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The Only Way to Remember Everything You Have Read

The Only Way to Remember Everything You Have Read

Our brains aren’t made to remember everything that we encounter. Unless you’re one of the rare individuals who has a photographic memory, it’s likely that details about the content you consume fade quickly.

How often do you recall reading an article, but forgetting what it’s about? Have you ever recognized a movie title but failed to remember the plot? If you frequently forget the things you’ve read and the movies you’ve watched, you aren’t alone.

Think about what you had for lunch yesterday or what you did last weekend. Those memories are probably blurry because they aren’t critical for your survival. Our brains have about 8 GB of capacity for immediate recall, and only the most essential information will make the cut. This can leave us with a blurred picture of nonessential information. Learn more about this in my other article: You’ve Been Using Your Brain Wrong: Human Brains Aren’t Designed to Remember Things

The human brain is not designed to help you handle with massive amounts of data. We’re bombarded with stimuli every day. If we processed and remembered everything, then it would probably make it difficult for us to function. Your brain sorts through all your experiences to weed out the significant and insignifcant things that we encounter.[1]

The first time you read something, finishing it is the only aim.

It doesn’t matter how much you’ve been looking forward to seeing a movie or reading a book. Unless the content is linked to your survival, chances are that you’ll forget what you’ve seen or read soon after viewing it.

Part of this is because your primary objective was to watch the film or read the book. When you’ve never seen something, your urge to finish the story is your main concern. After you’ve satisfied your desire, you probably won’t remember what you’ve seen. Finishing the movie or book is not the same as remembering all the details.

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Human beings store memories through a process called encoding. Our brain is better at encoding information when it can associate new information with pre-existing experiences.[2]

The first time we encounter information is akin to us passing strangers on the street. Your neurons process that you’ve encountered someone, and that’s the end of it. There’s no recognition, and after you leave the situation, you probably won’t remember who you saw.

    Some people do remember what they see, though. Why?

    You might feel frustrated when you can’t recall what you’ve just seen, but it can be even more maddening when you run into someone who seems to have absorbed everything. This is the friend that recites details from the movies that you watched months ago. Long after the finer points of a text have slipped your mind, they’re still talking about it. How do they do it?

    These people don’t have extraordinary memories. They simply take in the information actively. Since they’re actively processing information, they are able to experience the book details or the movie scenes repeatedly in a short time. They revise and synthesize the information so that it becomes their own.

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      It’s like taking the same route every day and running into the same people. You begin to recognize people and observe more about them because they are already familiar to you. Likewise, your neurons can easily make new connections when they have been asked to revisit and analyze new information instead of passively observing it.

      The key is to see, connect, and then repeat.

      The more you actively engage with the content that you are consuming, the more readily you’ll remember it. As your neurons revisit the same subject over and over, it’s easier for them to make new connections.

      Think of it like taking a walk through the woods. At first there is no path, but if you take the same route every day, eventually, you’ll create a trail. You’ll be able to move quickly and easily in a place where you used to have to move slowly. Your brain handles memory like this too. You want to build a well-worn path for your neurons.

      Don’t rely on your initial memory

      The first time you go through something, you’ll probably forget many details. You may find it difficult to absorb specifics because there’s too much new information. When you watch movies or read books, you may find yourself obsessed with what will happen next. Your goal is just to get to the end.

      It’s helpful to revisit the content several times. You may find that since you already know what happens, you’ll be able to appreciate the details.

      Replaying or rereading isn’t enough

      You can look at the same piece of information over and over, but it doesn’t mean that it will stay in your head. Rote memorization (memorizing by repetition) doesn’t allow you to make meaningful connections with what you’re seeing.[3]

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      To remember something, you need to apply it. Instead of passively taking in information or actively trying to memorize it by rote, it’s important to make connections. If you can apply what you’ve learned, get feedback, and re-apply a concept with feedback, it’s much more likely to stick.

      For example, reading a recipe alone won’t help you learn to cook. Cooking a meal and having the combined feedback of your taste-buds and the comments of others will stand out in your mind. Watching someone do an exercise never has the same impact as doing it yourself. A framework is all but useless unless you apply it.

