Category Archives for "Memory"

Feeling Forgetful or Distracted? 3 Strategies to Boost Your Memory and Increase Your Focus

Did you ever see a film back in 1995 called Johnny Mnemonic? Keanu Reeves playing the part of Johnny who was able to store huge amounts of information in his memory using a computer chip.

In reality our memories are nothing like computers, however back in the early 90’s the idea of having a super powered memory was something that instantly grabbed my attention for a number of reasons:

  1. For years I had a reputation for having an extremely bad memory
  2. I made a decision to work hard on not only improving my memory but taking it to a whole new level, so in that same year (1995), I competed in the World Memory Championships and was ranked as one of the first ever Grand Masters of Memory in the World (crazy title, I know!)
  3. Also, in 1995 I created a Game show called Monkhouse’s Memory Masters for the BBC that aired to 8 million people.

Off the back of the TV show I fell into working with real people with real challenges and got hooked.

So, what does it take to go from having no confidence in your memory to knowing you can learn and remember anything you put your mind to?

It’s an over simplification, however if I had to, I’d break it down into 3 steps

  1. Memory Mindset
  2. Tiny Habits®
  3. Creative Memorization

While I cover all of these and more in The Total Memory Blueprint, let’s briefly look at each one of these areas…

Get the Right Memory Mindset

If someone asked you, “Would you like to improve your memory by 500%?” what would you say?  My guess is, for most people, they would jump at the chance. I’ve personally heard people respond with a phrase like, “Yeh, I could really do with that!” However, the real impact of having a good memory is rarely thought about.

So what if we were to be more specific? What if someone said you could learn a new way of thinking that would deliver:

  • Confidence in your ability to remember anything
  • Focus to overcome mind wandering and procrastination
  • Skills to save time, filter and remember what was important
  • Talents to help you step up in your career
  • Beliefs to start your own business
  • Potential to grow your current business
  • Freedom to do what you love and become an expert in your field 

If someone said that you could achieve all of this, how would you respond? What different choices would you make going forward? What impact would it have in your life? What would be the best part of having a set of strategies that allowed you to do each one of these things?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with people from all walks of life at different stages, from students to professionals or CEOs and even actors. The first coaching session is always the most interesting as people are buzzed up to start learning memory techniques and tips, however that is never where I start and here’s why… most people don’t know why they want to improve their memory AND they have beliefs that don’t support them. So we always start with the mindset and get absolute clarity on:

  • How a better memory will change their life
  • Uncovering hidden challenges and beliefs that could slow them down, hold them back or stop them in their tracks
  • 5 to 10 options they are absolutely committed to trying in the next 7 days

There is a catch to all of this though; there are no quick fixes, magic pills or microchips (at least not yet) that instantly transform your ability to remember. It takes energy and commitment; this is where Tiny Habits® come in…

Tiny Habits® for Memory

When I first heard about Tiny Habits I got pretty psyched. My initial driver to try them out was to create some better health habits. Since starting Tiny Habits I’ve gone from an erratic (every now and then) 20 minute morning workout to a 2 hour ritual that gets my mind and body in peak state for the day.

During my first conversation with BJ Fogg, he suggested I could use this method with my clients, so I decided to give it a go and trained as a coach. Shortly after I began introducing Tiny Habits for Memory and Focus to my clients and they loved them. They found it a simple way to introduce new techniques into their lives and it also helped create momentum when they hit a learning curve.

It was as if by creating these Tiny Habits they were not only planting the seeds for each of the strategies I shared, these seeds were taking root so it was easier for them to grow the larger behaviors they could actually use in real life situations.

Here is a simple example of a Tiny Habits for Memory

After I wake up in the morningI will memorize 3 itemsThen you celebrate to help the habit take root

Here’s the key though, you don’t just memorize by picking 3 items and repeating them over and over again in your mind, you get creative! For example let’s imagine your 3 items are a chair, plant and mobile phone.

You might imagine:

You give a chair to a plant that needs to make an urgent phone call.

This is called a Chain Story and you can create something like this in about 10 seconds. The interesting thing is, it’s very hard to forget.

