Techniques to Improve Your Memory (Ultimate Guide!)
Put quite simply, the better your memory is the easier you will find it to learn and understand things. In turn, this will make it easier to achieve the goals you set for yourself and to live the life you want to live.
With a good memory, you will have access to much more information than a person with a poor memory, and so will be able to use that information to enrich your everyday life with.
This “enrichment” will come in the form of new perspectives and possibilities that become evident to you as a result of what you know.
This knowledge could mean the difference between being poor or getting rich, or being successful or unsuccessful. Because what you know in life not only shapes the type of life that you currently live, but it also shapes the type of life that you can live.
12 Easy Ways to Improve Your Memory
Below you will find 12 easy ways to improve your memory by using some basic memorization techniques and knowledge about how the brain works.
1) Relate to What You Already Know
One of the best things that you can do to improve your memory, is simply to understand what you are trying to remember by relating it to what you already know.
For example, if you meet someone and his name is Bozar, then instead of trying to remember that name by repeating it over and over again, you could think of something to relate it to.
If your dog is named Bozar, then it will be easy for you to remember that name because it’s already familiar to you. If you can’t think of something exactly the same, think of something else that is related in some way.
2) Be Interested
The more interested that you are in something, the more you will enjoy doing it and the easier it will be for you to remember it. The reverse of this is also true. The less interest you have in something, the more difficult it will be for you to remember it.
Therefore, in order to improve your memory, try to become interested in whatever it is that you are trying to memorize.
Some things you will be naturally interested in, and others you won’t. For the latter, try to think of a reason why it would be beneficial to learn something even though you may find it difficult or boring to do.
A reason that I like to use which sparks my interest in just about anything, is that new information and experiences are good for the health of the brain, especially the things that are difficult or hard to do.
3) Think Deeply
You will usually find that the things you remember well are the things you think deeply about. So if you come across some information and just skim over it without really thinking about it, then chances are you won’t remember it for very long.
So use your brain and really think about what it is that you are trying to remember, because the more you do, the better your memory will be. A good way to think about something more deeply is to ask yourself questions about it and then answer them.
4) Desire to Remember For a Long Time
There are two main types of memory. Things that you remember in the short-term, and things that you remember in the long-term. But did you know that how long you want to remember something for can actually affect how long you do remember it for?
For example, if you are learning something but just want to learn it for an exam, then you are likely to remember it for your exams and then forget it soon afterwards.
However, if you intend to remember something for a long time, then you are likely to do so because the brain will see that information as important and hold onto it.
Since we receive so much information throughout the day, and throughout our lives, the brain tends to grade information by its importance.
So the more important that something is to you, the longer you are likely to remember it. The less important that something is to you, the quicker you are likely to forget it.
5) Create Associations
This memory technique involves associating something with something else.
For example, if you want to remember to do something in the morning but don’t have a pen and paper to write yourself a note, you could leave something on the bedroom floor and associate it with the thing that you want to remember.
When you trip over or pick up that object in the morning, you will automatically remember why you put it there and the mental note that you made the previous night.
You can do this with any type of object, and sometimes, this will happen to you by accident where you forget to do something but then suddenly remember it upon seeing something.
6) Memorize Sequences
A,B,C,D,E,F,G… it’s easy to remember the alphabet, because one letter leads to another. It’s a sequence of letters that you took the time to memorize as a child.
Sequences are easiest to remember when they make logical sense, such as 1,2,3,4,5,6, which is why saying the alphabet is easy because you are always reciting the next letter from start to finish.
7) Avoid Sugar
Eating sugary food or drinking sugary drinks is bad news for your memory. This is because sugar inhibits memory forming enzymes, and so as a result, you end up remembering less of what you were trying to learn.
So to improve your memory, avoid all sources of sugar during lectures, revision sessions or whenever you are trying to remember something of importance.
Sugar can also come in the form of white flour, so avoid simple carbohydrates such as cakes and sweets too.
8) Create a Strong Impression
The stronger an impression that something makes on you, the easier it will be for you to remember it. Some things will naturally make a strong impression, whilst other things won’t.
A strong impression is just something that stimulates your brain a lot. Therefore, the more you stimulate your brain, the more easily you will remember something and the better your memory will be.
