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Published on January 14, 2020

15 Effortless Memorization Tricks To Remember Anything

15 Effortless Memorization Tricks To Remember Anything

The struggle is real!

With so much happening in life, it’s hard to remember the details. In particular, names, due dates, requirements and locations slip from the mind every so often. But the memorization tricks outlined in this article should ensure that you never forget stuff that matters.

I used to have a problem with remembering names and faces.

You see, I meet new people every day from around the globe and it’s just too many new names and faces for my mind to register.

But I’ll tell you this:

It’s certainly quite embarrassing to have coffee with somebody and not recognize them the next day.

The problem is that forgetting is such a passive action that you often have no control over it.

Let me explain:

When you forget something, it’s not like you’re actively trying to. It just… happens and that makes it hard to inhibit your forgetfulness.

I mean, how do you stop doing something that you’re not really doing?

So, I just accepted that this is how it is and I’m going to have to live with it.

But several embarrassing encounters later, I’ve consolidated a list of memorizing tips that worked like magic for me.

I’ve used them to overcome my problem of remembering people and their names which has helped me immensely in improving communication and collaboration within and outside of my company.

Now before we dive into the memorization tricks that I wanted to discuss with you, let’s first take a look at how and why we forget.

The Science of Forgetting

In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus put forth his theory that outlined the “Forgetting Curve”.[1] This curve shows how much information we retain after a certain amount of time has passed since initially memorizing it.

You might be a bit concerned about how valid this theory is, given that it was initially presented in the 19th century.

But in a 2015 analysis, scientists found that the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve was completely accurate.[2]

Fascinatingly, the Forgetting Curve shows that just after a day of memorizing something, we remember about 30% of it.

Before we jump into the memorization tricks in this article, I’d first like to explain to you why you forget in the first place. Knowing the root cause of forgetfulness will help you apply the information that you gather.

When you initially learn something, your mind transfers it into the hypothetical short-term memory chamber.

Your brain doesn’t know which piece of information is important and which needs to be discarded. So, it waits for a signal that helps it recognize important pieces of information that it can then shift into the hypothetical long-term memory chamber.

One of the more obvious of such signals is repetition. As shown in the forgetting figure below, repetition can change the shape of the forgetting curve.

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    All the memorization tricks and tips in this article revolve around signaling the importance of memories to your mind so it can move that piece of information from the short-term memory chamber to the long-term one.

    15 Memorization Tricks That Work

    Enough of science; let’s get into the business end of this article. Here are 15 memorization tricks that work:

    1. Say it 3 Times

    This is one of the simplest learning methods that I’ve been using and it seems to yield some great results.

    Make a habit of saying something 3 times as soon as you hear it. This will help you retain that information longer in your brain. In my case, when someone would tell me their name, I’d say it thrice under my breath. This signaled to my brain that this piece of information is important and I’d like to remember it.

    2. Link it to an Established Long-Term Memory

    What if you already have something in your long-term memory that you can link your new piece of information to?

    Imagine this:

    There’s a piece of information that resides deep in your hypothetical long-term memory chamber. Once you claim a new memory, you stick it to the old one.

    What do you think will happen?

    Of course, the new memory will retain better because of the strong memory that you linked it to.

    For instance, people set their 4-digit pin codes for their birthdates (or their spouse’s) all the time. It’s easier to remember because they have an already established link in their mind that’s probably never going to break.

    3. Type Away

    Writing something down is a common memorizing trick that works for many.

    The problem?

    You almost never have a pen and paper close at hand when you need it.

    So here, I decided to go a bit unconventional and use technology to my advantage.

    I started typing notes on my phone that I’d revisit before sleeping.

    A lot of times, I wouldn’t even have to revisit my notes because the mere act of typing them would help me retain that memory.

    But if typing it out doesn’t help, rereading it at night surely will.

    4. Spaced Repetition

    As mentioned above, further research on the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve showed that it’s best to revise a piece of information after a certain amount of time as it helps your mind retain it better.

    Now, what a lot of people do is that they try to repeat or revise a memory as soon as they attain it.

    But research shows that it’s useless to adopt that strategy. The goal isn’t to avoid forgetting that memory; it’s to forget it so you can relearn and solidify its roots in your brain.

    The same research suggested 4 repetitions; around 20 mins, 50 mins, 9 hours and 5 days after memorizing something.[3]

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    But it might not be practical to revisit a memory in that fashion. So, as we recommend in our article on Spaced Repetition, just revise an important memory 24-36 hours after initially learning it and you should see 90% above retention rates.

    5. Grasp the Concept

    Back in college, rote learning never seemed to work for me.

    No matter how many times I’d repeat a phrase and try to learn it by heart, I’d have completely forgotten it by the next day.

    So I tried to memorize the concept, not the words.

    This worked great for me back then and still works well when I’m trying to understand the mechanics of a company or a business.

    6. Interleaved Practice

    If you mix it up, you’ll see better results in memorization.

