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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 October 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives.

Learn from these highly successful people’s personal development skills, turn these skills into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter

2. Keep certain days clear

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

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7. Don’t try to do too much

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew.

Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else.

This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then.

Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

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Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

If you find yourself easily distracted and can’t focus, this method will help you overcome distractions.

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14. Never stop

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it.

Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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