Some people seem to be blessed with the ability to effortlessly remember things. My wife has a fantastic memory. She can look at a table with a dozen random items on it for a couple of seconds and later tell you every item that was on the table. I’m not sure whether she developed this skill or whether she was born with it – the old nature-nurture question. I, on the other hand, don’t have it. I certainly wasn’t born with it and I have to work really hard at remembering anything. Luckily I‘ve discovered several techniques to help me. One trick I learned was to mentally place each item I want to remember into the various rooms of my home. This works fine when I want to quickly remember several random things for a short time. It doesn’t work so well when I want to learn something and retain it for a longer time. The trick that I use for this is a little unusual but it works great. I create a mind map of the information I want to learn. Then to help me remember particular nuggets like a name or date I’ll associate it with a really ridiculous and outrageous image. The more outrageous and ridiculous the image the better I can remember it. I’d been using mind maps to brainstorm, organize and do creative thinking for years. I began to mind map things just to understand them better and it became obvious just how powerful mind mapping is in helping me to remember.
If you’re not familiar with mind maps they’re easy to learn and understand. Just google “mind maps” and you’ll be creating your own maps in minutes. There are some good videos on YouTube. Creating a mind map of the stuff I wanted to learn has always been sort of a personal euphoric experience for me. The map is a reflection of me and how my brain works and how it wants to organize the information. No two brains are the same and no two mind maps will be the same. That’s the real beauty of it – it’s mine! I see the big picture at a glance and how all the stuff fits together. Once I’ve got everything in and organized I begin to make it pretty. I use different text styles to mean one thing, different sizes to mean another and different colors to mean something else. It all makes sense to me and just seems to help me. The map turns into my own little piece of visual creative art. Each little visual touch gives me an additional meaning and makes it easier for me to remember.
I first discovered the trick of associating an image with the thing I’m trying to remember while googling for tips on improving my memory. The first time I tried it I conjured up some image and began looking for it in the library of images on my computer. It was a waste of time. It took a long time and the image I finally found was not really what I was looking for. By the time I found it I had lost my focus and it took awhile for me to get back to what I was doing. Getting these conjured images from the web works much better. I simply do an image search in Google describing my outrageous and ridiculous image. I select an image and simply copy and paste it into my mind map. Voila! I’ve given my brain something to hook some information onto.
I have come to rely on this technique whenever I need to quickly climb the learning curve. I used it recently when I had an urgent need to become conversant with all things Harry Potter after I asked the question: “What’s a snape?” It became obvious that I had a major gap in my education and I immediately began creating my Harry Potter map. Of course that’s an exception and a little whimsical. You’ll probably use it to ramp up on things like your latest project — players, products, market, competitors and financials. If you’re not yet into mind mapping give it a try. Reading about them just isn’t enough. Take the time to download a free version and actually start experiencing mind mapping by creating your own maps.