Let’s ramp it up, look at these 9 items and try to remember them:

I created this using Rory’s Story Cubes

Now Imagine this: you are playing with the abacus and a key falls out, you use it to get inside the plane, which is caught by a giant hand that gives you the padlock. You shrink and jump inside and fall all the way through to a tree, you fall asleep and are woken up by lightning. You see the masks!

By doing the Tiny Habit above (with just 3 items) you start conditioning your brain to use this strategy more automatically.

Once you master this technique, its application goes way further than just simple items; you can use it to remember key points in a presentation, facts from a meeting, details about people, conversations and combined with a few other strategies even whole books!

Tiny Habits® for Focus

An essential ingredient to having greater memory retention and recall is the skill to instantly be in the moment. As someone who was a professional actor for many years this was intrinsic in being able to learn large scripts, let go of anxiety and remain confident. A large part of what I share with people is this skill of really getting into that state of flow. Here’s a very simple Tiny Habit to set you on the right path. I call these primer questions:

Example of Tiny Habits for Focus

After I finish my breakfastI will ask myself, “what is the one thing I will give my focus to today?”Celebrate

The purpose of this primer question is to turn on your internal radar to pay attention to the thing that is most important for you ‘today’. It is all too easy to be distracted by technologies and other peoples agenda, so by explicitly asking yourself a question along these lines every morning can bring real focus to your day.

By creating Tiny Habits for each of the Memory and Focus strategies you can incorporate them into your life so much easier.

So we’ve talked about facilitating the right mindset and creating Tiny Habits that will build real momentum. There is a primary ingredient that we still need to achieve some of the outcomes we went through at the beginning of this post. You have already had a taster of this when memorizing those 9 items earlier; I call this Creative Memorization.

Creative Memorization

The idea behind Creative Memorization isn’t just about remembering. It is about experiencing a deep level of learning. To truly learn, you have to create; with creation and use comes understanding. You move from a place of knowing something intellectually to having something in your body – this is what creative memorization feels like.

Creative memorization is not a passive form of remembering but a way of thinking that is results-focused and draws on each of your memory types (episodic, semantic, procedural, emotional, priming, conditioned response), looking for creative ways to make anything more memorable so you can put it into practice.

Before you jump into the complex stuff, with any new skill you need to master the basics. Try this well known strategy called the Chain Method. Here’s an example I usually start with to get people going. There are 15 main items in this story. Read the story 2-3 times and each time imagine it more vividly in your mind than the time before…

Big Ben is wearing a fur coat and bouncing up and down on a springboard. He dives into a large pot of honey, and out of the honey comes a dinosaur wearing a red baseball cap and swinging a baseball bat. It starts smashing up a Ferrari with the baseball bat. Driving the Ferrari is Tom Cruise, who is smoking a huge cigar. Tom looks over to his right and stubs out the cigar on the head of a bald man. The bald man is eating a big sticky Mars bar, and wrapped around the Mars bar is a slimy snake, playing the drums and drinking a bottle of Budweiser.

Drop a comment below letting me know how well you got on!

Where to start?

Over the last 5 years I’ve written a number of books to help people build their skills in this area. For some people a book is enough and for others they are looking for something more, that could be some personal 1-1 coaching or online video training they can complete at their own pace to step up in their career, make the leap to start a business or just feel like they have the freedom to do the thing they love.

There’s a whole bunch of resources and courses you can find here. If you really want to take your memory to the next level then check out:

>> Total Memory Blueprint

Feel free to ping your questions to me!

While Johnny Mnemonic is still science fiction the potential of having an outstanding memory is absolutely a reality. All it takes is the right mindset, tiny habits and some killer strategies.

Ready to celebrate your success? Get our killer list of 102 Ways to Celebrate here!

Are Your Habits Hurting Your Brain? Part 1

If you’re hoping to foster new habits this year that will increase your health and happiness, we’re here to help. Daily exercise, meditation, and even flossing can boost your brain health, but not all habits work in your favor. You probably already know that smoking, sugar and a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on your cardiovascular and cognitive functioning, but what about your drive to work or your morning crossword?

