I’m in the middle of research for this article when I need to get something from another room. By the time I finish my five-second climb up the stairs, I’ve completely forgotten what it was I wanted and freeze until it hits me that I was grabbing my notebook... and some Mentos. I think.

Memory loss is a natural symptom of aging, but it starts way before the grey hair and dentures — possibly when we’re as young as 20 . Luszcz, M.A., Bryan, J. Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia. Gerontology 1999;45(1):2-9.. Some researchers blame forgetfulness on our tweeting and Googling, suggesting that multitasking and a constant influx of information may be hurting our memory . Clapp, W.C., Rubens, M.T. Sabharwal, J., et al. Department of Neurology, The W M Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011;108(17):7212-7217. . Ophir, E., Nass, C., Wagner, D., A. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009;106(37):15583-15587.. Other parts of our lifestyle, like snooze time and working out also play a key role . Yoo, S.S., Hu, P.T., Gujar, N., et al. Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Nature Neuroscience 2007;10(3):385-92. . Born, J., Rasch, B., Gais, S. Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany. Neuroscientist 2006;12(5):410-24. . Griffin, É.W., Mullally, S., Foley, C., et al. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland. Physiology and Behavior 2011;104(5):934-41. . Radák, Z., Kaneko, T., Tahara, S., et al. Laboratory of Exercise Physiology, School of Sport Sciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary. Neurochemistry International 2001;38(1):17-23.. Fortunately, there are lots of techniques that may help keep our memory sharp — before we start repeating stories that start with, “When I was your age...”

Forget Me Not — The Need-to-Know

How to Remember Everything

We receive an overwhelming amount of information every day, but the brain filters out most of it. The stuff we do notice heads straight to our , which can hold about of information (i.e. a seven-digit phone number) for 20 to 30 seconds. Anything important or impactful (like the way a first love used to laugh) moves to another part of the brain for long-term storage, while the rest gets pushed out to make room for new information coming in. More emotional experiences tend to stick with us, as do activities we repeat often, like dance routines . Dolcos, F., LaBar, K.S., Cabeza, R. Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, Durham, NC. Neuron 2004;42(5):855-63. . Phelps, E.A. Department of Psychology, New York University, New York, NY. Current Opinion in Neurobiology 2004;14(2):198-202.. (Hey, Macarena!)

So why do we always seem to struggle to find those house keys? Aging is a big factor, and some studies suggest that the gradual decline in memory begins . Other research suggests we’re less likely to remember things now that information is 24/7 on the Internet . Sparrow, B., Liu, J., Wegner, D.M. Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York, NY. Science 2011;333(6043):776-8.! And studies from the past several years are the idea that multitasking is efficient or productive. Some researchers believe multitasking actually impairs our short-term memory and hurts our ability to focus on the most important information in our environment . Clapp, W.C., Rubens, M.T. Sabharwal, J., et al. Department of Neurology, The W M Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2011;108(17):7212-7217. . Ophir, E., Nass, C., Wagner, D., A. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 2009;106(37):15583-15587..

No matter what the source of those memory problems, the good news is we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for tips on improving memory.

Remember This! — Your Action Plan

From sleeping more to keeping a calendar, certain lifestyle habits can really boost our ability to remember new information.

Improve General Memory

Get some sleep. Just one night of sleep deprivation can damage our short- and long-term memory, and all-nighters may bring down our ability to retain new information by 40 percent . Alhola, P., Polo-Kantola, P. Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland. Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 2007;3(5):553–567. . Yoo, S.S., Hu, P.T., Gujar, N., et al. Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Nature Neuroscience 2007;10(3):385-92.! That’s because, during sleep, the brain picks out information and strengthens new memories . Yoo, S.S., Hu, P.T., Gujar, N., et al. Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. Nature Neuroscience 2007;10(3):385-92. . Born, J., Rasch, B., Gais, S. Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany. Neuroscientist 2006;12(5):410-24. . Mölle, M., Born, J. Department of Neuroendocrinology, University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany. Progress in Brain Research 2011;193:93-110.. And hey you 20-somethings, check this out: One study found that sleep deprivation has a more negative effect on people in their 20s than on baby boomers . Alhola, P., Polo-Kantola, P. Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland. Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 2007;3(5):553–567. ? Harrison, Y., Horne, J.A., Rothwell, A. Sleep Research Laboratory, Loughborough University, UK. Sleep 2000;23(8):1067-73.. Regardless of age, if those r of sleep seem impossible, a 60-minute nap can also improve memory and recall . Lovato, N., Lack, L. School of Psychology, Flinders University, Australia. Progress in Brain Research 2010;185:155-66. . Alger, S.E., Lau, H., Fishbein, W. Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Sleep, The City College of the City University of New York, New York, NY. Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 2012. [Epub ahead of print]..

Move it. As if there aren’t enough reasons to put on those running shoes, here’s another one: Exercise can improve memory and learning — even if it’s just 30 minutes of daily walking . Griffin, É.W., Mullally, S., Foley, C., et al. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland. Physiology and Behavior 2011;104(5):934-41. . Radák, Z., Kaneko, T., Tahara, S., et al. Laboratory of Exercise Physiology, School of Sport Sciences, Semmelweis University, Budapest, Hungary. Neurochemistry International 2001;38(1):17-23.. Scientists think exercise of the hippocampus, the part of the brain that processes new information and plays a role in long-term memory storage.

Work the mind. Try changing things up by using a or taking a new route to work. Or start using the mind in the ways you’ve been using the phone, like memorizing phone numbers and addresses or writing directions on paper instead of using a GPS. Need a quick pick-me-up? A good old-fashioned cup of coffee just might as well as any brain-training game . Simons, S.B., Caruana, D.A., Zhao, M., et al. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC, USA. Nature Neuroscience 2011;15(1):23-5..

Study Smarter

Study when it counts. , participants who received training in the afternoon performed better on tests than those who were trained in the morning . Barbosa, F.F., Albuquerque, F.S. Departamento de Fisiologia, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, RN, Brasil. Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research 2008; 41(6):477-81.. Reviewing what you’ve learned before bed and right after waking up can also , but ages ago.

Space out. Multiple studies have found that a memory technique called “ can increase retention by up to 50 percent. Basically, spaced repetition involves breaking info into smaller units and reviewing them consistently over the course of a few months . Kerfoot, B.P., Fu, Y., Baker, H., et al. Surgical Service, Urology, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, Jamaica Plain, MA. Journal of the American College of Surgeons 2010;211(3):331-337.. It can also help to on new information instead of just passively reviewing it.

Tell a story. The crazier the story, the more likely we are to remember it! Try this technique with the shopping list: If the first word is “apples,” picture an apple pie on the table and use other words on the list to tell a tale about what happened on the trip to the grocery store.

Remember Random Things

Know what’s in a name. Keep repeating a new name in your head or use it in conversation as much as you can. (“That’s a great idea, Sam!”) Or tie the person’s name to something unique about them, like “Dan the Digital Ninja.”

Save the date. Plan ahead with Google Calendar reminders and Post-It notes. Bonus points for memorizing the date without help: Try the mnemonic method and create a story by using the numbers in the date. (For instance, for the date 10/29: Mark was born on a cloudy October day and his mother was in labor for 29 hours.)

Systemize it. and develop habits, like leaving keys in the same place every day. Run through a checklist of all essentials before leaving the house. (Phone? Check. Wallet? Keys?)

Have you had trouble keeping track of things lately? What are some techniques that help you remember?