Have you ever tried to listen to a conversation and think of something else at the same time? You probably have, because everyone does so at times. You will later find that you will be neither able to recall most of what you heard, or what you had been thinking about. What was missing was concentration.
Mental concentration is a great extension to memory, and so it will help you to remember something if you concentrate on it while it is actually happening. It may require a bit of self-discipline at first, especially if you have developed a bad habit of allowing your thoughts to wander.
Perhaps the best time to practice concentration is while reading. It sounds strange to say it, but it is rather common to find people following the printed page with their eyes and be thinking about something else at the same time. And these same people will wonder what is the matter with them because they have difficulty in remembering what they have read.
As an exercise, take a book which is a bit heavy to read. Read a chapter and then lay it down, then try to remember what you have read. If the chapters are long, take a page at a time, trying to remember everything you have read after finishing each page. After a week or two of this, you will be amazed to find how much more you will be able to get out of your reading.
When listening to a speech, think about what you are hearing. At the conclusion of the talk try to recall all you have heard. You can do this same thing while conversing with others. At the conclusion of the conversation or speech, see how much you can recall about what was said.
All such exercises will improve your powers of concentration. In other words, you will become concentration-conscious, and will in time find yourself automatically focusing your thoughts on one thing at a time.
Do you remember faces but not names? You will be in the minority if you say “no”. Do you know why you remember faces longer than you do names? It is quite simple. When introduced, the name is seldom pronounced clearly, and only takes up a second or two while, on the other hand, you are looking at the face for the entire length of the conversation.
It is quite easy to remember names as well as faces if you make a special effort to do so. When being introduced to someone, speak the name of the person, such as “I am happy to meet you, Mr. Thornapple.” If the name is an unusual one, comment on it, “That is an unusual name, Mr. Thornapple. Do you spell it just like it sounds?” Every time you ask the person a question, add the name, and each time you do so, you are fixing the name in your mind.
You can further reinforce this by asking for a card, so that you will be seeing the name as well, thereby taking advantage of the visual as well as the oral means of recall. Writing the name a few times will also serve to fix it in your mind.
In short, if you concentrate on the things you want to remember your mind will do the rest.