Making Healthy Actions Automatic

Habits and routines give our lives structure and direction. Turning healthy behaviors into habits is important because you want to follow through on those actions even when your motivation is low. That’s one reason the Tiny Habits method is so successful. Often those habits become part of our daily routines, and are so engrained we don’t even have to think about them. In general, that’s a good thing. However, you certainly don’t want to go through life on auto-pilot. Your brain craves novelty and challenge to stay sharp and agile.

Pathways in the Forest

Every new thought or experience sends a tiny spasm of electricity that stimulates dendritic growth and expands your brain volume. Dendrites are like tiny pathways through your brain, and the more of them you have, the greater your cognitive reserve. If a thought or action is repeated, the pathway becomes stronger and it takes less effort to send a signal through. “Neurons that fire together wire together,” as neuroscientists say, and this is exactly how habits are formed: by repeatedly following a trigger with an action, that pathway is solidified in the brain and the action becomes more automatic each time.

Building Cognitive Reserve

Establishing strong pathways that reinforce healthy habits is a good thing. However, you don’t want your brain to become so accustomed to its most well-worn pathways that stagnation sets in. As we age, the plaques and tangles that cause Alzheimer’s disease can choke off even the most established of routes. If one pathway becomes bogged down, it’s good to have plenty of other options. As you continue to learn new things and challenge yourself throughout your life, you increase your cognitive reserve, creating a brain that is both resilient and adaptable.

This Is Your Brain On Novelty

Psychologists call it the “novelty response”, and in some ways it’s the opposite of a habit. Where a habit is so engrained you don’t even have to think about it, a novel experience requires your attention and engagement, but this is precisely why it’s so effective. When you challenge yourself to learn a new word every day, cook a new recipe or take a new class, you activate new neural networks that keep your brain alert and engaged. For the best results, be sure there’s a method to the madness. Build novelty into your day by periodically establishing new habits that challenge your brain in new ways.

Building cognitive reserve doesn’t have to be costly or time-intensive. Come back tomorrow to learn how you can increase your cognitive reserve on your drive to work or even in the shower. Click here to join our groundbreaking new course, Habits for Brain Health. This live, interactive course combines the Tiny Habits method with powerful, practical recipes for keeping your brain sharp now and throughout your life.

5 More Ways to Improve Your Brain Health in Under 30 Seconds

If 5 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health in Under 30 Seconds inspired you to care more for your brain in the coming year, click here to receive information about our upcoming course, Habits for Brain Health. If you’re ready to plant some new seeds today, try one or more of the habits below.

  1. Sip a cup of green tea. The antioxidants in a cup of green tea may contribute to lower blood pressure, better working memory, stronger bones and a healthier immune system. Drink it hot as you read the morning news or iced at the end of your workout for the moderate boost in energy and long-term neuroprotection the caffeine will provide. Brew your own and go easy on the sweetener for a brain- and budget-friendly beverage.
  2. Stub out your cigarette. If the threat of lung, throat and oral cancer isn’t enough to dissuade you from smoking, maybe its effects on your brain health will. Smoking thins the lining of the cortex, a part of the brain that is essential for memory and language function. The sooner you quit, the less damage you’ll do and the longer your brain will have to recover.
  3. Text a friend. “Remember that time when…?” Research shows that the more connected you are, the more likely you are to maintain high cognitive functioning throughout your life. Reminiscing with friends activates the memory center and relieves stress, providing a one-two punch against cognitive decline.
  4. Grab a brain game. It’s no surprise that exercising your brain is good for your brain, but if you’re not a fan of crossword puzzles, don’t worry! Research shows that any mental challenge will do. Keep a book of sudoku in your pocket or a brain training app on your phone and sneak in a mini-workout next time you’re sitting on the train, standing in line or waiting for a friend.
  5. Put your phone on airplane mode. Too little sleep puts your brain in a fog and contributes to the buildup of beta-amyloid in the brain, increasing the risk of developing dementia. Set yourself up for a restful night’s sleep by putting your phone on airplane mode. Your alarm will still work, but you won’t be disrupted by the buzz of an incoming late-night email or text. Try this trick when you’re with your friends and family, too. Being present with the ones you’re with strengthens your social connections, keeping your relationships and your brain strong, healthy and happy.

