Memory and Multitasking

How good's your short-term memory? Particularly when you're juggling several thoughts at once?

Mine's pretty good - if you saw my recent post Things You Can't Teach, you can add 'excellent memory' to the list of attributes associated with both Cancer and the Year of the Pig.

But how do I keep my memory at its best, and how does that help with copywriting?

Remember to Remember

It's easy to forget to use your memory these days.

Birthdays? There's an app for that. Note-taking? There's an app for that. Or a program. Or a Post-it note. Whatever, there are millions of high-tech and low-tech ways to remind yourself of things.

And there's nothing wrong with that. It takes repetition to cement information into your long-term memory, so there's no reason not to make a note of something the first time you hear it.

With short-term memory, though, you need to keep using it to keep it at its best. I'm not advocating those "tell yourself a story" methods of remembering things - they've never worked for me.

My method is simple - repeat the information once or twice in my main internal voice, and then keep that playing on a loop at the back of my mind while I deal with something else.

To retrieve the information, just bring that voice back to the fore and listen to what it says. It's like a mental dictaphone, and it works. For me, anyway.

An Example...

My bank recently sent out those plastic key fobs that generate a unique code when you want to log in to your account.

You get a few minutes' grace to use the code, so I generate mine first, before beginning the login process, and memorise it.

I then have to remember my internet banking ID - a ten-digit random number - and a further password (I use a randomly generated sequence of letters, numbers and punctuation, for better security).

Once those are entered in, I can type in the login code from my key fob. As yet, I haven't failed to remember it, without having to look back at the display.

It's not the most challenging of tasks, but keeping the login code in my mind while reciting the other sequences of numbers and letters exercises my memory and, in particular, my ability to store one piece of information while recalling another.

Memory and Copywriting

If that all sounds a little robotic, then remember that the following elements all contribute to a single piece of online copy:

  • grammar and spelling

  • optimum word count

  • ideal sentence and paragraph length

  • tone of voice

  • inclusion of SEO keywords and phrases

  • working around illustrations

  • structural elements - subheaders, bullet lists, block quotes
There are plenty of other issues to balance - offsetting short-tail and long-tail keywords on the same page, positioning calls to action, and so on.

The point is, a strong short-term memory gives me a place to store all of this structural detail, so I have a mental framework into which I can place my text as I compose it.

While this is not 100% of the process, it generally means my content is logically structured, with clear progression, a good balance of different topics (within the same general theme, as appropriate) and a great deal of clarity.

And yes, I am a man - but I can multitask. Honest.