Medium-term memory
July 6, 2015 3:36 PM   Subscribe

How do I improve my medium-term memory? I have all my notes to reference from today, and in two weeks my work turns over. How to remember everything in-between? Maybe this is a recall issue.

I work in a sales capacity of a sort where at any given time 30 or so projects/leads are on my desk, with associated details (client, dates, people attached to project). These projects move off my desk and on to someone else's in about two weeks or so, at which point I don't need to really have a working knowledge of the project anymore. The problem is, I need to have all this info imprinted in my brain within a day or two of receiving it to keep up with everyone else.

I keep copious notes and am very organized with all this information, but when in calls/meetings with the rest of my team, I am not able to immediately call up details from memory when asked for. I can pull them up from my notes/records in front of me, but others on my team are able to recall them from memory or in casual conversation. I just can't actively remember information, and I don't have the time to 'study' my notes before what I learn becomes irrelevant and the projects move forward to another team.

I almost feel like maybe writing everything down and organizing it allows my brain to not immediately retain it, but I absolutely must keep these records whether it serves my memory well or not.

I'm this way in my personal life too. I keep a nice tight calendar and daily to-do list, but I am screwed if I lose those because I can't remember any of it.

Any suggestions here?
posted by greta simone to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a huge fan of Bullet Journal (which I think I learned about on MeFi). The key (for me, and I had the same kinds of issues as you) is indexing your notes. You do have to commit to a journal, and keeping track of it - but as a PM, I already did that. Good luck!
posted by dbmcd at 3:40 PM on July 6, 2015

That's a cool system, but the thing is I have a really good system for indexing my notes, etc. I'm more concerned with committing things to memory quickly so that I don't have to rely on those notes in the case that someone asks me an off-the-cuff question when I don't have the notes handy, or so I can participate in conversations about various projects without having to look up what people are talking about.
posted by greta simone at 4:24 PM on July 6, 2015

Find a hook or tell yourself a story about each one. In other words, differentiate each of the projects in your head, then hang the details off the individual differentiations. Then use one prompt only, say the project name, to recall other details.

Once the project is off your desk, tell yourself it is Done to make room for the next lot.
posted by Thella at 4:46 PM on July 6, 2015

Go to bed earlier.
posted by michaelh at 7:41 PM on July 6, 2015

I suppose it's worth mentioning that my sleep, diet, and exercise habits are quite healthy. This has been a lifelong problem, but this is a new job and I'm trying very hard to succeed in it.
posted by greta simone at 7:52 PM on July 6, 2015

You might try giving yourself permission to look things up. There's really no reason to commit random things to memory, especially those items you may not be tasked to memorize. I also find that writing things down by hand seems to 'cement' them into my memory better. There's research (which I'm too lazy to find) that supports this as well.
Also, occasionally, when I've had to look something up, I find that the next time it comes up, it *is* in my memory, so the act of looking it up helped, too.

I've always like a quote attributed to Albert Einstein "Never memorize anything you can look up." - if it's good enough for him it's good enough for me!
posted by dbmcd at 10:58 AM on July 7, 2015

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