Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
A good memory can serve you well in every arena in life — including your career. And on the flip side, when your memory is poor, it can set you back both in your day-to-day job and your long-term professional goals.
With this in mind, let’s explore the different types of memory commonly used in work settings, how memory problems can derail you, and strategies that can boost your memory for better career outcomes.
Types of Memory Used at Work
The concept of memory is complex as it relates to cognitive function and your ability to both store information in your brain and access that information when you need it. While you may think of memory as a single entity, more than one type of memory is critical in the workplace (and in other settings as well).
Here are five of the key memory types that you commonly use at work:
- Working memory: You need your working memory to learn effectively, as it helps you recall specific details.
- Semantic memory: Also essential for success on the job is semantic memory, which relates to storing facts and general knowledge in your long-term memory.
- Visual-spatial memory: Just as it sounds, visual-spatial memory is important for visualizing memories, which can help you remember where things are located.
- Short-term memory: This temporary data storage in your brain ensures that you can access facts that you need right away, like a client’s name or product preference.
- Long-term memory: Your brain has the capacity for potentially limitless storage of everything from facts to events and processes, which you can reference throughout your career if your long-term memory stays strong.
How a Poor Memory Can Hurt Your Career
Seeing the wide range of functions that your memory supports you in at work, it’s easy to understand how a poor memory can render you ineffective in different parts of your job, which in turn can hurt your career.
These are just a few of the ways that a faltering or faulty memory can set you up for career challenges:
- You’ll have a difficult time learning new things. Whether it’s HR procedures, departmental processes, or even your own role, you won’t be able to stay on top of the details with a poor memory.
- You’ll be less adaptable. To succeed in today’s work environment, you must be adaptable as a professional and able to draw on past successes and failures, which requires a strong memory.
- You’ll be a weak problem-solver. Your memory helps you to be innovative, creative, and figure out solutions; a lackluster memory means you’ll have less ability to solve problems on the job, as well as in your longer-term career.
Ways To Improve Your Memory To Support Your Career
To try to avoid memory problems and potentially boost your memory power so that you’re in the best position to accelerate your career, try these techniques:
- Get enough sleep. It may be hard to believe that something as simple as hitting the sack earlier could improve your memory, but many studies have proven that getting enough sleep is connected to a better ability to remember things. One study from researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that a good night’s sleep (generally seven to eight hours for adults) serves as a catalyst to brain changes that help preserve memory.
- Eat specific memory-enhancing foods, and avoid others. According to Harvard Health, a number of nutritious foods have been linked with better memory, including berries, fatty fish, leafy green vegetables, walnuts, tea, and coffee. It’s also important to steer clear of some foods that have been connected to memory loss, including baked goods and sodas with added sugars, french fries and other fried foods, white bread and pasta, and deli meats, like bacon and salami, which contain nitrates.
- Prioritize exercise. Another basic lifestyle choice that can keep you healthy also has been shown to improve memory: physical activity. Another study revealed that aerobic exercise training, and doing something as simple as walking, increases the size of the hippocampus, and thus, is a memory booster.
- Meditate regularly. Researchers reported in the journal Behavioral Brain Research that committing to a short (13-minute), daily guided meditation practice enhanced not only memory but also attention and mood. The memory benefits kicked in after meditating for eight weeks (and not at four weeks). Meditation can also help with stress relief, which has also been shown to increase memory.
Stay Sharp, Be Successful
What’s key here is to recognize that actions as fundamental as getting proper sleep, eating right, staying active, and de-stressing with a brief daily meditation can significantly improve how well your memory functions. By keeping your memory sharp through these vital intentional habits, you’ll position yourself for long-term career success.