Memory - a forgotten skill

In the 21st century with the abundance of iPhones, Blackberries, laptop computer, mobile phones as well as beautiful Moleskine notebooks, you would think our memory skills are no longer required. There are many situations in life when we need to use our mental ability and not to rely on external storage systems.

Things we must remember

This section describes the sort of things we do need to remember and suggestions on how best to remember the information.

Names and Faces

Dealing with people is part of life - personal and business. When we meet people we need to be able to remember their name to use during the conversation and when we see them again.


The ability to understand and use words in conversation as well as recognising words when we read is the foundation of education. The more words we know, the better.

Important security information

Our bank cards have a PIN (Personal Identification Number) and we are required to memorise the number and not write it down. How do you remember the numbers of several cards?

Building access codes often require entry of a number. I used to work at a company where my access code was 3702. I havent used that code since 2001 but I remember it because I used the Major system to make the word moccasin (M-K-S-N = 3-7-0-2) and I visualised a moccasin sitting on the access pad.

Your passport number. Imagine you are travelling overseas and all your valuables are stolen including your paper notebook with your important details. You contact your embassy and you able to tell them your passport number because you have memorised it.

Speeches and Presentations

Delivering a speech from memory is an important skill. I am a member of a Toastmasters club and always deliver my speeches from memory. I don't actually memorise every word, but remember keywords and how the parts of the speech are linked. Usually I memorise the opening and closing sentences word-for-word as this gives great impact. When next giving a talk or presentation, leave the notes behind and rehearse your presentation using the Link Method or Locus Method to remember your keywords.

Jokes and Stories

The Internet (email in particular) has killed the oral tradition of telling jokes. Revive the lost skill of oral storytelling and commit humour to memory then retell the story with your personal touch.

General knowledge

I am currently working on the task of remembering all the countries and capitals of the world. This information gives me the framework for understanding current affairs and world events. Have you ever heard an unfamiliar country name in a news report and didn't know where it was? Could you visualise each country as the Olympic athlete teams march on to the arena with their flags?

On the Job Training

Any time we are taught something without the benefit of PowerPoint? or permanent records memory is an important skill. Without a strong memory, how would a professional such as a doctor be able to explain disease to her patient in real time? How would a trial lawyer deliver a winning courtroom summation? Every occupation that has complex knowledge, skills and procedures can benefit from a strong ability to accurately recall information.

Things we dont need to remember

This section describes the sort of things we do not need to remember and why.

Phone numbers

I can remember my home and office phone numbers but I do not remember the mobile (cell) phone numbers for my wife or daughters! These numbers are programmed into my phone, and I have chosen to leave this information in the phone's contact list memory. If I was asked to pass on this information, I would just reach for my phone and look it up.

Even so, remembering a phone number comes in quite handy when a phone's own memory (or battery) fails. Electronic devices are notorious for epic fails in the most critical of times.