These habits may seem simple, but don’t be deceived. Every one of these actions can have lasting long-term effects when they become a part of your everyday life. But you don’t have to wait until your senior years to reap the benefits. The habits that support long-term brain health will also help you to feel healthier and happier while you’re still young. For information on our upcoming brain health course, click here.

Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health in Under 30 Seconds

Like a thriving coral reef, a healthy brain is the product of millions of tiny units and connections. Every minute of the day you’re making choices that either strengthen that network or tear it down. Exercise, sleep and a nutritious diet have a big impact on brain health, but many brain-boosting behaviors take less than a minute a day.

  1. Breathe. Chronic stress puts your brain at risk. While we can’t get rid of every source of stress in our lives, we can learn to manage it. Meditative breathing increases blood flow to the brain and increases cortical thickness in the hippocampus, the center of learning and memory. Try taking three deep, mindful breaths every time you hit a stoplight or every time you hang up your phone.
  2. Pop your pills. Resveratrol, turmeric, and vitamin D may all play a role in preserving memory function, but the king of brain supplements is DHA. Fish oil supplements contain a rich supply of this omega-3 fatty acid that is essential for normal brain function. Try pairing this habit with your brushing/flossing routine or your morning cup of coffee.
  3. Strike a pose. Yoga incorporates the health benefits of mindful breathing with body-altering stretches and balance challenges. Both flexibility and balance decline with age, putting the body at risk for injury that can prohibit other kinds of brain-boosting exercise. Balance exercises also work the cerebellum, which is central for overall brain health.
  4. Pet your pooch. A rich social network slows memory decline and increases quality of life, and even your pet can contribute. Just a minute or two of snuggling with your pet lowers cortisol and boost seratonin, protecting your brain’s connectivity. Pets can alleviate symptoms of depression and calm patients who are already suffering from the effects of dementia. Take your pet outside for a walk and you’ll also elevate your heart rate and interact with others, both important keys to boosting brain health.
  5. Put on your helmet. Brain trauma, whether a single traumatic event that causes loss of consciousness or repeated, less severe incidents are increasingly linked to neurodegenerative disease later in life. Will Smith’s new movie Conscious brings awareness to this issue, and the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health currently has two studies underway to examine the long-term effects of brain trauma on professional football players and professional fighters. Whether you’re snowboarding, riding your bike to the store, or meeting friends for a pick-up game of football, take an extra ten seconds to strap on a helmet and protect your vulnerable gray matter.

Over time, these small acts can make a big impact on your brain health. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up here and you’ll receive a special invitation to our upcoming course, Habits for Brain Health.

If Only Your Brain Could Get A Sunburn

If only your brain could get a sunburn.

Most of us have neglected the sage 90s advice to “Wear Sunscreen” at least once in our lives. However, a single searing, skin-peeling sunburn is often all it takes to inspire a lifelong commitment to protecting our vulnerable flesh. The lesson may be painful, but it is immediate and effective.

When it comes to our health, most of the negative consequences of the choices we make are not so immediate. If you choose to eat a cheeseburger, you’ll probably feel full and happy afterward. You will not feel the excess fat clogging your arteries and clinging to your midsection or the sodium boosting your blood pressure. A single cheeseburger won’t destroy your health, but if the majority of your meals come wrapped in paper, you’ll feel the effects eventually. Unfortunately, by that time the damage is done and can be difficult to reverse. If the results of an unhealthy habit were as swift and painful as a sunburn, making healthy choices would be much easier.

We now know that our brains change throughout our lives. While the most drastic development occurs in childhood, our brains retain the capacity for growth and change for as long as we live. Our habits can support our brain health or stymie it, but, unlike a sunburn, the consequences may take years and even decades to manifest.

At Tiny Habits Academy, one of our biggest priorities is helping people to build healthy habits for a lifetime of physical and mental wellbeing. If you have a brain and are getting older (and we’re pretty sure that covers all of our readers here) then you are making choices every day that may determine whether you become one of the 5.3 million people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease each year.

