e.g. when trying to remember someone’s name, think of their face with their name written below.
  • Record instructions or notes to yourself on your phone or a digital voice recorder.
  • Ask if you can record meetings if you are unable to make effective notes.
  • Use rhythm and song.
  • Telling someone else will help to fix information in your memory.
  • Group numbers in threes, so that there is a beginning, middle and end, and repeat them aloud.
  • Rehearse a presentation out loud.
  • Practise a new process. “Walk through, not talk through.”
  • Learn by doing and repeating.  It may take several times to get it embedded in your long-term memory.
  • It may be helpful to think of a process as a journey, which requires you to go (either physically or virtually) to a number of different places. 
  • Interact with information – write it on cards and move it around; make diagrams; ask questions.
  • Make it multi-sensory: see it, touch it, hear it, do it.
  • Make sense of it – it is hard to remember something that you don’t understand.
  • Make it stick – we remember things we are interested in.
  • Make it memorable – make it unusual or exaggerated (see a word in colour, or very large)
  • Make it organized – groups, patterns, categories.
  • Review and practise information to get it into long term memory.
 
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