    Most people, when they’re trying to memorize or learn something, keep working at it until it’s all done or perfect.

    It doesn’t make much sense if you leave a memorization task in the middle right? Wrong!

    Research shows that if you learn two different things at once, you’ll learn them better. This is called interleaved practice.

    Now that are 2 reasons why interleaved practice shows spectacular resuLts:

    Similar memories get mixed up in the brain

    Interleaved practice makes it harder to recall a memory. And the harder the practice session, the better your results!

    7. Use Storytelling

    Without a doubt, storytelling is one of the most powerful skills that one can master.

    And the reason is simple:

    Stories captivate us like nothing else.

    Look at all the forms of entertainment that we have nowadays and you’ll see storytelling in each one of them; movies, songs, music videos, video games, vlogs… the list goes on.

    The reason is simple:

    Our brain is obsessed with stories.

    So the next time you’re trying to memorize something, try creating a story in your head that would help you remember it.

    8. Record Your Audio

    Here’s another fantastic memorizing trick that puts technology to great use.

    When you’re trying to memorize something, just audio record yourself on the phone and listen to it on repeat.

    You don’t need to do this for long. In fact, about 15-20 minutes of listening to yourself should be more than enough.

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    This is especially useful for auditory learners.

    9. Create Parts

    What if I tell you to memorize this number in 20 seconds:

    583957304

    I’m sure that sounds like a daunting task.

    But what about:

    583-957-304

    This looks easier although both numbers are essentially the same.

    The only difference in both numbers is that the second one has two dashes. Now, the dashes themselves aren’t significant. What’s significant is the fact that the dashes break the number into 3 parts.

    When you break the number, it becomes easier to remember. Your brain can then focus on individual parts and consolidate them in the end.

    In fact, this memorization technique is pretty much a setup to trick your mind into thinking the task is easier than it actually is.

    So, the next time you’re learning something extensive, create parts out of it and focus on each part individually.

    10. Focus on Keywords

    I like to use this method in conjunction with “Grasping the Concept”.

    You see, there are just some things that require word-for-word learning.

    And if you’re not good at it, then learning keywords becomes your last option.

    It’s likely that you’ve used this technique if you buy the groceries. All you do is memorize keywords like “6 eggs” but never “buy half a dozen eggs” because the rest of all the words contribute nothing (or very little) to the message.

    11. Say it out Aloud

    Here’s another learning trick for auditory learners:

    Say your words out aloud.

    I’m a firm believer that the more senses you stimulate while learning, the better you’ll learn.

    This means that reading alone (using your visual sense only) is not nearly as effective as speaking your words while you read them because it stimulates your sense of hearing as well.

    Ideally, you’d want to use this technique with writing or typing.

    12. Retain While You Sleep

    Did you know that sleeping could help improve your memory?

    Well, researchers from Matthew P. Walker and Robert Stickgold sure think so. In their research, “Sleep, Memory and Plasticity”, they maintain that sleep has a major role in “memory consolidation” and “memory reconsolidation”.[4].

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    Another research published in Current Opinion in Neurology shows that,[5]

    “Sleep is important for optimal learning.”

    By that logic, memorizing just before you go to sleep is a nice way of strengthening that memory. While you sleep, your brain should work on that memory’s consolidation and reconsolidation.

    Also, it’s important to get a good amount of sleep in for improving memory in general.

    13. Challenge Yourself

    Most people think that memorizing is all about reading and speaking.

    And that’s partly why they aren’t particularly good at it.

    Most of the time, we’re trying to memorize something all day but when the right time comes, our memory fails to support us.

    A good way to eliminate that problem is to test yourself in the middle of the day.

    Challenge yourself in the middle of the day to recall what you’re trying to learn. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in a learning environment. In fact, you could try recalling while you’re in the elevator, having lunch or walking to your office.

    14. Mnemonics

    Mnemonics have been for ages to learn a list of words in order.

    And the only reason why they’ve stood the test of time is that they work.

    In this method, you list out the first letter of each word and then try creating a sentence/phrase out of them that can be memorized.

    A common example is the “Roy G. Biv” mnemonic that’s used to memorize the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet).

    Although recent research on effective learning techniques ranked mnemonics as a low utility learning method, the only reason for that was that mnemonics don’t have a wide variety of applications in general learning.[6]

    However, they work like magic if you’re trying to learn a foreign language or increase vocabulary.

    15. Use a To-Do List App

    The last memorizing trick on our list is to use a To-Do List app.

    A lot of these apps come with the added functionality of displaying your notes on the home screen of your phone.

    A lot of others come with a sticky notification of that note that appears 24/7 on your phone.

    By typing what you want to memorize in that note, you can then read it again every time you use your phone.

    And if you’re anything like the common man, this memorization trick should give you the opportunity to review your memory multiple times in the day.

    If you tend to forget easily, start trying these memorizing tricks. They’ve changed my life and will change yours too!

    More to Boost Your Memory

    Featured photo credit: Sincerely Media 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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