Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks

Interview on the podcast "Yak About Today - A Boomer's GPS Guide to Life"

I had another wonderful discussion about memory with David Yakir, the host of the podcast “Yak About Today.” David is a wonderful interviewer and this short conversation is worth a listen. We discuss memory improvement (of course) and I offer several tips from my new book, Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success in School, Work, and Life.

The podcast interview is great for anyone but if you happen to be a baby boomer I encourage you to subscribe to his podcast. He has great guests, keeps things moving, and is fun to listen to! Click below to listen to the interview.


Common memory excuse #2: "I'm old(er)"

Memory Excuses #2 I'm old.jpg

Why do you have a bad memory? Are you using that as an excuse or is it the “real deal”? Let’s continue to look at common excuses people use to forgo memory improvement (and whether they are good excuses or not!).

  1. “I’m getting old/I’m just old.”

    Once again we need to look at whether you have a bad memory in every situation or just some/most. I have a friend who is “elderly” (his words) who complained of a bad memory and was concerned about forgetfulness, especially around remembering whether he took his several-times-a-day medication.

    Interestingly, though, he was easily able to remember the details of his friends’ families: whose kid had graduated from which college, whose grandchild was walking and talking up a storm, and any detail related to people.

    Remembering what he had for breakfast or whether he had taken his morning walk, however, seemed beyond him.

    This is a good example of remembering what we are interested in and what we focus on. For him, his personable nature made the details of his friends and their families memorable. Whether he took his morning pill or went for a walk yesterday were daily, unimportant details to him (but frustrating when he tried to recall them and couldn’t).

    For him and many others, getting old means that some things (routine daily activities, what the weather was like, what to get at the grocery store) have lost their uniqueness so they aren’t paid attention to. The problem isn’t necessarily a recall problem, it’s all about focus and attention. (Though for good measure he has his memory checked with his primary care physician on occasion.)

    If you feel you’re “old” or “getting older” look specifically at what you typically forget. Is it all areas of your life or just some? My latest memory book has quick, easy fixes for specific problem areas (a delightfully quick, easy, and fun way to remember whether you took your medicine or vitamin each day) and big-picture solutions for larger areas like how to improve your overall focus and pay attention better.

    Here’s a new review of the book by someone who you might relate to:

A recent review of my book “Mastering Memory”

A recent review of my book “Mastering Memory”

If you struggle to remember in every area of your life please read the previous blog post which has three great tips on how to start your overall memory improvement journey. Click here for the blog post.


Next time we’ll look at another common excuse for forgetfulness and a “bad memory.” In the meantime use the information above to ensure you’re doing what you can to have a better memory now. Life is too short for a bad memory, especially when remembering well is so simple and easy.

For more easy ways to have a better memory please check out my book. It has short, easy-to-read and understand chapters filled with practical advice on working with your mind instead of against it to remember better in all areas of your life.

What's holding you back? Common memory excuse #1.

Memory Excuses.jpg

Why do you have a bad memory? Are you using that as an excuse or is it the “real deal”? Let’s look at common excuses people use to forgo memory improvement (and whether they are good excuses or not!).

  1. “I just have a bad memory/I’ve always had a bad memory.”

    Ask yourself if you have a bad memory in every situation or just some/most. For example, can you remember something like movie dialogue and song lyrics but not things you read? That could indicate you have a good memory but you learn best audibly instead of by reading - not that you have a bad memory. There’s a solution for remembering better that involves making sure you hear the information (or use other techniques when forced to learn by reading).

    Or do you remember sports scores, stats, the players on your favorite teams, or the actors on TV or movies but aren’t good at remember the names of people you meet socially? To me that means you have a good memory for things that interest you, not a bad memory! There are ways to increase your memory ability for the less interesting things in life so you can enjoy your good memory in all areas of your life - not just sports or entertainment.

