Tips for Using Your Phone to Improve Your Memory

Sometimes it seems like our phones are never far from our hands. From texting, to scheduling, to social media scrolling, technology has integrated into nearly every aspect of our lives. And while concerns about screen time may be a hot topic, a smartphone can be extremely useful in many ways.

One example is memory skills. With so many different types of apps and tools, our phones can be an excellent way to support cognitive skills such as memory. Read on to learn how you can use your phone to unlock your memory potential and improve your memory skills.  

What is memory?

Memory is our brain's superpower for remembering things like facts, faces, and where we left our keys. Memory plays an important role in almost every aspect of daily functioning, by helping us:

  • Retain and recall information (such as following instructions or learning a new hobby)

  • Remember words, names, and concepts so we can engage in meaningful conversations and express our thoughts clearly

  • Draw on past experiences to solve problems and make decisions 

  • Remember daily tasks, such as doctor appointments, work deadlines, and picking up the groceries 

  • Navigate the world around us by remembering where we left our glasses, recalling directions to a new place, or remembering people’s names in social settings

  • Recognize and understand our emotions based on past experiences

As you can see, memory skills affect almost every aspect of our lives. So learning strategies to improve your memory can be helpful at work, at home, and socially.

What are external memory strategies? 

External memory strategies help you remember information. They’re called “external” because they don’t involve memorizing things. Instead, you can be creative about using techniques that help you recall information at a later time.

A good example is the way a cell phone stores phone numbers. Gone are the days when you would memorize other people’s phone numbers. Now, cell phones save those numbers, so we don’t have to dial them. Using the speed dial feature doesn’t mean your memory isn’t as good. You simply have a different way to call someone, rather than memorizing their number.

How your phone can become your memory’s best friend

Storing numbers is just one example of how phones can supercharge your memory skills. There are many ways you can use your phone to improve your memory:

Camera/video: Take pictures or videos of information, such as where you parked your car or the steps to complete a task on the computer. 

Alarm: Use alarms to remind you to do a task at a specific time.

Calendar: Keep track of appointments and social commitments. You can set reminders and notifications that can be customized based on priority.  

Notes: Create checklists and type up ideas, tasks, and important information that you can organize and retrieve when needed. 

Internet: Research anything you want to remember, and use the bookmarking tool to save and categorize web pages for future reference. 

Screenshots: Take a picture of your phone screen to hold onto the information, such as event details or social media posts.

Voice memos: Voice recorder apps can quickly capture your ideas, reminders, and important information while you’re on the go. You can transcribe these memos later on if you like. 

There are lots of external memory strategies, and they don’t all involve a phone. Many people find it helpful to write down information in a central place, such as a planner or notebook. It can also help to create predictability in your environment by doing routine tasks in the same way or at the same time. An example would be putting your wallet in the same place every night so you always know where to find it. 

All brains are different, and different memory strategies will help in different ways at different times. 

Signs you may need help for memory loss

You may be wondering if these memory strategies actually help. The answer is yes! People who start using memory strategies more regularly usually have better recall overall.

If you’re concerned that your memory skills are declining, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor or a speech-language pathologist, also known as a speech therapist. Speech therapy can benefit people who have memory problems or other cognitive issues.

Here are some signs of memory loss to look for:

  • Frequently forgetting important dates, appointments, or events 

  • Difficulty remembering names of familiar people or common objects 

  • Trouble remembering and following multi-step directions

  • Asking the same questions repeatedly

  • Difficulty navigating familiar places, or forgetting how to get to common places 

  • Forgetting recent conversations, events, or activities 

  • Losing track of dates, seasons, or time (or becoming disoriented in familiar surroundings)

  • Trouble remembering significant events 

  • Challenges learning and retaining new information related to work, school, or personal interests

  • Changes in mood or behavior due to memory difficulties

If you or someone you know is experiencing signs of memory loss, a speech therapist can help determine the underlying causes and develop strategies to improve overall cognitive functioning.

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