How to improve your memory…

Notebook stationery and key isolated on white background

A place for everything and everything in its place. I remember my mother constantly telling me this when I was younger, and I just thought she was nagging.

Notebook stationery and key isolated on white backgroundBut a while ago, concerned about cognitive weakness in later life, I researched memory strategies. And what I discovered made me realise that my mother had a good point after all.

I’ve learned that by following some simple tips and strategies I can save time and be more efficient and organised.


How often do you walk in, chuck your keys down then panic because you can’t find them the next time you leave the house?

I’ve learned that a rack near the front door means you hang them up immediately, using the same hook for door keys and other hooks for car keys and spares.

On leaving the house, I resist the temptation to switch bags, taking one with small pockets. My shoulder purse has enough room in the bus pass section for my door keys. If I have that bag, I know where they will be. If I take a different bag I use an outer zipped section which allows access without opening the bag.

Mobile phone

I keep mine near the charger, always plugged into the same socket. The only other place is at my side, so by the laptop or on my computer desk. Away from home it has its own place in my bag, always in the same pocket section.

Leaving the house

With seven grandchildren to visit, I need to pack quickly and remember essentials. I used to wander around putting items into my wheelie case.

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After many mishaps, failure to turn off certain electrical items, windows left open etc, I made a list of ‘things to take’ and ‘things to do’ which I keep in my case. I refer to it and mentally tick off the items. No more stress. The list includes what to do the night before. Life is much easier.

A simple notebook…

I know people whose desk or kitchen table is littered with pieces of paper and Post-it notes. But a notebook is only one item to use. As a teacher, my notebook boasted a to-do list for each day with completed tasks crossed off. Uncrossed items were carried forward. This can work for everyone.  Now, as a writer, I keep a notebook, again with a to-do list, but also with snippets of dialogue picked up when travelling – ideas, phrases and drafts.

How many of you read a good book but can’t remember the title or what it was about? I note down the title, author, publisher sometimes and a short précis of the story. I often refer back. As I write reviews on Goodreads, this acts as a record. I also have an online reading history on my library website, one click away with the website in my favourites bar.

Holiday memories are precious. Notebooks work here too. I write dates, places, what we did, saw and admired. I use A5 lined treasure troves. I choose the prettiest covers and remember the contents by the cover.

However, I also number alternate pages. It then only takes minutes to compile an index at the front. This way I can locate information about a holiday several years ago at speed. I keep a diary – again in my notebook and indexed at the front – of what I do each day for later reference.

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A friend and I recently encouraged another friend with early onset Alzheimer’s to use a notebook to write down what she does each day. He put her name on the front and inside ‘if found please ring xxx’.

In the house…

Before my research, I spent hours hunting mislaid items. But then I learned that items are misplaced, not mislaid.

If I reorganise when sorting paperwork, relocating files and personal possessions, I list the location of moved items. I label everything: storage boxes, files, box files, plastic wallets. Colour coding is invaluable.

For example, my accounts are always in red files. Seems appropriate! My files about my lifetime achievement – publishing a book – are pink, my favourite colour. I label plugs where several linger together – toaster, kettle, slow cooker. I use an A6 size diary (MsLexia is excellent) for appointments. No chance of losing it. Too big for my bag, I resort to the calendar on my phone as a back-up. Technology is now a friend.

Travelling by train

This is now an art form. If I book a seat on a train, I keep the seat reservation ticket with my ticket or write it on my hand. I must collect pre-paid tickets quickly.

The best present my other half ever bought me was a shoulder purse slightly smaller than A5 with sections. It has three sections at the front. The bottom slot is for the bank card used for booking, my BITE loyalty card for buying food at stations, my Senior Rail card and tickets. Cash is in the top section. The middle section holds other loyalty cards. The rear section contains my bus pass and the online booking printout with essential collection reference.

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The trick is to always put these cards, passes and information into the same pockets every time.

Everything in its place. It really does help. And as was so often the case, my mother was right…

Di Castle

About Di Castle

I am a writer living in Swanage. Born and bred in Hertfordshire, I always had a love of words, writing as soon as I could hold a pen. My sister is profoundly deaf and I have a passionate interest in raising deaf awareness. After my youngest daughter went to school I began a career teaching in Further Education, while collecting a hoard of unfinished manuscripts. Later, my writing took precedence and, since becoming a regular attendee at the Winchester Writers' Conference, I have enjoyed success in their competitions gaining two first prizes and highly commended awards for articles on a range of subjects. I began blogging in 2012 and as well as issues surrounding deafness I blog on mental health, dyslexia, writing and anything topical that stirs me to fire up the computer. My poetry collection, Grandma’s Poetry Book, was self-published by Matador in November 2014. I have other books in progress and there is interest from agents in my memoir of growing up with a deaf sibling. Before moving to Swanage in 2001, I enjoyed a nomadic existence in Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire, Middlesex and South Bucks. I live close to my partner, Bryan, in a Victorian building overlooking Swanage Bay with views towards Bournemouth and Old Harry Rocks. I have three daughters and seven grandchildren.