Techniques and strategies to improve your memory

There isn’t a way to restore lost memory, but it is possible to learn how to use strategies to aid your memory, these can be either external or internal strategies. When attempting to improve your memory use the following ideas to help you maximise your potential:

  • Follow a set daily routine.
  • Concentrate on only relevant information
  • Reduce the level of distractions and noise.
  • Make associations by linking the information to something familiar
  • Don’t be too critical of yourself
  • Use strategies to assist you (see below).

Internal Strategies

Internal strategies are things that you ‘do inside your head’ to try and remember things.

The following are ideas to help you develop these internal strategies.

Pay attention:

  • Focus on and pay attention to what is being said and try to reduce the background distractions.
  • Look at the person who is speaking.
  • Only hold one conversation at a time.


Chunking/organising into categories:

  • Organise information into small amounts; break it down into chunks or categories rather than long streams of information.
  • This can be useful when remembering numbers e.g. 834564253 can be broken down into three small chunks 834 564 253 which may be easier to remember. This is useful with telephones numbers.


Repeating/rehearsing information

  • Repeating information over and over in your head may help you to remember it.
  • Say things out loud to remind yourself of them.
  • Practice and rehearse things you want to remember and then test yourself after a short time – this process is called ‘expanding rehearsal’. Repeat the information immediately then after 2, 4, 6, 8 seconds etc.


Making links or associations

  • Try to make mental associations in your mind by linking new ideas to existing information.



  • Converting words into pictures can help you remember what is said to you e.g. if a friend asks you to meet them outside the chemists at half past one, you could make a mental image of your friend standing outside the chemists with a clock showing 1.30pm.


Using W Questions:

  • If you are trying to remember something such as a magazine article ask yourself the five W questions. What? Where? When? Who? and Why? and break the information down into those categories.


Stories and Rhymes:

  • Rhymes such as Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain can help you to remember the colours of the rainbow Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.


First letter cueing:

  • This is helpful for remembering somebody’s name. Go through the letters of the alphabet one by one and when you reach the first letter of the person’s name, it sometimes prompts you to remember it.


Memorise a short list:

  • To improve your memory start by remembering a short shopping list of 3 items; then increase this to 6, then 12, as able. Test yourself on it.  This helps to strengthen the memory centre of the brain and compensates for any acquired deficits.


Use Mnemonics and acronyms:

  • Use sayings, rhymes or drawings to help you to remember things more easily.


Structure information:

  • If you need to remember a list of ingredients for a meal think of them under sub-headings such as starter, main, dessert, drinks etc.

External Strategies

External strategies are alterations to your environment or routines that help you to function better by providing you with prompts.

  • Write everything down. Write things on your hand.

  • Use calendars, diaries and journals. Get into the habit of checking them regularly. Put them in a place you pass regularly.

  • Use whiteboards/blackboards around the home/workplace. Put essential information on a noticeboard.

  • Use virtual assistants such as Siri/Alexa/Google Home.

  • Keep notes – via phone notes/notepad. Carry something with you to take notes.

  • Record things using your phone (camera/video/voice recorder).

  • Take photographs.

  • Use timers (cooker timers/egg timers)

  • Utilise a ‘to do’ list.

  • Use shopping lists.

  • Use alarms and reminders (phone alarm, watch alarm, memory aids).

  • Leave objects in special places as reminders.

  • Use prompts (post it notes, alerts, family, friends).

  • Make lists of the steps required to complete different tasks.

  • Organise home your home and workplace more efficiently – implement organisational systems.

  • Label cupboards/storage vessels/doors as a reminder of where things are kept or stored.

  • Keep a notepad next to the phone to write down messages.

  • Use an answer machine. Use of an answer machine reduces the problem of messages being forgotten.

  • Have a ‘special’ place to keep important objects such as keys, glasses etc.

  • Attach important items to your person so they can’t be mislaid – e.g. a neck cord for reading glasses.

  • Use pill reminder boxes or medication aids to remember to take your medications.

  • Telecare products via Occupational Therapist.