Modern working life often requires you to mentally be on top of your game. Companies like their workers to be sharp and able – that is why cognitive ability tests are becoming an evermore common part of the hiring process. There are many ways to maintain and improve your mental fitness that will benefit you not only in the workplace, but in your private life as well.

To help you cover the basics, we are launching a short series of articles with simple exercises to boost some of the foundational skills that make you a desirable employee: memory, arithmetic, vocabulary, and spatial recognition. Be sure to return in the near future for part 2.

One feature of a healthy brain that is sure to impress is an excellent memory. If you consider yourself the forgetful type, don't fret: there are proven methods to significantly enhance your ability to memorize and recall, and they're fun and easy to implement. They are known as mnemonic devices.

One such mnemonic is the "method of loci", also known as the "memory palace". It dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans; the acclaimed Roman scholar Cicero has been known to use this technique, which is particularly well suited to memorizing large numbers of items, and after more than 2000 years, it is just as effective as ever. So, how does it work?

The Method of Loci

In this mnemonic technique, you imagine walking through any familiar place with distinct locations. On your way, you place each of the items you want to remember in a specific spot.

For example, say you want to memorize your grocery list: The first item on the list is milk, and your imaginary stroll begins in your bedroom. In your mind, put a milk carton on your bedside table, then move to the next room. The weirder the connections, the better. Need to buy carrots? Mentally put a carrot in the toothbrush holder in your bathroom. If cheese is on your list, walk to the kitchen and cover the floor with slices of cheddar, and so forth.

To retrieve the items when you are in the supermarket, you mentally walk through your flat again, and voilà: the kitchen floor is made of cheese, your toothbrush is a carrot, and there's a carton of milk next to your alarm clock.

It's as simple as that.

With techniques like this, memory sports champions are able to memorize more than 500 items in just five minutes! Now you probably won't do quite as well on your first attempt, but if you use the method of loci regularly and make it a habit, you'll soon be able to do away with lists. And who knows? You might even use it at work to impress your boss with a demonstration of seemingly superhuman powers that they certainly won't forget.