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How to Remember Everything Without Being Hard Working

How to Remember Everything Without Being Hard Working
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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!

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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

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Angelina Phebus

Writer, Yoga Instructor (RYT 200)

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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