You have already seen, in the chart on pages 121-2, a few of the ways in which the four key principles of memory can affect your life at work. In this section we will look in a little more detail at how you can apply these and other principles.
An underlying idea of all four memory principles is that to retain things, you need to connect with them to ensure that they stick in the memory. Another way of looking at this is to think of your brain as if it were your garden, with a rather unusual clothes line to which various items have been pegged. This line is strange because the things that are attached to it are not your clothes, but all the bits and pieces you want to remember. So, there are lists, bills, photographs, and jottings pegged to it.
A common way of "pegging" a sequence of words or ideas so that you will remember them is an acronym, or word constructed out of the first letters of various other words. Joyce Taylor, managing director of Discovery Networks Europe, has developed one— SPIRIT—with her staff to sum up their corporate values:
The acronym is used regularly by Taylor and her staff and she has written it in the personal work book she carries around with her. It is useful because each of the words has a clear meaning and together they serve as a regular useful reminder of the sort of business that Discovery wants to be.
Acronyms work best when they act as a peg for key elements of a belief system or, as British accelerated learning expert Colin Rose has shown, when they help you to remember the ordering of an important process. Rose applies the acronym MASTER to the process of how to learn:
Mind relaxed Acquire the facts Search out the meaning Trigger the memory Exhibit what you know Reflect on the process
At a very practical level, the reason acronyms may be important to us is that we can only carry a limited number of items of information in our heads, unless we can write them down. Interestingly, in some oral cultures there are no words for large numbers. In Australia, it seems that the original aboriginal inhabitants of the island only have words for the first six numbers. After that, there is just one word for a number that is greater then six. Maybe our minds are not naturally geared up to remembering more than seven or so new bits of information—which perhaps accounts for the prevalence of business books with "seven" in their titles or chapter headings.
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The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave several of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce and check off items on our to-do list by each day’s end seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us.