You’ll Never Have a Strong Memory Until You Do This One ThingAug 23, 2022
In the land of memory, attention is king. And failing to pay attention will impair your memory, every time.
That’s because memory and attention cannot successfully operate without each other.
If you've ever worried about your focus and memory, if you've ever felt scatter-brained and then had difficulty recalling details of information or you feel a general sense of fog because you're unable to maintain your focus, you're in the right place.
In this article, we’ll explore:
- The link between focus and memory
- How to improve focus and memory
- Why recognizing attention challenges can help you
- What to do next
Let's begin improving your focus and memory right now. Separate yourself from any distractions for the duration of this article (that means you, Instagram). It's time to pay attention to your attention.
The link between focus and memory
You can't remember information that you never paid attention to in the first place. That's because your brain relies on your attention and focus to receive information. This part of the memory process is called encoding.
Focus and Memory Encoding
Encoding is the first of three stages in the memory process.
You may have heard it referred to as working memory. This is where your brain captures stimuli from the environment around you: the sights, the sounds, your emotions. Here's where your attention becomes critical to the memory process.
Your working memory has limited storage; therefore, your focus will determine what information encoded and what is discarded. In other words, you will not recall information captured unless you’ve actively paid attention to it, your brain will filter out the rest.
Example of focus and memory encoding:
Let’s say you are making pancakes for breakfast, and you spill the batter all over the floor. Simultaneously, you may have music playing in the background (It’s a beautiful morning), kids running around, and the window open letting in a cool breeze.
Your brain is being presented with a lot of environmental stimuli. You might perceive the smell of the pancakes, the sound of the music, the cool breeze coming in all at one time. But later that day, you may only remember that you had a big mess to clean up. Why? Because you attended to that mess. And the rest was irrelevant in that moment. You only encoded what you paid attention to.
In summary, your brain can only remember what you pay attention to.
Does the information in this article sound like you? Grab your copy of the free Get Your Memory Back Starter Guide and learn the 4-step formula to overcome these challenges!
How to improve focus and memory
Now that we know that attention is required to remember information, we can begin to control what competes for our attention.
Here are 6 strategies to help you improve focus and memory:
Control your environment
It might seem obvious, but if you want to improve your focus and memory, it’s essential to reduce the distractions that are within your control. Consider making these changes to your environment to improve your focus:
- Turn off any distractions.
- Eliminate background noise or music competing for your attention.
- Disconnect from social media.
- Temporarily silence email or text notifications.
- Remove items that are cluttering your space or stealing your attention.
- Relocate to a calmer, quieter space.
It may feel challenging at first to initiate these changes. However, failing to control your environment may rob you of clear focus and memory that impacts you more than making these changes will.
Paying attention requires conscious effort which is not your brain’s default mode. By default, you will daydream or zone out, but you can’t create new memories while in wonderland. You must consciously turn your brain back on. One way to do this is to avoid monotony. Routines are great, but actively breaking routines can also jumpstart your attention because you’re less likely to fall into autopilot mode.
Exit autopilot by trying these tricks:
- Take a new route to work or other routine destinations.
- Pay attention to 1-2 things along your daily walk or drive. At the end of the day, try to recall those 1-2 things.
- Describe your new route to a friend or a co-worker, or retrace your steps aloud to yourself at the end of the day.
- Swap your hot shower for a cold one. Cold showers can make a big impact on your mind and body, resetting your brain for the day.
- Do daily tasks in a backward order. For example, if you typically wake up, drink coffee, brush your teeth and then get dressed, try reversing the order of your routine. Making this change will cause you to pause and consider what comes next.
When you zone out, you miss out on what you may need to recall.
Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
You may have heard about the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique for reducing anxiety. This method works by increasing your conscious perception of your environment which can reduce stress from concepts or thoughts that are not directly surrounding you.
Try this method wherever you are:
- What are 5 things you can see?
- What are 4 things you can feel?
- What are 3 things you can hear?
- What are 2 things you can smell?
- What is 1 thing you can taste?
Employing this technique will reconnect with your immediate environment and your senses, which can help you increase your focus and memory, while also reducing your anxiety.
Multi-tasking is a myth. While you may think you’re getting more accomplished, you’re really dividing your attention. Ultimately, splitting your attention will make tasks take longer. It will also compromise your effectiveness, your focus, and your memory. Whenever possible, strive to do one thing at a time.
There is one exception to this rule! Combining a physical task with a cognitive task can actually help your focus and memory. So go ahead and vacuum while listening to a podcast, or to take a walk while chatting with a friend.
Physical movement is linked to improved focus and concentration. Even small amounts of movement get the blood flowing and can restore your focus and fuel creativity. It’s also a great way to break up with your routines (refer back to recommendation number 2 in this section.)
When it comes to improving your focus and memory, practice is key. Especially because as humans, our attention span is shrinking! According to this study from Microsoft, the human attention span is now only 8 seconds.
A quick recap...
Your focus and memory are intricately intertwined. Here are 6 ways to improve your focus and memory:
Control your environment to limit distractions.
Concentrate without allowing yourself to go into autopilot.
Activate your perception. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to get in touch with your senses.
Stop multi-tasking. Strive to do one thing at a time.
Exercise to fuel your focus. Your attention and alertness improve when you move your body.
Actively practice conscious attention so you can sharpen your memory and focus.
As a memory health coach, I’m glad you’re recognizing your attention and memory problems. Here’s why…
Just like failing to pay attention will impair your memory… Failing to recognize a problem will compromise your ability to fix it.
The good news is you can take actions to regain control of your focus and memory. If you need help learning how to support your memory, strengthen it and keep it healthy, click here to snag a spot on my schedule for your free introductory coaching call.