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Last Updated on January 27, 2021

How to Improve Memory and Recall What You’ve Learned Fast

How to Improve Memory and Recall What You’ve Learned Fast
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Learning how to improve memory recall is a common concern once we hit a certain age. Friends and family remind us that memory is the first thing to go when we get older, or perhaps hearing and eyesight, which are linked to our ability to learn and engage in personal development.[1]

It’s true that, as we get older, things don’t always work the way they are supposed to, including our long-term memory and short-term memory. We struggle to recall our friend’s birthdays, that new word we read yesterday, or that random trivia fact we used to throw into conversations. However, maybe it’s not because we’re getting older, but rather because the methods we use to learn and improve our memory are bad.

Nevertheless, it’s important to not panic as there are all kinds of strategies and resources available as we learn how to improve memory recall.

Why Is Your Memory Bad?

To understand why the strategies I’ll share are helpful, you need to understand why your memory is bad in the first place. The first most important thing to remember is:

People forget all the time.

Passwords, grocery lists, our phone, car keys, and more—people forget things, and it often has nothing to do with age. That being said, there are particular causes that enhance the frequency of this. Excessive use of the following will further inhibit our memory and learning capabilities:[2]

Lack of Sleep

Quantity and quality of sleep are essential to memory. Most tips offered for retaining and growing memory include getting a good night’s rest, so it’s no surprise a lack of it will harm memory.

Depression and Stress

Depression will normally cause people to lose focus and struggle with concentration. This state of mind eventually turns into a loss of memory. Stress works in a similar fashion as we struggle to concentrate. We’re too tense and our mind is overstimulated.

Nutritional Deficiency

Our brain needs certain nutrients in order to function. Specifically, B1 and B12 are vitamins that impact our memory, and lacking either will cause problems with memory recall.

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Alcohol or Drug Use

Excessive use of either substance has been linked to brain damage, which results in memory loss. Smoking also falls in the same category.

Medication

A large number of over-the-counter medications can actually cause memory loss. From antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications to sleeping pills and pain medications, they can all have side effects that cause you to forget things you once easily remembered.

Learning how to improve memory recall can be as simple as avoiding these causes and considering the following:

These are all great things, but we can always do more. There will still be lapses in memory and other factors.

Thankfully, the tactics I’ll share below will help in mitigating those factors and help you as you learn how to improve memory recall.

How to Improve Memory Recall Fast

How to improve memory quickly is no easy task. In most research revolving around memory, the training process can take months or even years. The upside is that all these techniques are simple and take a few minutes out of your day.

So while the process takes a while, the daily demand is minor and easy to get into a cycle with.

1. Work out Your Brain

Our brain is immensely powerful. Over the span of our lives, our brain develops millions of neural pathways, which give us the ability to process and recall information quickly. The speed with which we can solve problems and execute habitual tasks with no effort is thanks to these pathways.

That being said, if we continue to stick to those comfortable roads, we’re not really growing, are we? While well-worn pathways are helpful, especially when they’re linked to good habits like exercise, grooming, or reading, they’re not challenging.

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Do yourself a favor and challenge yourself once in a while. As the saying goes:

“Use it or lose it.”

This refers to muscle strength, but the same can be said for our memory. If we don’t use it, how will we be able to retain it? The more you give your brain a workout, the better you’ll be able to use it in the future.

2. Learn Actively

Another great way to improve memory is to get out there and learn a thing or two, but instead of learning passively by just reading more or taking classes, use your brain as you learn actively. Take some practical steps to support your own learning and memory:

Pay Attention

Even if the topic is familiar or you’ve heard it all before, learning isn’t always about hearing it once and abandoning the subject. Ideas and concepts are worth repeating as this kind of spaced repetition improves retention and memory recall.

Relate Information to What You Already Know

People learn through stories or by example. It’s why some people associate words or items with people’s names sometimes. These strategies help us in learning and retaining information, and the same can be said about the information on any subject.