      When you apply a concept or practice to your life, it becomes easier to internalize the information. Think about the first time you had to travel to work versus now. At first, you had to think about each step on the route, but now, you don’t even have to think about it. It is the combination of repetition and application that solidifies neuron connections.

      Have a question at the back of your mind before you read/watch it

      When you pick up a book or sit down to watch a movie, have a purpose in mind. If you don’t, your default mode will simply be to get to the end of the book or film. Have a question that you’d like to answer before you begin.

      For example, reading The Power of Habit without a purpose will not be very helpful. It will seem useless to anyone who isn’t ready to build a habit no matter how good the book is. On the other hand, if you think of a bad habit that you’d like to quit before you start reading, you can instantly connect what you’re reading with your own life.

      When you spot related chapters or ideas in books, find ways to connect them. Highlight them, write notes, or clip the sections that are related. Taking notes by hand is an especially valuable way to help you remember important concepts.[4]

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      People who watch lots of movies or read lots of books, but can’t remember them, waste a lot of time. They haven’t taken in any information that will actually help them. To avoid forgetting everything you see, apply it immediately after you see it, and revisit the concepts often.

      Have a mind like a steel trap

      Chances are that by tomorrow you will forget what you’ve read in this article unless you save it, highlight it, and make a point of relating it to your life. Bookmark this and come back to it so that you can remember what you need to do to have better recall on the media you consume.

      Watching movies and reading mindlessly is a a waste of time. Make the most of everything that you see and read by finding ways to engage with the content. Think of what you’ll be missing if you allow these learning opportunities to pass you by.

      Featured photo credit: Vecteezy via vecteezy.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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      Last Updated on August 20, 2019

      26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

      26 Useful Things to Learn Now That Will Change Your Life

      If you pay attention to your everyday life careful enough, you’ll know that you can learn from everything and everyone you come across. Our life is basically full of useful lessons that we should learn.

      Here are 26 useful things to learn that Abhishek A. Singh shared on Quora. Let’s see how these life theories would lead you to live a different life.

      1. Primacy and recency: People mostly remember the first and last things that occurred, barely the middle.

      When scheduling an interview, ask the employer the time slots they do interviews and try to be the first or the last.

      2. If you work in a bar or in customer service of any kind, put a mirror behind you at the counter.

      In this way, angry customers who approach you will have to see themselves in the mirror behind you and the chance of them behaving irrationally will be lowered significantly.

      3. Once you make a sales pitch, don’t say anything else.

      This works in sales, but it can also be applied in other ways.

      My previous boss was training me and just gave me pointers. I was working at a gym trying to sell memberships. He told me that once I got all the small talk out of the way and presented the prices, the first person to talk would lose.

      It didn’t seem like a big deal but it actually worked. Often there were long periods of awkward silence as the person tried to come up with some excuses, but usually they bought.

      4. If you ask someone a question and they only partially answer, just wait.

      If you stay silent and keep eye contact, they will usually continue to talk.

      5. Chew gum when you’re approaching a situation that would make you nervous, like public speaking or bungee jumping.

      When we eat, our brain tell ourselves, “I would not be eating if I were danger. So I’m not in danger.” This has helped me to stay calm.

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      6. People will always remember how you made them feel, not what you said.

      Also, most people like talking about themselves; so ask lots of questions about them.

      7. When you’re learning something new, teach it to a friend. Let them ask you questions about it.

      If you’re able to teach something well, you will be sure that you’ve understood it very well.

      8. If you get yourself to be really happy and excited to see other people, they will react the same to you.

      It doesn’t always happen the first time, but it will definitely happen the next time.

      9. The physical effects of stress — breathing rate and heart rate — are almost identical to the physical effects of courage.

      When you’re feeling stressed in any situations, immediately reframe it : Your body is getting ready to be courageous, you are NOT stressed.

      10. Pay attention to people’s feet.

      If you approach two people in the middle of a conversation, and they only turn their torsos and not their feet, they don’t want you to join in the conversation.

      Similarly, if you are in a conversation with a coworker who you think is paying attention to you and their torso is turned towards you but their feet are facing in another direction, they want the conversation to end.

      11. Confidence is more important than knowledge.

      Don’t be intimidated by anyone, everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask.

      12. If you pretend to be something for long enough, you will eventually become it.

      Fake it till you make it. Period.

