The first step to better working memory is to understand how memory works and to accept your limitations. That doesn’t mean saying, “Oh, I forgot,” to excuse yourself. It means developing and using strategies to compensate for forgetting. Many students with ADHD use reminder systems to keep things in order. They might use a notepad app on their phone or tablet to keep a running to-do list or a list of items they need at the shop. They might use a timer or calendar app to remind them of appointments. Other strategies that will help include:
> Break big chunks of information into small, bite-sized pieces. Focus on one or two of them before moving on to the next instruction. Suppose you are getting ready to host a party in your home. You are overwhelmed with everything that needs to get done: shopping, cooking, cleaning, and setting up for the party. Focus on one area, such as shopping. Ignore the rest of the tasks until you are finished shopping.
> Use checklists for tasks with multiple steps. You might create a checklist for your first hour of study. It might include: gather resources, check physical space, get water, go to the toilet and double-check the list.
> Develop routines. Create a routine when you return home from school. Place your mobile phone and keys in the same place every time, as soon as you walk in the door.
> Practice working memory skills. Use some brain training programs, such as Luminosity, or create your own. Write down six unrelated words. Start by trying to remember the first two words without looking at the paper, and add another word as you succeed.
> Experiment with various ways of remembering information. You may remember a list more easily if you create a song or make up a rhyme. Others find that visualization helps them remember multiple items. When you are heading home from school, visualize yourself stopping at the shop, picking up items that you need, bread, milk, yoghurt, etc. Imagine going to each section of the shop, and see what it looks like. Because images are more powerful than words, you are apt to remember everything you need at the shop as you follow your visualization.
> Reduce multitasking. According to a study completed at the University of Sussex, multitasking can actually shrink certain areas of your brain, and is linked to shortened attention spans. Complete one task and then move on to the next.
> Use mindfulness to minimize distractions and sharpen working memory. A study, completed at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found that daily mindfulness exercises increased recall and allowed participants to tune out distractions by regulating sensory input.
> Add exercise to your daily routine. Some studies have shown that working memory increases with daily exercise. While the reasons for this aren’t fully understood, scientists believe physical activity improves the health of brain cells. It can also indirectly affect memory by improving mood, helping you sleep better, and reducing stress.