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How to Remember Everything Without Being Hard Working

How to Remember Everything Without Being Hard Working

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge that you are expected to remember every day? The Digital Age can leave us feeling like we are in a constant state of information overload. We have so many things competing for our attention, that it can be hard to stay focused. Your memory is one of the first things to suffer in the communications bombardment. Luckily, there are a few strategies that you can adopt to improve your memory without having to turn into a supercomputer.

Hack your brain’s storage system by understanding the basics of memory

Our brains have an incredible capacity for storing data. If we defined the limits of our minds in technological terms, we can store about 2.5 million gigabytes of information in our heads.[1] If this is true, then why do so many of us routinely forget why we walked into a room or what we had for breakfast? We can store loads of information, but if we want to improve our memory we have to maximize our brain’s filing system.

Short-Term Memory

If you’ve ever had to recall items that you need to pick up from the store without writing them out, you’ve likely forgotten a few things on your mental list. This is because your brain routed your shopping list to your short-term memory. The short-term memory can hold seven to nine items for a period of about thirty seconds.[2]

Long-term Memory

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Your brain can hang on to some memories for an extended period of time. Not all long-term memories are created equally – some last for several hours or days, and you carry others with you for a lifetime. The clarity of the memory depends on your level of alertness at the time in which your brain was encoding the event.[3]

Working Memory

If your brain stored everything you ever saw or heard with equal importance, it would have lots of information clogging its filing system. The memory that you use to process and reflect on your world is your working memory.[4] Your brain is like a giant hard-drive, and your working memory consists of the files open on your desktop. Just like the files on your computer, items in your long-term memory can change when we access them through our working memory.

4 Useful Memory Boosting Techniques to Try

As busy and productive people, we are constantly working to improve our recall and get things to move into our long-term memory so that we can easily retrieve them. Here are some excellent ways to help your brain encode information.

Give Up All-Nighters and Rely on Spaced Repetition

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When we need to memorize large quantities of information before an exam or presentation, it can be tempting to review all of it in a cram session. This technique is ineffective for two reasons. If you want to remember more, you need to give your brain time to process, and since your brain doesn’t assign equal importance to all data, you won’t be effective by treating all your information the same way.

When you space out your study intervals over several days or weeks, you can commit more information to memory with fewer repetitions.[5]

You can use flashcards to take advantage of spaced repetition. Quiz yourself, and separate cards into piles related to how well you know the material. If you know the information well, you’ll need to review that card less frequently. You’ll have to look at cards with challenging concepts more often. Ultimately, you’ll spend more time reviewing challenging cards and less time on ones that you know.[6]

Understand That You Can Memorize Different Information in Concentration Mode and Diffused Mode

When we store information in concentration mode (sometimes known as focus mode), we set the stage for expanding our knowledge.[7] In concentration mode, you build a memory framework by actively working to make sense of concepts.

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You can’t stay in that state of intense concentration forever, but that doesn’t mean that you have to stop learning. In diffused mode, your brain continues to take in information in a casual manner. If you are trying to figure out a novel solution to a research question, you’ll begin your work in concentration mode, but you’ll likely come up with your answer in diffused mode.

For example, when you begin to study a foreign langue, you’ll have to spend time learning the grammatical structures and vocabulary in concentration mode. You may repeat phrases out loud or rewrite sentences and constructions until you have developed a framework for your understanding.

If you are immersed in the language, you’ll continue to take in information and build connections in diffused mode. Eventually, you will not only be able to understand and reply to people using phrases you memorized, but you’ll learn how to string together new phrases.

Use the Chunking Technique to Make Concepts Meaningful

Using this technique allows you to commit many items to memory by assigning them to meaningful groups.[8] You can establish chunks of information by creating mnemonic devices such as acronyms or phrases.

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It is much easier to recall the time periods in Greek history (Neolithic Period, Bronze Age, Dark Age, Archaic Period, Classical Period, Hellenistic Period) by remembering a simple phrase such as “Never Be Discouraged About Calling Home.” In this case, the first letter of each word corresponds to the first letter of a time period. Schoolchildren are commonly taught the acronym, “ROY G. BIV,” to help them remember the colors of the rainbow.

This brain hack works because you can assign meaning to things for which you may not have a strong sensory memory or emotional connection. By associating terms to the preexisting framework of your own language, you make it much easier to recall these items later.

Access Digital Mind to Enhance Your Memory Capacity

The Digital Age has inundated us with information, but it has also offered us tools for coping with this influx of data. Apps which allow you to make notes, such as Evernote can help you connect ideas and improve recall.

You may be thinking, “I could use a sticky note or an old-fashioned planner for that.” You certainly could, but in Evernote, you can add tags to your notes to help you track down the thing that you want to remember.[9] When you add multiple tags to your note, you build connections and increase the likelihood that you will be able to recover the information you want. No more misplaced sticky notes for you!

Evernote is just one example in a sea of productivity apps that can improve your memory. Flashcard apps can allow you to take the concept of spaced repetition into the digital sphere. Dropbox and cloud servers make it possible for you to capture information in one place and access it later in another location. Each time we retrieve the information, we increase the likelihood of it becoming part of our long-term memory.

You don’t need a photographic memory

It would be nice if we could look at something once and remember it, but only a small percentage of us have brains that work like that.[10] That’s no reason to despair, though. By using memory techniques and tools, you can unlock your own potential and harness your brain’s power.

Reference

More by this author

Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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