    If you struggle to remember in every area of your life there are a few things to look at:

    1. How is your sleep? Do you get enough (6-9 hours)? Is it quality sleep? This is an area to focus on to improve memory. Many of my coaching clients see remarkable improvement in their daily memory abilities when they go to sleep earlier. Some have even taken the step of buying a new mattress to improve their sleep and have had great results. Experts say that as our bodies change we often need to update our beds and estimate it needs to be done every 4-7 years. Gone are the days when beds were expected to last 10-20 years. Ignore a bed’s warranty and plan on buying a new bed every 5-6 years on average. I bought a guest bed from Amazon (Amazon’s in-house brand, Riven, and love sleeping on it. It’s a bit too soft for my wife as an everyday bed but works great in our guest room - every house guest has raved about it.

    2. How stressed are you? Stress and powerful emotions like grief, anger, sadness, fear,etc are huge issues for memory. My step-mother, dad, and father-in-law all passed away within nine months and my memory was horrible for that whole year. Yes, my highly-trained, know every trick in the book memory had a hard time keeping track of the simplest things. Look honestly at your emotional state and consider if you have a bad memory or if you’re overwhelmed in life. Work with caring people to get yourself back into balance and watch your ability to focus and remember easily improve.

    3. How is your activity level? Your physical shape? Taking care of our bodies plays a large part in how well our minds function. What can you (safely) do each day to start, continue, or improve the process of taking care of your body? (I suggest consulting an expert like your doctor or dietitian first.)


      These are three common problems I see - and help fix - when people claim the have a “bad” memory. Next time we’ll look at another one. In the meantime use the information above to ensure you’re doing what you can to have a better memory now. Life is too short for a bad memory, especially when remembering well is so simple and easy.

      For more easy ways to have a better memory please check out my book. It has short, easy-to-read and understand chapters filled with practical advice on working with your mind instead of against it to remember better in all areas of your life.


Engage your mind: learn new things

One of easiest ways to improve your memory is to learn new things that challenge your mind. Did I say easiest? Many people would argue that the hardest thing to do when our minds are struggling is to push them harder! But I look at it like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or going for a walk every day: we gently push our bodies to help maintain our physical health.

To prevent burnout or a feeling of dread when it’s time to do your “mind work,” pick an activity you enjoy, ideally one with a near-term payoff. Here are a few ideas:

  • learn five new foreign language words per day. This works especially well with a language that means something to you: one a neighbor or colleague speaks or someplace you might visit one day (sooner is better to help with motivation)

  • learn to play a musical instrument

  • learn the rules to a new game (chess, Go, etc.) or sport (can anyone explain Cricket to me?!?). If you have children in your life, learn the rules to their favorite sport or game (anyone else know a child who is obsessed with Minecraft?!)

  • learn how to personalize your smart phone or organize your email inbox

  • learn how to operate your fancy camera, including all the manual options

  • learn anything that appeals to you, from finally actually finishing Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time to mastering 5th grade math to help your child or grand child.

What do all these have in common? The word learn. Learning is something many of us dread. Once we finish school, we’re done. Why? Many have a bad experience in school. Some of us don’t learn well by reading. Sometimes it just feels like too much effort… much like walking up one or two flights of stairs instead of waiting for the elevator.

Today, though, we don’t have to suffer through classes or subjects that don’t interest us. Start learning something and realize you have no interest in it? No problem! Dump it… but pick up something that does interest you.

If you don’t know how - that’s easily fixed. Whether it’s my book about how to remember the new thing you’re learning (Mastering Memory: 75 Memory Hacks for Success in School, Work, and Life) or someone else’s, a Youtube video about how to remember (which works well if you learn better from watching an explanation instead of reading), there really isn’t a good excuse.

Get with it. Start small and don’t forget to choose an activity, subject, language, or hobby that interests you - that’s the key. It’s much easier to learn and remember things we are passionate about!

I practice what I preach. In addition to the memory training I do most days as a memory athlete, I’m slowly learning how to take photos with my Sony A6000 camera. Photography is a passion of mine, I’ve had the camera for a few years, and it’s time to learn how to handle it better. Below are some of my recent photos and I’ll be posting more off and on.

Join me in staying (or getting) mentally fit. If you’re brave, post what you’re interested in learning below.


Helping Hand in the Rain

Helping Hand in the Rain

Hay Deer at Dawn

Hay Deer at Dawn