You can stimulate your brain by using as many different senses as possible. For example, thinking about something in your head, speaking it out loud, looking at something, acting it out and writing it down, will provide you with the maximum brain stimulation and make remembering it easy.
9) Don’t Confuse Memories
This is a memory tip for students or anyone who has lots of things to remember. Your memory works best when you give your brain time to absorb the information which you have just learned.
For example, if you are studying maths for an hour, then you would remember what you have just learned best if the next subject that you studied was something completely different to maths.
Studying similar subjects one after the other actually inhibits your memory, and results in you remembering less because the brain needs time for the new information to “sink in”.
So avoid doing similar things after each other, and you will improve your memory for the all the subjects that you have studied.
10) Review Multiple Times
The best way to remember something is to learn it once, review it the next day, review it in a weeks time and then review it again in a month.
This constant exposure will ensure that you remember something in great detail, and will also make future recall of that information much easier and more resistant to forgetting.
11) Sleep on It
If you really need to remember something in great detail, such as for an exam, learn the material during the day but quickly review it at night before bed.
During sleep, the brain will process that information, resulting in you remembering and understanding it better the following day.
12) Stay in the Same Location
Studies have shown that recall of information is best when it’s recalled in the location that it was learned. So if it’s possible for you to do so, try to use the information that you are remembering in the location that it will be used.
This principle can be further applied to familiar objects, such as stationary or an item of clothing.
If you can learn your material with those objects, and then have those objects with you during recall, such as during an exam, they will help to create a familiar environment for you, even if you are in an unfamiliar place, thereby assisting memory recall.
Harnessing the Magic of Mnemonics
Mnemonics are a type of memory technique that have been used since ancient times as a means of making information easier to remember.
They work on the basis of one simple principle; associating what you are trying to remember with what you already know by using words, images or feelings.
If you want to use mnemonics to improve your memory, there are nine main ways in which you can do this as described below. Try to use as many of these techniques as possible for maximum effect.
1) Use Color
The more colors that you can use, and the more vivid those colors are, the better you will be able to remember something.
So if you are picturing something in your head, try to add as much color to it as you can and you should find recalling it becomes a lot easier later on.
2) Use Your Imagination
Your imagination is one of the most powerful memory tools that you have at your disposal, and the more detail that you can imagine something in the better your memory will be of it.
You can use imagination in several different ways to improve your memory, some of these include:
This involves making your mental images as large as possible.
This involves making your mental images as small as possible.
This involves making your mental images appear strange, unusual, ridiculous or funny.
The more absurd that you can make something, the better your memory will be of it. This is because the brain tends to pay attention to and remember things which are unusual more so than things which are ordinary.
3) Use Rhymes
Rhymes can be an excellent way to improve your memory because they are familiar to you, and when you repeat them you use your auditory sense.
This is important because the more senses that you use when trying to remember something, the better your memory will be of it.
Note: You can use a song that is familiar to you rather than a rhyme. Just sing back whatever it is that you are trying to remember in the style of the song.
4) Use Movement
When you create mental images in your mind, try to get them moving because moving images tend to be better remembered than still images.
5) Use Your Senses
As stated earlier, the more senses that you can use the better you will be able to remember something. The reason for this is because by using different senses you are using more of your brain, which then makes a stronger impression on you.
The different senses that you can use to improve your memory are:
So for example, if you are going shopping and you need to remember to buy some apples, you could think about the color green, how an apple feels, its weight and how an apple tastes when you bite into it.
6) Be Sexy
Sex is one of the strongest human desires, and one that can easily be used to create mental images in your mind. If you can associate what you are trying to learn with sex, your ability to remember it will substantially improve.
7) Put Things in Sequence & Order
Whilst having a good imagination is critical to having a good memory, it’s not enough by itself.
The brain also needs things to be placed in a logical order or sequence. One way that you can do this is to categorize things into groups, or mentally arrange them so that one object sits in front of another or on top of another.
8) Use Numbers
Numbers can be used as another method of ordering what you are trying to learn. For example, some people like to create a mental shopping list, where each item is numbered and appears in a sequential order.
Numbers can also be incorporated into a song or rhyme.
9) See in 3D
Try to see things in 3D to form a stronger impression of whatever it is that you are trying to remember. This can be done by spinning an object around in your head and then viewing it from different angles.
