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Power Packing Your Memory
by Barbara Garro

If you’re deviled by faulty, fly-away memory, consider how beneficial, professionally and personally, it would be for you to pick up information faultlessly with your temporary (short-term) memory and transfer it completely to your permanent (long-term) useful memory. Understand, a lot depends on what you are you trying to remember out of: a svelte, fit, healthy body or a toxic waste dump?

Strong opposite comparison? You bet! Most people fall somewhere in the middle and remembering prowess reflects the health of who is doing the remembering.

Since few are blessed with total recall, the rest of us daily, pulled in seemingly more and more directions, struggle to do what we need to do when and where we need to do it. Remember, anyone can make a “To Do” list. What matters is actually getting things finished.

Here are Some Questions to Ask Yourself about Your Memory–

• How do you rate your own memory in comparison with other people in your age group?

• How do you rate your memory now compared with five years ago?

• Does anyone close to you say you have a poor memory, memory problems or that you remember things wrong?


1. Familiarity, as in you remember your employees or co-workers names, but may have a harder time remembering people you met at a trade show a year ago.

2. Repetition, as in you remember numbers of people you call frequently, but not those you rarely call.

3. Low Levels of Stress, as in playing classical music when driving instead of listening to incendiary liberal or conservative talk show hosts’ and callers’ rants.

4. Boosting Your Brain with Natural Supplements, as in taking known brain-building fish oil and other supplements. I take 21 supplements five days each week, no prescription medications, have plenty of energy, and rarely have pain.

5. A Regular Meditation Practice, as in meditating 20 minutes a day as recommended in a recent Garro Talk article.

6. Regular Physical & Mental Exercise, as in work your body and work your mind. My 92-year old cousin does “New York Times” crossword puzzles daily in ink and her memory is sharp as a sword. I do Sudoku puzzles myself.

7. Learning to Run Your Mind Tapes, as in training your audio-visual abilities to run the tapes of your short-term past activities when distraction gets in the way of your remembering something that happened recently. When I first started teaching and using this expression, it really got people's attention, both positive and negative. Positive reactions just wanted to learn this helpful skill. Negative reactions felt threatened, used terms like “spying,” “subversive,” “sinister.” All I can say is this skill works like "rewind-play." And, practice lights up your memory. You see what you did, hear what you said.


1. Fatigue, as in not enough sleep, working without taking refresh breaks, working more than nine hours at a clip.

2. Alcohol Addiction, as in daily drinking as a habit. Alcohol is known to kill brain cells. Still, a glass of wine, a bottle of beer won’t break your brain bank and many find a drink relaxing after the work day. When the glass of wine becomes a bottle and the bottle of beer becomes a six-pack, you’re in trouble.

3. Double, Triple, Quadruple Tracking, as in playing all your brain fields at the same time. Wouldn’t work in sports and single tracking works the most efficiently. So, eating, drinking, talking on the phone and computing all at the same time will, as my Pop used to say, “come back to bite you in your butt.”

4. Speed Syndrome, as in going through things faster and faster with less and less comprehension and competence. Reading too fast misses the meaning of the message. Listening Loosely also falls under this category. People deserve your full attention and you deserve the knowledge from their full messages.

5. Haphazard Organization Systems, as in no special place for anything, anywhere you lay it down is fine…until you try to find it, that is.

6. Failure to Schedule “ME” Time on a Weekly Basis, as in making yourself as high a priority as all the things you feel compelled to do.

7. You-Driven Stress and Other-Driven Stress, as in what you demand of yourself on a daily, weekly, monthly basis…what others demand of you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis…and what life throws at you at any given time to add to the mix.

Stress impairs the ability to retrieve what you are trying to remember. Stress particularly wipes out short-term memory, as in somebody tells you a date, day and time and you tell yourself you are going to write it down. Stress distracts. If you do remember to write it down, you can’t remember one or more of the important components of the information. The more stressed you are, the easier it is for distractions to blow up the bridge between getting information and remembering it or retrieving it.

I found authors Lazarus & Folkman to articulate a cut-to-the-chase definition of stress: “Stress is often defined as a disturbance of bodily homeostasis [functionality] caused by a mismatch between situational demands and the individual’s perceived resources to cope with such demands.”

Stress can cause what is commonly called “Burnout,” defined as stress- related exhaustion (formally called “burnout syndrome”). Stress can also cause depression with these common symptoms–

• Losing your zest for life

• Lack of appetite or increased appetite

• Sleeplessness or over-sleeping

• Fatigue

• Anxiety

Training yourself to learn what works for you to remember reliably requires your personalization. If you've ever read memory-building books, gone to seminars or taken Dale Carnegie Courses, you know every system will not work for you.

What system do you use to show up when and where you need to on any given day? I use a Month-at-a-Glance Calendar System and I discipline myself to check tomorrow before I go to sleep. If there are several appointments, I create a "To-Do" list to follow.

What's important becomes updating your memory retrieval systems as your workload increases and your ability to remember without tools decreases. Just as a tire iron adds leverage to the hand muscles, memory tools increase your ability to hold accessible information in the mind.