If your memory's not what it used to be, the fix may be easier than you think. "There are simple ways to expand your working memory to help you live more successfully," says brain expert Ruth Curran. Here are five memory tricks you can test out right away.
Be a creature of habit
Good organisation and memory go hand in hand: if you consistently put things in the same spot, then you won't have to waste time trying to "remember" where you put them. When your keys always go in a dish and your gym bag always gets stashed on the left side of the coat closet, finding them in a no-brainer. Bonus: you'll free up valuable storage space in your brain for more complicated recall-related tasks.
Use visual cues
"When there's something I can't forget to do before bed, I put an item on my pillow that isn't supposed to be there - like a can of cat food - to get my attention," says Katya Seberson, a memory instructor.
Match an essential item with another item
This is similar to the visual cues trick, but it takes it a step further. Let's say you often forget your lunch at home. While it's easy to bypass the kitchen on your way out the door, there's no way you'll be able to drive to work without your car keys. So put your keys (an essential item) inside your lunch bag (a less important item) and your lunch will make it into the car, too, suggests Seberson. Similarly, you can put your phone inside your shoes - you can't leave without them on your feet - and your train pass and reading glasses into the pocket of the jacket you wear every day.
Create associations for names
By itself, a name is a pretty abstract thing - which makes it hard to recall. "But if we encode a name in our brain so that it becomes an image, from there we can create a story we're sure to remember," says Tansel Ali, four-time Australian memory champion and memory coach. Take Tansel's name: maybe you associate it with the similar-sounding "tinsel" and imagine wrapping him up in it and putting him on top of a Christmas tree. That might seem ridiculous, but that's the point: conjuring up a silly image when you see him is what will help jog your memory. Not into wacky imagery? You could instead think of a rhyme that tells you something about the person (like "Mike with the bike," assuming Mike does, in fact, ride a bike) or an alliterative phrase (like "Anne the artist," if Anne likes to paint).
Build a narrative out of your to-do list
Going on a series of errands? Use each destination on your list to tell a story, which is easier to recall than a random sequence of tasks, says Ali. For instance, if you need to get bread, drop off a letter at the post office, get the car washed, and pick up the dry cleaning, you could imagine yourself dressed in a big bread costume, trying to squish your way through the mail slot, only to be deposited right into the middle of a car wash, which will leave you so soggy that you'll need to rush to the dry cleaners. "The funnier or more affecting the story, the more memorable it will be," says Ali.