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Memory aids and reminders

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Memory aids and reminders

Anyone can have difficulty remembering information. Keeping your brain alert and active is a good thing but, on its own, it may not necessarily improve memory.

Memory aids may help you to cope with memory problems, and may work best if they are used regularly as part of a routine.

Sticky notes

Sticky notes, such as Post it Notes™ can help you to remember to do things. For example, sticking a note to your front door to remind you to pick up your keys before you go out.

Calendars, diaries, and ‘to do’ lists

Using a calendar can be helpful, particularly if it is placed somewhere you will see it easily and often, such as on the fridge door.

Using a diary, or calendar, can help you to keep a note of appointments, birthdays, or phone numbers. Keeping more detailed notes in a diary may be helpful to keep track of people you have met, where you have been, and what you did.  

A ‘to do’ list can be useful to record daily tasks, for example, phone calls to make or bills to pay. Email, mobile phone, and computer software packages often include diaries and ‘to do’ lists.

Drug wallets (pill boxes)

Drug wallets can help remind you to take your medication and how many tablets to take. They usually have seven small containers to keep medication in, one for each day of the week. Each container is divided into sections, for the morning, afternoon, and evening, and can be removed if you want to take your medication out with you. Some have an alarm to remind you when to take your medication. With a drug wallet you can see at a glance that you have taken medication, and avoid taking it twice by mistake.

Alarms and mobile phones

Alarm clocks, or wristwatch and mobile phone alarms, can be a useful reminder. For example, reminding you to take your medication or to feed a pet.

Many mobile phones have a reminder function. You can write a message and set a date and a time for the phone to send the message to you. Or you can set an alarm. This can help you remember everyday tasks as well as something that is not part of your usual routine, for example a dentist’s appointment. 

Smartphones can access the internet to download software applications (apps) to your phone. There are many apps available which you can use to support your memory. 

Taking lots of photographs on your phone and reviewing these at the end of the day can help you store important memories, particularly for special events. 

What techniques can help?

Some memory techniques can help the brain to store and find information. They often need practice and may not work for everyone. They may be helpful when you can’t use memory aids, such as in an exam. 

These techniques often use rhymes, stories, or images to help you to link ideas to make a stronger memory.

Remembering a word ‘on the tip of your tongue’

If you have trouble remembering a word, alphabetical searching may help. In your head go through the alphabet asking yourself if the word begins with a, b, c... 

If this does not work, try using a different word. If you are talking to someone at the time, you may want to tell them that it’s not quite the word you were looking for. They may try to help by suggesting another word.

Remembering someone’s name

The following techniques might help to make a name more memorable:

  • When you meet someone for the first time try to concentrate on their name, repeat it to yourself and use it while you talk to them. 
  • It may be helpful to write their name down and think of a way to remember it later.
  • Use a rhyme, for example Joan always moans or Mr Shah drives a sports car.
  • Imagine a picture of the person and include in it something to do with their name, for example, Mr Bridge sitting on a famous bridge.
  • A silly image may help you to remember names. For example you could imagine Mr Pearman as a pear.

Remembering where you put something

To help you remember where you put something, picture in your mind the object in the place you’re putting it. Also, saying out loud ‘I am putting...’ while doing this can help your brain to create a link to the memory of doing that task. 

Writing down what you have done, in a diary or other place which you look at regularly, may also help.

Going over in your mind what you were doing the last time you had the missing item is another technique. Physically going back to where you were at the time can also help. 

It can be helpful to have a filing system, a standard routine, and places to keep things, such as always keeping your keys in the same place. 

Using sayings or rhymes 

Sayings or rhymes are often used to recall information. Using the first letter of each word in a sentence may help you to remember a list. For example, Richard of York gave battle in vain, can be used to remember the colours of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. 

Using pictures or mind mapping

Drawing a picture that represents what you are learning may help you recall the information. Mind maps, or ‘spidergrams’, where you draw a diagram or map the information using keywords or phrases, can also be helpful. 

Preparing for exams

These ideas may help you revise for exams:

  • Revise in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed or distracted, to help you focus.
  • Test yourself before the exam. Past papers or revision guides can help.
  • Linking what you are reading to a personal experience, or to something you already know, may help you to store the information.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep before the exam. The brain’s ability to recall information works better when it’s alert.
  • When the exam begins you could quickly write or draw your revision aids on rough paper, to help you remember your preparation work.

Brain training

There are several ‘brain training’ computer packages available. Companies that sell brain training claim that doing these exercises increases brain power, improving memory and other brain functions, but independent research has shown that brain training does not generally improve memory performance in everyday life. 

Memory assessments

Your GP or specialist can refer you for a memory assessment, which is usually done by a neuropsychologist who can suggest ways to manage memory difficulties. 


Epilepsy Society is grateful to Professor Sallie Baxendale, Consultant Neuropsychologist, UCLH, London and Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, University College London, who reviewed this information.

Information updated: March 2023

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