Rehearse Information You Already Know

Reviewing and studying do help in retaining information and growing. When we have a grasp of the basics, we can expand from there.

3. Work out Your Body

When you’re learning how to improve memory recall, keep in mind that research has shown that working out our bodies also promotes memory growth.[3] Specifically, exercising affects our plasticity. Plasticity is the ability for our brain to change its structure as it develops and grows.

In other words, exercise can open our minds to changes. Exercising can also promote new neuronal connections, which help solidify new habits in the first place.

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Best of all, these exercises don’t have to be incredibly strenuous to get the benefit. Aerobic exercises work especially well on the brain. Examples are walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling. Generally speaking, any exercise that is good for the heart is good for the brain.

4. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep, as I mentioned above, is important, though people have different definitions of proper sleep. Some people struggle to get quality sleep due to insomnia, stress, or a busy schedule.

The vast majority of us need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.[4] Skipping out on a few hours will make a massive difference in our daily function.

If you struggle to get enough sleep, consider the follow techniques:

Have a Sleep Schedule

Train yourself to go to bed at a specific hour every night and to get up at roughly the same time every morning. This habit will eventually condition your brain to make you feel tired at a certain hour and to get up at a specific time, which can help you avoid getting sleep deprived.

Avoid Blue Light an Hour Before Bed

People are glued to their tablets, computers, phones, and TV. This suppresses your brain’s production of melatonin, the brain chemical that makes us sleepy.

Cut Back on the Coffee

Some people love to have a cup of joe in the morning, but some are also highly sensitive to caffeine. So much so that a single cup in the morning can interfere with your sleep at night. If you are having trouble sleeping, see if caffeine is the problem by reducing the amount or avoiding the drink for a week and seeing what happens.

5. Socialize

Another technique when you want to learn how to improve memory recall is being with friends. There are all kinds of studies that highlight the benefits of being around friends, including the cognitive benefits of improving your mood and reducing your stress[5].

Start making friends and spending time together each week. After all, when we get older, we tend to narrow our circle of friends, and that, too, impacts our memory.

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6. Eat the Right Foods

Another way to improve memory recall and brain health is by eating the right foods. A healthy diet includes eating fruits and veggies, as well as whole grains. You also want protein, but make sure it is low on fat; examples are fish, beans, or skinless poultry.[6]

On the note of protein, it’s worth noting the types of fish worth eating. Studies showed that eating fish that are high in omega-3s is good for your brain.[7] Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, or halibut are excellent choices.

If you’re not a fan of fish, some alternatives are spinach, broccoli, pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts, amongst others.

As I mentioned, alcohol can also impact your memory directly, as well as coffee to an indirect extent. My suggestion is to stick with water, and if you do want a bit of caffeine, consider tea.

7. Don’t Ignore Your Health Problems

Various health problems have an impact on our memory. While it’s obvious that we ought to deal with any health problems, we can find early signs.

Particular health problems that affect our memory include:

  • General heart problems: Cardiovascular diseases include high cholesterol and blood pressure. These have been linked to mild cognitive impairment and even dementia.[8]
  • Diabetes: Studies have also found those experiencing this have a greater cognitive decline than those who don’t.[9]
  • Hormone imbalance: From estrogen to testosterone and thyroid imbalance, hormone imbalance can contribute to memory loss in some fashion.[10]

Bottom Line

From what I’ve listed above, the techniques are quite straight forward. The tricky part is implementing these strategies into our lives. After all, these are habits, and some can take time to build as we learn how to improve memory recall.

Memory loss stems from our neglect of these habits or through other factors. To accept memory loss is to accept other memory loss problems into our lives like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

However, one piece of good news I’ll leave off with is that you don’t need to implement all of these. Adding even one or two of these techniques will change your life!

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More to Boost Your Memory

Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done
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Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

How Serious Is Information Overload?

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

1. Set Your Goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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  • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
  • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
  • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

(You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

Summing It Up

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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