Doctors and scientists are still working to understand Alzheimer’s disease, which afflicts one in nine people over the age of 65, and over half of seniors over 85. However, they have been able to pinpoint a number of contributing factors, including:

  • Genetics and Family History
  • Head Trauma
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcoholism
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Cognitive Inactivity
  • Depression

Some of these risk factors are beyond our control, but many are not. A healthy brain at 65 (or 85) is the product of a lifetime of heathy choices. Over the next few weeks and months we’ll feature blog posts and special webinars to help you build the kinds of habits that act as heavy-duty SPF for your brain, protecting it from damage now and in the years to come.

We are launching a new Habits for Brain Health course.  What to be the first to know when that happens?  Click here —> http://bit.ly/Brain-Health-Habits

5 Habits to Remembering Names

Having worked with clients for over 20 years in the art of improving memory I noticed that there were a number of common problems people shared:

  • getting over the learning curve when it came to using memory strategies
  • finding a way to implement them in real life situations
  • making this new way of ‘thinking and learning’ a habit

So when I first discovered the Tiny Habits® Method it sparked my interest. I had a feeling it could perhaps be a solution to overcoming some of these key problems.

Tiny Habits for Remembering Names…

One of the simplest ways to demonstrate how Tiny Habits can help improve your memory is to pick a specific problem countless people deal with, in this case, Remembering Names.

The steps to remembering a persons name, for the most part are quite straight forward, in summary you need to do 5 different things:

  • Prime your brain to pay attention
  • Become present and listen
  • Make a connection (this is where your creativity comes into play)
  • Use the name in the conversation (can be harder than it sounds)
  • Have a good strategy to revise for long-term retention

Each one of these steps use part of what I refer to as creative memorisation and initially this can feel like a lot of things to do, although in real-life steps 1-4 all happen in about 3-10 seconds depending on the name.

Imagine being able to walk into a room with 20 people and walk out remembering everyones name. Depending on what line of business you are in, this can be a very valuable strategy, especially if you can meet someone a month later and still remember their name.

The Challenge…

The biggest challenge I’ve observed is making all of this automatic and not getting caught up in old habits. This is where the Tiny Habits Method excels and makes it all feel super easy.

One of the things I love about Tiny Habits is that the ‘recipes’ for new habits are so simple to create, here’s an example of how to take the first 2 steps of remembering names and turn them into a simple tiny habit.

Tiny Habit 1: Prime & Presence

After I sit down on my train into work (you replace this with your own anchor, a habit which already exists in your life)
I will choose a person and ask myself, “what is interesting about them?” while I breathe, look and listen
Woohoo! (celebration)

If you did nothing else and just this for the next 7 days you would notice your ability for remembering names start to improve. Once this habit becomes automatic it starts to permeate into other parts of your life. You walk into a meeting and your brain is already primed to notice the people in the room and be ready to listen to their names rather than your mind being diverted or wondering about other things.

Try it out…

If you have any challenges with remembering names and you’re looking for a strategy that not only gives you a way to remember names on the fly, makes them stick and makes it all happen on autopilot then I’ve created a free 7 day email course to get you up and running over at memoryschool.com

Here’s how it works:

  • You get an email every day for 5 days which includes a breakdown of each of the memory strategies for remembering names, a supporting video and some follow up activities
  • You’ll drop a quick email back to me with any challenges
  • I’ll offer you some tips to improve
  • Within 5 days you will have all the memory strategies in place to make remembering names a breeze 🙂
  • On Day 6 you will learn about the 3 Tiny Habits® Method for Remembering Names
  • On Day 7 You’ll check in with me on your first experience with Tiny Habits for Names

For the next week, you can check in with me everyday on how your habits are going and I will give you some personal 1-1 email coaching.

It’s as simple as that!

You can get started at anytime, just pop over to memoryschool.com and sign up for the 7 Day free email course.

If you want to improve your memory Tiny Habits is the simplest and most effective way to create those key behaviors. Imagine if you could use this strategy to not just remember names but remember anything?