      13. Not to be creepy, but if you want to stare at someone unashamedly, look directly past them and wait for them to try and meet your eyes.

      When they fail to do that, they’ll look around (usually nervously for a second) they won’t look at you again for some time. This is your chance to straight up stare at this person for at least 45 seconds.

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      And as suggested by Brian Stutzman:

      If you’re staring at someone and get caught, DON’T turn your head or your body to look away, because that just confirms that you were staring.

      Just move your EYEBALLS off the person. Unlike turning your head, it’s instantaneous. And the person will think you were just looking at something behind them and that they were mistaken for thinking you were staring. Do it confidently, and ignore any reaction from the person, and you can sell it every single time.

      After a second, you can even look back at them with a “Why are you staring at me?” look on your face to really cement the deal!

      14. Build a network.

      Become the information source, and let the information be yours. Even grabbing a beer with a former colleague once a year will keep you in the loop at the old office.

      Former coworkers might have gotten a new position in that office you always wanted to work in, great! Go to them for a beer, and ask about the office. It’s all about connections and information.

      15. If you are angry at the person in front of you driving like a grandmother…

      Pretend it is your grandmother, it will significantly reduce your road rage.

      main-qimg-17c6060ba5491ad5af817faf5046a13b

        16. Stand up straight.

        No slouching, hands out of pockets, and head held up high. It’s not just a cliche — you literally feel better and people around you feel more confident in you.

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        17. Avoid saying “I think,” and “I believe” unless absolutely necessary.

        These are phrases that do not evoke confidence, and will literally do you no good.

        18. When feeling anxious, clean up your home or work space.

        You will feel happier and more accomplished than before.

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          19. Always buy the first pitcher or round of drinks.

          You’d be surprised how long you could drink on the phrase “I bought the first one.”

          20. Going into an interview… be interested in your interviewers.

          If you focus on learning about them, you’ll seem to be more interesting and dynamic. (Again, people love to talk about themselves.)

          21. Pay attention parents! Always give your kid a choice that makes them think they are in control.

          For instance, when I want my son to put his shoes on I will say ,”do you want to put your star wars shoes on or your shark shoes on?”

          Pro-tip: In some cases, this works on adults.

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            22. Your action affects your attitude more than your attitude affects your action.

            As my former teacher said “You can jump and dance FOR joy, but you can also jump and dance yourself joyful.”

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            23. When a group of people laugh, people will instinctively look at the person they feel closest to in that group.

            Notice who you look at and who look at you when you laugh with a group of people!

            24. If you want to build rapport or gain someone’s trust quickly, match their body posture and position.

            If someone is sitting with her legs crossed, cross your legs. If they’re leaning away from you, lean away from them. If they’re leaning towards you, lean towards them.

            Mirroring and matching body position is a subconscious way to tell if someone trusts you or is comfortable with you. If you’re sitting with your arms crossed and you notice someone else is sitting with her arms crossed, that is a good indicator that you have/are successfully built/building rapport with that person.

            25. The Benjamin Franklin Effect (suggested by Matt Miller)

            I find the basis of the Benjamin Franklin effect is very useful and extends far beyond pencil borrowing. This knowledge is useful in the world of flirting too.

            Asking a girl in your class if you can borrow a pencil or her notes or to explain the homework will make her more likely to like you than if you let her borrow your stuff or are the one to help her. Even just asking a girl to buy you drinks (facetiously) leaves a much bigger impression than offering to or actually buying a girl a drink.

            The best part is it kills 3 birds with one stone: you get the advantages of the favor itself, the person subconsciously likes you more, and it makes them more open to future favors and conversation.

            26. Handle panic and anxiety behaviors by tapping fingers (Suggested by Jade Barbee)

            When you’re feeling stressed, worried or angry, tap each finger tip while thinking (or speaking quietly) a few specific words about what is bothering you. Repeat the same words while tapping each of your 10 fingers, including thumbs.

            For example, tap while saying, “I’m so angry with her…” Doing so will likely take the charge out of the feeling and return you to a more resourceful (better feeling) state of being. It’s called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or “tapping,” and it is useful in many life situations – emotional sadness, physical pain, food cravings, traumatic memories…

            Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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