None of us are getting any younger, mostly because time moves only forward. It’s pesky that way. And, as such, what was once tack-sharp memory slowly but surely dulls as the years march onward.
Thankfully, we’ve got technology on our side. A nearly endless parade of tools can not only help us remember things, but even get our brains working a bit more efficiently in general. Here are some free apps to help you ramp up your recall.
1. Put reminders at the ready
Sometimes the best apps are the ones you already have. Both Android and Apple devices feature quick ways to set reminders for yourself, whether that means leveraging Siri, Google Assistant, or some other AI-powered helper. And while time-based reminders works well for most, try leveraging location-based reminders to make your to-do list work better in the real world. If you’re signed into Google, it’s as easy as typing “Remind me to buy dog food the next time I’m at Whole Foods” into the Google search bar, whereas iPhone owners can use Apple’s built-in Reminders app to set location-based entries by tapping the Info icon to the right of your reminder (see the “Set a place” entry in this Apple help article for more).
2. Train your brain
Now if you’re actually looking to improve your memory, there’s no shortage of brain-training apps on the market. But Peak (Android, Apple) wins points for being equal parts charming, feature-rich, and insightful—with dozens of games designed to improve your recall and mental agility. The free version offers a decent selection to get you started, while the paid version ($5 a month or $35 a year) offers a more personalized experience and access to the complete collection of challenges.
3. Put faces with those names
If you’re like me, you have a phone half-full of contacts that you couldn’t identify in real life if your real life depended on it. Get your contacts under control by trying Covve (Android, Apple, Web). It scans for news articles about your contacts, reminds you to keep in touch with them, And lets you take notes about meetings you’ve had with them. But it also pulls in profile photos of them, which is exceedingly helpful for jogging your memory when it comes to those “Who the hell is this person?” moments as you’re flipping through your virtual Rolodex. The free version is refreshingly powerful, while the paid version ($15 a month or $90 a year) scans more deeply and continuously for changes, among other features.
4. Jot it down the old-fashioned way
There’s just something about actually writing things down in your own chicken-scratch to help you remember them better. And wouldn’t you know it: your phone’s about the width of a traditional sticky note. Ergo, you should use your phone to hand-write notes to yourself from time to time. Two simple, straightforward options are Squid (Android) and PocketJot (Apple)—apps that get right to the point when you fire them up, offering you a blank canvas upon which to memorialize your musings. Both are free for basic note-taking; the paid version of Squid ($1 a month or $10 a year) gets you the ability to mark up PDFs and a few other features, while the paid version of PocketJot ($6 one time) lets you save unlimited notes.
5. Get reminded to not forget
If you use Google’s Chrome browser and find yourself needing to retain various bits of information from around the web, then be sure to give the free Hibou (Chrome Web Store) extension a try. Hibou leverages the concept of “spaced repetition” to re-surface content you highlight right when you’re most likely to forget it—at first, within a few days, then spacing the reminders further and further apart from when you initially highlight and save the content. The intervals are customizable, allowing you to tweak your review times to best suit your retention style.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget your phone!
Just a PSA that your apps are no good if you can’t find your phone> Both Android (Find My Device) and Apple (Find My iPhone) have straightforward phone-finding services that let you track down your wandering handset by location and audible tone, and even letting you lock it or wipe its data if it falls into the wrong hands.