1. Pay attention. If you don’t make an effort to consciously tune in and focus on what someone’s telling you or that shopping list in front of you, no strategy will work. Period.
2. Turn it into pictures. It’s easier for your brain to access a mental photograph. So let’s say you have to pick up milk, chicken, apples, eggs, cereal, and orange juice—you want to put them in pairs and form a vivid, crazy, memorable visual for each. (For example, milk and chicken might be best remembered if you picture a giant, cartoon-like chicken running around guzzling a carton of skim.)
3. Place the pictures on a path. “When we remember something, we don’t usually store it some place where we can retrieve it,” Dellis says. The solution? Create that place. Choose a location you know well, like your house, and pick a familiar path through it. Then, place your series of pictures along the path, interacting with specific markers—a closet, a couch, a door. The idea is that once you’ve placed all the items you want to memorize, all you have to do is walk back through that same path to “see” them.