Improving Memory and Executive Functioning

prepared by Kim Collins, Ph.D.

Optimize work performance by simplifying, routinizing, and organizing job tasks.

  • Simplify: Break overly complex activities into simple step by step job tasks, keep these steps written down on a story board or note book and then check them off as you complete them to stay on task and make sure the task is completed.
  • Routinize: Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all job tasks. SOPs should be clear step-by-step instructions of how to carry out a specific task. The SOP should be complete and include all steps even if they appear obvious, because it only takes one missing step to derail an activity. Included in the task analysis should be a list of all materials that are needed to complete the task and all information for the task. Keep in a single notebook clearly labeled on the front and side as "Standard Operating Procedures Manual". Pages should be numbered and there should be a table of contents indicating which SOPs are on which page for quick reference. Dividers with labels can also be used.
  • Organize: Structure your day, week, and month. Use of your telephone or computer appears to be effective in managing appointments. Organize work area so everything you need to do the job is readily available and labeled. Work in an uncluttered work area or desk which only contains the material you need for the task on which you are currently working.

Memory Difficulties

  • Performance is improved with additional learning trials. Plan extra rehearsal or practice to better encode and consolidate the information to be learned (REHEARSE/PRACTICE).
  • Employ strategies in which you organize (CHUNK) information to be learned in meaningful associations. Try to learn information “deeply” rather than just superficially, by elaborating on the information in such a way as to understand its full meaning.
  • We learn by VERBALIZING (putting information into words or verbal concepts) or by VISUALIZING (putting information into mental pictures). The best way for you to learn is to employ both strategies, that is both verbalize and visualize the information to be learned and remembered. For example, try to verbalize visual material and visualize verbal material.
  • Learn memory techniques such as:
    • Mnemonics: to use a meaningful acronym or sentence to remember a series of items. HOMES for the great lakes, Roy G. Biv for the colors of the rainbow, etc.
    • Flash cards: Record individual facts on separate index cards that can be reviewed periodically is recommended to facilitate learning and retention.
    • Memory journal: To record continuous pieces of information, either written or verbally via your phone.
    • Link Technique: Making a link or association between pairs of words to be remembered by visualizing in one’s mind an unusual or ridiculous association between each pair, e.g., to remember the sequence of words "lamp, typewriter, truck", you need to form an unusual visual association between "lamp" and "typewriter" (you could picture a lamp with arms typing on a typewriter), then a link between "typewriter" and "truck" (you could picture a pickup truck hauling an enormous pile of typewriters). In this way, when you hear "lamp" this will trigger the mental image involving the typewriter which in turn will trigger the image of a truck and so on.
    • Time allocation: Because it takes you longer to complete tasks, you need to allow whatever additional time is necessary for you to complete those tasks.