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Published on December 17, 2019

7 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Short Term Memory

7 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Short Term Memory

Heading to the grocery store and then coming home to find out that you forgot an important item? Do you struggle with remembering names, addresses, and phone numbers?

You are not alone. We all have been there plenty!

But what would happen if a doctor or nurse forgets to administer the proper drug to a patient in critical care? It could be a mistake that could cost them their career. There were incidents where people forgot to turn off their stove while cooking and this led to a huge fire in their house.

Forgetting information can sometimes be annoying, while other times it can have some serious impact on our lives. And in today’s fast-paced world, our brains are constantly processing information, so we are more likely to forget things. If you want to avoid such habit of forgetfulness, it is essential to improve your short-term memory.

So what Is short-term memory? Our brain has two types of memory – short-term and long-term. Any information that enters the mind is first stored in short-term memory. Here, the information only lasts for a limited time, ranging widely from a few seconds to about a minute.

From here, it moves on to the long-term memory depending on different factors. Some factors that shift information from the short-term to long-term memory are:

  • Consciously making an attempt to remember or memories something
  • Repeating the information mentally or verbally for a long time
  • Information that the brain feels important is more likely to move to the long-term memory

So the short-term memory is the mechanism of the brain where it stores new information for a short time in limited quantity. It plays a significant role in what we eventually remember or forget.

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Short term memory can only accommodate a limited amount of information. It means that when new information enters, it displaces some older information. The displaced information is forgotten if it doesn’t move to long-term memory.

It is important to mention here that short term memory plays a critical role in your life. It affects your attentiveness and your ability to remember or forget information.

So keeping these things in mind, let’s take a look at 7 ways to improve your short-term memory.

1. Categorize Information

Divide information into similar categories to remember it. Let’s take an example of remembering a nine-digit phone number. If you try to remember the whole number into one go, it becomes difficult, and you might mix up the numbers. But if you divide the number in groups of three, it will become easy to remember.

Now let’s say you want to remember a list of items to get from the grocery store. Divide these items into categories like fruits, canned or packaged foods, tools, and so on. This way, it will become easy to remember what items are in each category. This technique of categorizing items is also called “Chunking”.

Here is how you can boost your memory: 13 Simple Memory Tricks To Help You Remember Anything Easily

2. Repeat the Information (Loudly If Possible)

Repeating any information verbally for a few times makes it more likely to shift to long-term memory. So, when any piece of information is quickly moved to the long-term, it leaves an empty space in the short-term for new information to enter.

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The idea behind this technique is to always have space for new information in short-term memory. In this method, your focus should be to avoid overcrowding the short term memory.

Even if it’s not possible to verbally repeat the information, you can do it mentally. If you practice this technique regularly, then you will get better at it. Eventually, you will develop a tendency of quickly shifting important information to long-term memory.

3. Practice Memory Exercises

A lot of people have developed extraordinary memories through regular practice and training. There are many “memory experts” who demonstrate their skills by performing feats, such as remembering a list of very long items in the same order by hearing it just once.

You may not aspire to be a memory expert yourself, but practicing simple memory exercises can help you improve your short-term memory. There are different exercises designed to help you remember lists, numbers, shapes, structures, and so on. And these are not very difficult or complicated techniques either.

Some of these exercises include doing math in your head, learning a foreign language, creating word pictures, drawing a map from memory and so on. The idea is to make your brain fertile to boost your memory. Here are a few memory exercises you will like to explore: 25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

4. Maintain a Healthy Sleep Routine

The only time our mind is at rest is when we are sleeping. Well, it would be technically incorrect to say that the mind is at rest when we sleep. Even then, the brain is performing different processes, like breathing, for example. But when we sleep, it’s the only state when our brain doesn’t actively absorb and process information.

Studies have shown that adequate sleep improves various functions of the brain.[1] The same is true for our memory. A tired brain is terrible at storing and processing information. That is why if you want to improve your short-term memory, then you must have a healthy sleep routine.

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5. Meditate

The important aspects of meditation are learning to control one’s thoughts and becoming aware of one’s surroundings. It also helps to empty the brain from negative or unimportant thoughts. So, practicing meditation will help you filter out what’s important and what’s not. Once you weed out all unnecessary information from your brain, the important information becomes easy to store.

Often, meditation is pictured as sitting in a straight pose with folded legs and outstretched arms. However, meditation is not just about the posture, it’s a technique that can be applied anywhere and at any time.

The best way to begin practicing meditation is to meditate daily for a few minutes lying in bed – both before going to sleep and after waking up in the morning.[2] It’s easy and effortless to practice. You can also try these techniques: How Do You Meditate? 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

6. Practice Memory Association

Memory association is a technique that even memory experts practice. The concept behind it is to create some sort of relationship between different information so that remembering one piece of information will also remind you of others.

If you want to remember someone’s name, you link it in your memory with another person that you know who has the same (or similar) name.

Or if you want to remember someone’s address, you associate it in your mind with the nearest location from that address that you are familiar with. In fact, our brain does this subconsciously many times.

Many people remember directions to certain places by remembering landmarks. If the entire route is difficult or confusing to remember, then focusing on specific landmarks on the way will make it easier. So the basic concept of memory association is to link information that is difficult to remember with those that are easy to remember.

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7. Read, Write, Speak, and Listen

Most information that our brain receives is in some form of language. Messages, lectures, conversations, and many other daily aspects of our lives make use of language.

When we read, write, speak or listen, we process the information we are receiving. The more we indulge in these activities, the faster our brain starts processing it.

In short, when you actively spend time reading, writing, or communicating with others, you get better at understanding and remembering the information. So what exactly can you do? Start to read more, write a journal, and try to socialize with others more.

Final Thoughts

So if you are tired of forgetting things, start practicing these simple techniques. You can be more attentive, productive, and efficient if you have a better memory.

More About Improving Memory

Featured photo credit: Freddy Castro via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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