The two most costly words in business, according to memory optimization expert Jim Kwik: “I forgot.”
Speaking at an event in New York City Thursday for his upcoming book, Limitless, which hits shelves on April 28, Kwik talked about how to increase your networking skills and overall productivity by maximizing your recall abilities. Kwik, a self-described “brain coach” who’s worked with clients including actor Will Smith and leaders at Google and Nike, explained the rationale behind his book’s title: He believes that the human mind’s potential is essentially unlimited, and the key to unlocking that potential lies in memory training.
To remember more, Kwik said, you have to start treating your brain like a muscle. Here are his four top recommendations for how to strengthen it.
1. Train your brain.
If you don’t think of your brain like a muscle, Kwik said, you probably think about it like a cup–and it likely feels like it’s overflowing. He called this the “digital deluge,” where our 200,000-year-old-brains are overwhelmed by and outsourced to exponentially improving technologies.
To fight this, Kwik recommends carving out a weekly 30-minute, no-tech “whitespace” in your calendar, turning off all unnecessary notifications, and memorizing the phone number of one person you speak to regularly. Even that small task, Kwik said, can train your memory muscle to process and retain more information. “How much you can earn,” Kwik argues, “depends on what you can learn.”
2. Make brain food part of your diet.
In his book, Kwik references “limitless foods” to eat or drink for cranium health: avocados, blueberries, broccoli, leafy greens, walnuts, coconut oil, eggs, turmeric, salmon, water, and dark chocolate.
Remembering that list of foods is yet another brain-training exercise. If you find it difficult to recall them, Kwik says to use a technique he calls PIE:
- Visualize a place (P) where something is located.
- Create an image (I) that goes with it.
- Entwine them (E).
If you want to remember blueberries are a good brain food, picture them coming out of your nose. To add leafy greens, imagine wearing kale shoulder pads. “If it makes you laugh, you’ll remember,” he said, adding that being childish and playful can help. “Who are the best learners? Children.”
3. Solve your problems in your sleep.
Another counterintuitive brain hack? Get work done while sleeping. Kwik asked the crowd if anyone had set an early alarm and woken up just before it went off. “If you can train your brain to do that,” he asked, “What else can it do while you sleep?”
His suggestion: Pick a problem for your brain before you fall asleep and see if the answer hits you upon waking. Be sure to keep a journal next to your bed. If you do solve a problem in your sleep, you’ll be able to record it immediately. Part of improving your memory, Kwik noted, is practicing dream recall.
4. Squash negative self-talk.
In his book, Kwik recommends strategies like meditation and deep cleansing breaths to mitigate anxiety: Chronic stress can literally make your brain smaller, according to a 2018 study by the American Academy of Neurology. Kwik also advised “stomping” on your ANTs, or Automatic Negative Thoughts–a phrase originally coined in the early ’90s by celebrity doctor and author Daniel Amen. Surrounding yourself with a “positive peer group,” he said, will help your anti-negative attitude stick.