11. Remembering information and messages

I'm always forgetting things people say to me. How can I remember these things?

The secret to accurately remembering messages and information is writing them down. If you use the same procedure every time it will, after a short while, become second nature.

You may be asked to pass on a message to someone else or you may have to remember some information yourself from a conversation. Here are a few suggestions to help you remember information in different situations.


A. How can I remember messages I have been given on the telephone?

Taking telephone messages

Have a notebook or pad by the telephone. When taking a telephone message you need to record:

  • who the message is for
  • who the message is from
  • what time they called
  • what day they called
  • the message.

This might include any action that needs to happen. For example, "will call back" or "call before 6pm."

Helpful hints

There are telephone notebooks, which have this information printed on them and you fill out the blanks. They are available from larger news agents or stationery suppliers. Once you have taken the message it is important the person who the message is for receives it. Some people have a system where messages are left by the telephone. Another system is to have all telephone messages pinned to a notice board hung above your telephone or held onto your whiteboard with a magnet. If you answer the telephone and the message is for you, you can record the information or message straight into your diary.

Person taking telephone message







B. How can I act on a telephone message I have received?

When you receive a telephone message that someone has taken for you, you need to follow what the message says to do. The message may ask you to call the person back, or provide you with an instruction. For example, attend an appointment.

You may need to record this information in your diary or write it on a whiteboard or calendar. Somewhere where you can see it.

When you have returned the call or completed the message you need to tick the message so you know you have acted upon that message. You can write it in your diary that you have completed the message.


How can I remember information from conversations?

It is difficult to remember what is said in different situations and different conversations. This may be because:

  • too much information is being given at once
  • there are distractions going on around you
  • you find it difficult to remember information after some time.
Strategies for action

One way to remember what has been said in conversations or if you have been given instructions is to write them down.

It is handy to have a pocket-sized notebook and pen with you at all times. You can then write down in as much detail as required important points to help you recall the conversation and/or instructions.

This may seem weird at first. Some people say they can recall information in enough detail after the conversation. Others feel they need to take notes during the conversation so they can recall the information accurately. It is important to try and find whatever way works for you!

You may have to become comfortable in asking people to repeat themselves or ask them to pause while you take notes. Although this may be difficult to ask at first- it is easier to get it right in the first place than have to correct a mistake. You don't have to write everything down, just the main points.

Danny's experience

Danny had bad memory problems as a result of his brain injury. When he was provided with an opportunity to return to work he had to become confident in some strategies to help him remember information he was given at work. Danny asked questions to find out what his employer wanted him to do, how it was to be done and when it needed to be done by.

Examples of questions he asked were: • What area do you want me to be working in? • What is the process I go through to mail interstate orders? • Can you repeat that again for me? • Can I take a photo to show me how that end product should look?

Danny with the assistance of his employer compiled a checklist for new processes. He wrote down what he needed to do and took some pictures to show what the end product should look like. He attached the photos to the written instructions and hung them in the correct spot at his work station. He then knew what he had to do at different times, and didn't have to keep asking people for the same information. Danny felt confident asking for assistance if he was unsure of what he was meant to do.


How can I remember information when there is a lot of it?

Situations when you may be provided with a lot of information are numerous. Situations range from sitting in a lecture or classroom when studying to participating in a planning meeting with the rehabilitation team at the hospital.

Sometimes after you have had a brain injury it is difficult to remember what issues were talked about, what decisions were made and how they were made. Not being able to recall this information can make you feel confused and angry because what you remembered having happened may not be accurate. The following strategies can help you accurately remember information when there is a lot of it.

Strategies for action

In some situations you can ask another person to take notes for you. This allows you to concentrate on what information is being discussed without having to concentrate on writing points down. After the situation has finished you can then take the notes from the other person and use these to jog your memory. You can add to these notes and then write them up neatly: If you file these notes you can then refer to them if you need to at a later date.

Sometimes it is not possible for another person to take notes for you. You can take notes yourself or you can use the strategies when you take notes from conversations. If this is difficult and you find you can't keep up there are two other options.

Option 1 is to audiotape the information. Option 2 is to video tape the information. Before you use either of these techniques you have to get the permission of the person who is speaking or the persons involved in the meeting. You need to do this before the meeting or lecture starts. You will need to explain why you want to audiotape or video tape the session.

A letter from your Rehabilitation Specialist can help you to gain approval to do this. They can write a letter saying how having a video or audiotape of the information presented can enable you to review this information at your own pace, more than one time and enable you to understand it better.

Some people who attend study or receive instructions for the day's work, say a tape or video recorder enables them to accurately recall information and instructions. It helps them to sit and review information given to them and take notes at their own pace.

Once you have the audiotape you can make your own notes and develop a checklist of information or instructions for future reference. This enables you to tick or cross each completed item off the list. If it is information for study or work, you can stop the tape and take notes, check you've got the information written down correctly and then move on.

A video recording allows you to remember exactly what happened in a conversation. You can then play back, to see and hear what the conversation was all about. If you need to take notes, you can stop the video and take these also. You can keep these videos and audiotapes for later review.

Helpful hints

It is important to use a new tape or video for each session. Each used tape should be labeled with the date, those who were present and the purpose of the conversation.

Danny's experience

Prior to going home from hospital, Danny and his family attended a family conference. At the family conference Danny wrote down everyone who was there and what their positions were. He recorded "Jane (physiotherapist), Sue (occupational therapist), Alf (speech pathologist), Eric (social worker) and Dr Geoff (rehabilitation specialist), Jill (sister), Sally (niece) and me. Family Meeting 12th September, 1999".

Danny would get upset if he couldn't remember what was said and he didn't like having to ask people to repeat themselves so he asked if the family meeting could be videoed. Danny would refer to the video to remind him of what happened and why: Danny felt this was useful as he was more independent and wasn't relying upon others for the information. Danny also used it as a way to see the progress he made.

Who can I contact for more inforamtion?

  • At the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit you can contact the:
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Neuropsychologist