Have you ever wondered why it sometimes seems so bloody hard to remember things, especially the things you really need to remember?


It can be so frustrating when you’re trying to learn a new skill or remember a presentation or a pitch and, if you’re anything like, me, once you’ve stopped the learning process, the stuff you need to remember, you can almost ‘feel’ slipping away!

My business partner is the oppposite – he remembers everything and, seemingly, forgets nothing. On the one hand this skill is fantastic to watch in action but on the other, if you’re going to challenge him, you’d better have your facts straight. He would have made a great Barrister.

Joking aside, forgetting stuff that’s important to you can be a pain in the arse so I decided to do a little digging around to see if there was anything I should be worried about or I was no more than Mr Average in the memory department.

Who should come to my rescue but the famous and, now rather deceased, Hermann Ebbinghaus.

Mr Ebbinghaus, better remembered by his friends as, erm, hang-on… no, sorry, it’s gone.

Mr Ebbinghaus published a book in 1855 called ‘Über das Gedächtnis’. Translated into English this is: Memory: A Contribution to Experimental Psychology. Apparently, this landmark book has been referred to by probably every book written on the subject since, so Hermann clearly knew his onions.

His research uncovered three main discoveries;

1) Decay from memory, or ‘the forgetting curve’, which charts the percentage of stuff you forget over time.

2) Space practice; which suggests reinforcing what you’ve learned after 15-20 minutes (I’m not sure what schools think of this).

3) Primacy & recency which, in plain language, means you’re more likely to remember the things at the beginning and end of a list.

So, thanks Hermann, it’s helpful knowing this stuff, particularly the Forgetting Curve  so, from now on when I’m making a list I will put all the really important things at the beginning and the end with only the things I don’t really need to do in the middle.