10) Memorize Key Words
Regardless of the type of memory system that you use, you should always have a key word that will help to remind you of the rest of the information you have learned.
This word should be an image word, which means that it should create an image in your mind. This is important because the brain thinks best in images and not in words.
You can associate information with your image word by using any of the following methods:
• Crashing things together
• Sticking things together
• Placing things on top of each other
• Placing things underneath each other
• Placing things inside each other
• Substituting things for each other
• Placing things in new situations
However you choose to make your association with your key word, try to make it as simple and uncomplicated as you can as this will make it easier to recall later on.
Memorizing What You Read & Hear
One of the major benefits that can come from improving your memory, is the ability to remember more of what you read and what you hear.
This will obviously benefit virtually every aspect of your life, because reading and listening are the two main ways in which we acquire information from the outside world.
So if you want to learn how to do this more effectively, have a look at the following tips and advice provided below:
Whenever you set out to read a book, an article or a document, try to make a guess from the title what it’s about. By guessing you actually prepare your brain for what you are about to read, almost like how an athlete warms themselves up before a big event.
The next step is to quickly skim over the rest of the text, paying particular attention to the subheadings. This entire process should take you no more than one or two minutes.
Once you have a general idea as to what the text is about, take a quick break of five or ten minutes. This break is essential because it allows your brain to process what you have just reviewed.
When you return to the text you will have a basic idea of what you are going to be reading about, and your brain will also be in a state that is prepared and ready to remember it.
Most of the time, the reason why you are reading a particular text is because you want to get certain information out of it.
For example, you may have a set of questions that you need to answer, or you may just want the general gist of a text without going into too much detail.
It is very important that you have these reading goals in mind, because they will help to direct your brain to pay attention to the information which is relevant to your needs.
This helps to improve your memory, because the brain tends to remember the information which it sees as being the most important. So whenever possible, get into the habit of spending a few seconds before you start reading something to think about why you are reading it.
Think of Someone Else
An excellent way to improve your memory when reading or listening, is to think about how you would explain the subject material to someone else.
For example, while you are listening to a speech that someone is giving, think about what you would say if your friend asked you what that speech was about.
This type of active thinking forces you to pay close attention to the speaker, and improves memory because you are summarizing large amounts of information into smaller and more manageable chunks.
To improve your memory even further, tell someone about what you have just read or heard. This can be beneficial because teaching other people is one of the best ways to learn and remember new information.
Relate to What You Already Know
The reason why people find certain types of information difficult to remember, is because they have no previous knowledge of that subject matter.
So when they try to remember it, the brain has nothing to relate it to which then makes the information seem alien to them.
Having a good memory involves having the ability to relate new information to things that you already know. This is because your memory works in a similar fashion to how a spider diagram works, where each new idea links from or links to something else.
The more you can link what you are learning to what you already know, the easier it will be to remember and the better your memory will be of it overall.
Mentally Recall & Review
To help you remember more of what you learn, try to recall it in your head when you have some free time.
For example, when you are walking back from a lecture, try to think about the main points that have been discussed. Or, if you are revising at home, think about the main points in your head when you go to bed at night.
The more clearly that you can recall information in your head, the better you will be able to memorize it and remember it later on.
The more things that your brain has to process, the less processing power it can devote to any one task.
In other words, the more distractions that you have around you, the harder it will be to focus on what you are reading/listening to and so the harder it will be to remember.
So to improve your memory, try to avoid being around anything which could distract you such as a TV, music or other people, when you are trying to learn something.
Depending on the type of text you read, you are bound to feel certain types of emotions. Perhaps you feel happy, anxious or sad?
Whatever it is that you feel, pay attention to those feelings, because another way the brain remembers things is by the strength of emotional content.
This is why people tend to have vivid memories of times in their life when they were feeling very happy or very sad, because strong emotions automatically create strong memories.
Speak it Out Loud
A digital voice recorder can be a very useful device for improving one’s memory. The reason for this is two-fold:
First, speaking something out loud uses more brain power than just thinking about it in your head, and as we have already discussed, the more that you can involve your brain when learning something the better you are likely to learn it.
Second, recording important facts or figures allows you to easily review that information at a later date. This could even be done while you are doing something else, such as cleaning the house or walking to work.
Another way that the brain remembers information, is by how often it is exposed to something. As the more often the brain comes across a piece of information, the deeper and longer lasting your memory will be of it.
