Memory Tricks & Tips
Most people underestimate how well they can memorize and learn new facts and information. They often give up easily without much effort. You can be different. With just a little effort, and with using some tricks, you can indeed improve your memory and impress everyone.
TEN TRICKS TO IMPROVE YOUR MEMORY
- Pay attention. There is no substitute for fully focusing on information we are presented in order to remember it later. The more we focus and pay attention the easier it is to remember later. If I were to ask you to memorize a phone number with the promise that if you could remember it two hours later you’ll receive $10,000, would you listen carefully when I start to recite the digits? You will most likely stop your other activities, look at me, and wait to hear the number.
- Positive re-enforcement. Every time you do remember a simple fact or set of digits, give yourself a pat on the back. You need to convince yourself that your memory is indeed adequate, if not above average. Positive re-enforcement allows you to get excited for the next opportunity to learn something new. Chances are you will pay more attention and thus will be more likely to remember. For example, if you remember an acquaintance’s phone number and your family members notice this outstanding performance, they will see you as a person with a strong memory. Next time an issue arises, they will look to you to recall the details. Knowing that you will be called upon, chances are you will now pay more attention to details.
- Use your creative imagination. If you were to memorize a list of grocery items such as eggs, milk, orange juice, newspaper, meat loaf and shaving cream, you can create an interesting story such as the one that follows: Imagine walking to a store that has two huge eggs at its entrance. Vividly see the ten-foot-tall eggs on either side. The better you can imagine it, the higher the chance that you will remember it later. Then picture yourself walking to the store and you accidentally hit the egg which falls to the ground and hits the milk cartons in the store. Milk starts running all over the floor. Vividly picture the milk spilling across the floor. Then picture yourself trying to cover and hide the milk with orange juice. The funnier and more ridiculous the story, the better your chances of remembering your list. Information within the story must be funny, unusual and dramatic to begin to tap into your emotional memory. Finally, picture the manager arriving and helping you soak up the mess of eggs and orange juice on the ground with newspapers. Picture the ridiculous sight of newspapers soaked with the milk and orange juice and then picture the cashier coming to your rescue with dozens of absorbent meat loaves! See yourself and the employees covering the meat loaves on the ground to cover the milk, the orange juice and the newspapers. Finally, you decide you have had enough of this mess, so you get some shaving cream to put it on the face of the cashier! The story can go on and on and you can add at least twenty more items to your list.
- Repeat. If you have to memorize something, keep repeating it. You learned this at school and it still remains a helpful way to memorize phone numbers, lists of up to five items, and names.
- Make associations. You can make up stories and form images of people when you meet them at a party to something funny and unusual. For example, Armstrong can be a tall man with very strong arms. Imagine that the person you are meeting actually turns into a tall person with strong arms. The trick is to find a common association between the funny picture and the name of the person in front of you.
- Consolidate. This means that when you are given a long set of information, summarize it in your own head. Then provide a brief summary of what you learned. In doing so, you consolidate information in your head as one unit and thus become more likely to remember the overall picture. For example, if someone gives you directions to get to their house, after listening to them, rehearse and summarize what they told you. In doing so, you are repeating information and consolidating it through summarization.
- Make mnemonics. Medical students are able to memorizing long lists through making mnemonics. For example, you can remember a list of eggs, milk, orange juice, newspapers, meat loaf and shaving cream as “EMON-meat shaves”. If you can find a funny mnemonic, your chances of remembering the list increase.
- Write it down, envision it, or say it loud. Some people learn better by seeing the information and others remember by hearing it. If you are a visual leaner, either write down the information on a piece of paper and look at it or close your eyes and envision the phone number, the name, or other information you want to learn. If you are a person who remembers better by listening, repeat the information out loud. Hearing yourself saying it will freeze the information in your brain.
- Learn things the first time around. Most people have a tendency to delay and postpone memorizing things or avoiding it altogether. Especially with learning concepts and instructions, it is best to pay attention and learn things correctly the first time around. Incomplete information will not carry the full picture and will be more challenging to complete later. Brains can hold on to a concept and full picture better than memorizing fragmented lists.
- Share the burden. If you want to memorize names of new people at a party, have your spouse/partner remember first names and you remember last names; then go over the list when leave the party. In memorizing long lists, give one half to a friend and keep the rest for yourself.