Ideally, you should read something once, review it the next day, then in a weeks time, a months time and finally in three months time.
This amount of exposure will produce remarkable recall results and dramatically improve your memory of the information that you have learned.
However, it is important to remember that you don’t need to fully re-read the material each time, as you only need to review the key points.
One of the best ways to do this is by taking notes the first time you read something, or by speaking notes to yourself in a digital voice recorder. Those notes could then be what you use for your reviews.
An alternative technique involves highlighting important chunks of text as you read, and then reviewing only those sections when you re-read the material again.
If you find that you have forgotten something which you had not already highlighted, highlight it in a different color if it’s important to include it in your review.
How to Remember Names
One of the most common reasons why people become interested in improving their memory, is so that they will be better able to remember names and faces. This, after all, can be quite difficult to do, especially if you know a lot of people.
In the olden days, remembering names used to be much less of a problem, because before the invention of modern-day technology people had smaller social circles than they do today.
Furthermore, people used to be named after their profession. So, if you were a baker, then you were called Mr. Baker. If you were a mason, you were called Mr. Mason. And if you were a blacksmith, you were called Mr. Blacksmith.
As generations passed, the family name became more and more removed from its original meaning, which then meant that people had to memorize different names and faces for an increasingly large number of people.
So if you find remembering names difficult, don’t worry! It can happen to anyone. Fortunately, there are some simple techniques that you can use to make the process of remembering a person’s name much easier, as we shall now discuss below:
Whenever you are going to be in a situation that will involve meeting new people, it is very important that you enter that situation with positive expectations. There is little use in trying to remember someone’s name if you start out with an expectation of failure.
Some people for example, will tell a person who they have just met that they will probably forget their name later. This attitude will not help you to remember names, so avoid it at all costs.
Looking at a face closely allows you to associate a face with a name. So if you want to remember someone’s name, it helps to spend a few seconds scanning over their face.
To scan a face, start from the top of the face and work your way down to the bottom. As you do this, look for any special facial characteristics that person has.
By identifying the unique characteristics of a face, you will find it easier to associate it with a name and then recall that name at a later date when you see the face again.
Listen carefully when a person tells you their name. This may sound like an obvious suggestion, but you would be surprised at the number of people who seem distracted or lost in thought when a person tells them their name. Later, they then wonder why couldn’t remember it!
So really concentrate on the name that you hear, as this will improve your memory of it.
Repetition is a very effective memory aid, as it helps to solidify new information into the brain. So if someone tells you their name, repeat it back to them with a slight upward inflection as if you were asking them a question.
This will also help to ensure that you are pronouncing their name correctly, which can be helpful when trying to remember foreign names. If you have difficulties with the pronunciation, ask how the name is spelled.
To further assist future recall of a name, ask the person what their name means or if there is any history behind it. Some people may not know this, but if you find someone who does know the meaning of their name, they will be more than happy to tell you which will then make remembering their name that much easier.
Finally, you can use the repetition of a person’s name during a conversation and when the conversation has ended.
Try to do this, because the more times that you are able to use a person’s name the first time you speak with them, the easier remembering their name will become.
Another very effective method for developing a good memory for names, is by reviewing what you have learned. This can be done in three ways as detailed below:
Mentally review the people who you have met throughout the day, and try to place a name to each of their faces.
If you are ever at a party or an event where photographs have been taken, review those photos and try to remember people’s names.
3) Memory diary
Some people like to keep a memory diary where they note down important information that they would like to remember.
You don’t have to keep a complete diary, but it may help you to better remember things if you make a note of the characteristics a person has when you store information about them. For example, in your personal organizer or in your address book.
If you are always in a rush and unable to slow down, you are likely to find it very difficult to remember names because you are not giving your full attention to the process.
So try to slow down when meeting someone for the first time, and make sure that you spend enough time with them so that you can know at least one piece of information about them.
Use the following steps to help improve your memory of names using mnemonics:
• Get a clear mental image of the person’s name.
• Mentally hear that name in your head.
• Closely examine the face of the person who you are looking at.
• Look for facial characteristics which are unique or unusual.
• Make a mental caricature of that face in your head. Exaggerate their unique or unusual characteristics, and make your mental image as vivid as possible.
• Try to somehow associate your caricature with the mental image name that you have just created. Could their name be linked to any part of their face?
For example, does Edward have bushy eyebrows? Does Lisa have luscious lips? Use your imagination and try to come up with something fun that you will easily remember.
How to Remember Your Speech
One of the most important concepts to remember when it comes to the memorization of speeches, is that not every word has to be memorized exactly.
Rather, it is more important that you have a general idea of what you will be talking about, and that you have done enough research beforehand to be able to elaborate on key points or topics.
Once you begin to approach speech writing in this manner, you will find that you become more relaxed and so will perform better because you are less stressed.
People who try to memorize their speech word for word do not appear relaxed when they are speaking. Instead, they look like they are trying hard not to forget what they have been committing to memory the past week or so.
As a result, the speaker doesn’t look at the audience very often and will rigidly recall word after word without any real meaning or conviction.
The key therefore, to giving a good speech, is not to try to remember every word that you want to say, but only to remember the main concepts or key words that you want to discuss.
This will make your speech appear much more natural, fluent and professional. So let’s now have a look at some of the ways in which this can be done.
Do the Research
Start by researching the general topic of your speech. This should include gathering ideas, evidence to back up your claims and any relevant quotations, references, stories or jokes that you would like to use.
The more information you can gather during this stage, the better you will be able to recall your speech later on.
This is partly because by doing research you will educate yourself more about the subject matter in question, which in turn, will then lead to greater levels of confidence when you actually make your speech.
If you do happen to forget something, you will also be able to improvise on the spot because you will know your subject well.
Create a Plan
Having a good memory depends on sequencing or structuring what you have learned.
So after you have completed your research, it is very important that you take the time to create a plan which brings together all the ideas and material that you have come up with so far.
Some people prefer doing this by using a list based system, whilst others prefer to use mind maps. Whatever system you use doesn’t matter, as long as you are comfortable with it and it makes sense to you.
One thing that you should try to incorporate into your plan however, are pictures relevant to each key theme or idea you will be talking about.
This is because the brain tends to think in pictures, so if you can associate a picture with a certain key word then you will find it much easier to recall later on.
Some people respond better to how a word sounds. So if you find that rhymes or word similarities assists your ability to recall information, then use sounds instead of pictures.
Create a list of the main keywords/topic titles that you are going to talk about, and then write them down in the order that you plan on bringing them up during your presentation.
You can have this list written down on a piece of paper, or memorize it. The purpose of this list is to have something to refer to and to use as a framework to ensure that your speech has some structure to it. The list will also serve as a convenient memory aid.
Try to keep your list as brief as possible, made up only of keywords or pictures. Avoid the use of long sentences, because these will take longer to read/recall and will provide less room for improvisation and spontaneity.
Make a First Attempt
Now that you have created a rough outline of your speech, it’s time to practice. This can be done in two ways: either in your head or out loud.
It is recommended that you do both, but focus more of your efforts on speaking your speech out loud because this is how you will be presenting it.
The first time that you run through your speech, there are likely to be times when you are lost for words and need to refer back to your plan/notes. This is perfectly normal, and something which will occur to anyone who is presenting their speech for the first time.
However, when you do look at your plan, try to use the main keywords or topic titles you created to jog your memory, rather than just reading what you have written word for word. Your aim should be to recite as much of your speech as you can on your own, and refer to your plan only when you get stuck.
Once you have finished your first run, you will have a much clearer idea as to the structure of your speech. What usually happens next, is that you will come up with many new ideas to talk about, and may even modify your original plan somewhat.
So it is always good practice to review your plan in its entirety after your first attempt at speaking your speech out loud.
Practice Makes Perfect
Keep practicing your speech over and over again. The more you do so, the better your memory will be of it later on. Each time you practice, try to rely less and less on your physical notes and use your mental notes instead.
If you find that you are having trouble with the mental recall of your key topics, then it is likely that you have not committed them to memory properly.
In this case, go back to your main topics and come up with new ways to make the images or sounds that you associated with them more vivid. Can you make them more colorful? More unusual? Larger? Smaller? Funny? Strange?
Really focus on remembering your key words and the order in which you want them to appear, because providing you know your subject well, each of your key words will automatically jog your memory of more numerous and detailed information.
Reviewed – 23rd March 2016