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Last Updated on August 28, 2019

13 Simple Memory Tricks To Help You Remember Anything Easily

13 Simple Memory Tricks To Help You Remember Anything Easily

In the age of Google and Wikipedia, it’s easy to dismiss an impressive memory as a useless skill. But sometimes, you won’t have access to the internet. Sometimes, like at an interview or when you’re giving a speech, reading aloud can give a terrible impression.

So, until the time where your speeches are programmed into a chip in your brain, a good memory can be a huge advantage. Here are 13 simple memory tricks to improve your memory:

1. Clench Your Right Hand When Learning, Then Your Left Hand to Remember

As weird as it might seem, a study actually proved this effective in improving short-term memory.[1] When you’re learning, simply clench your right hand into a fist. And then later on, when you have a need to remember, squeeze your left hand.

However, this is only proven to be effective in right-handed individuals. Though they did the same test for left-handed people, those results are reserved for a different study, so stay tuned.

Or simply try it for yourself and see if you experience any significant difference.

2. Coordinate Smells

Smells have been proven to trigger memories better than sound,[2] but any direct application of that fact can be quite tricky.

One idea is to coordinate smells from when you’re memorizing something to when it needs to be remembered. For example, try spraying perfume of a very particular odor on the back of your hand when you’re reading, and then again the same the day of your test, or speech or presentation.

3. Coordinate Positions

If you maintain the same position when you’re trying to remember as you did when you memorized, it is likely that your memories will be easier to reach.[3] While the study focused on autobiographical memories, it should be applicable to more practical situations as well.

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Try studying in one position—for example with your legs crossed at a certain angle—and then remember to answer the test or do the interview in the same position.

4. Chew Gum

There are two theories in place for why this is. One is that chewing leads to increased blood flow to the area, and therefore enables more brain activity.[4] The other is much the same as our previous tricks: that chewing gum becomes associated with the memory and it gets easier to access if chewing gum while recalling it.[5]

Regardless of which you believe, it might be a good idea to pick up a pack of gum before your next big exam. And just in case taste has the same effect as smell, stick with the same flavor for the test as you use when studying.

5. Use the Power of Melody

It’s almost mysterious how much easier it is to remember lyrics than recite the words of a tuneless essay. And this is not something we’re just imagining either. Studies have proven the efficacy of melody when it comes to learning.[6]

While it might seem like a ton of extra work, you can simply piggyback off melodies you already know and love. Perhaps the best are famous classics because they don’t have lyrics that could perhaps be distracting when trying to memorize.

Just make sure you don’t burst into song when you’re remembering!

6. Don’t Do “All-Nighters”

Not only does sleeping improve your memory,[7] mass repetition is suggested to decrease even immediate memorability, not increase it.[8]

It is also proven that distributed practice, where you study for short periods of time spread out over a longer period, works better than massed practice, i.e cramming.[9] So don’t do all nighters. Remember to get your hours of sleep after a day of studying.

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And of course, it’s a great idea to study something a little at a time, a few minutes each day. When you’re learning a language, flash cards or good language learning apps are very convenient for that purpose.

7. Meditate

As it turns out, Buddhists have been on to something in the belief that meditation is a path to enlightenment. In a study, meditating four times per day for 20 minutes increased cognition from 15% to as much as 50%.[10]

So, if you’ve ever wondered about meditation, start doing it. Check out this quick and simple guide to meditation: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

8. Exercise More

If you find some of the other suggestions to be tedious and you would appreciate a more physical approach, you’re in luck. There has been established a clear connection between regular exercise and improved cognitive functions, including memory.[11]

So exercising more wouldn’t only make you healthier, it could also improve your memory.

If you think you’re too busy to exercise, here’re 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

9. Drink Less

Long-term abuse of alcohol has been proven to have severe effects on memory.[12] And while I’m by no means accusing you of being an alcoholic, I think many of us could stand to drink a little less.

And when you add in the time you lose while drunk, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that excess drinking is not the best approach to memorizing anything.

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10. Associate

Tricks that improve memory all seem to boil down to one thing: association.

Up until now, we have mostly dealt with involuntary association, such as remembering better when smelling the same smell, or sitting in the same position. But now it’s time for voluntary association.

There are some areas where this is rather simple:

For example, in language learning, a trick to remember new vocabulary is to associate the new word with a word it sounds like that you already know.[13] If you’ve ever noticed how much easier it is to remember a new word that sounds exactly the same as another one, then you know what I’m talking about.

Sometimes, you have to stretch the pronunciation a bit, like with the Japanese word kensaku, which I choose to remember via “Ken sucks.” In my own experience, the more far-fetched and ridiculous the association, the easier it is to remember. (Kensaku 検索 means search, by the way.)

And then there is visual association with new words, something that has become much simpler with many newer textbooks helping with the implementation of visual techniques, perhaps especially so with the Chinese alphabet with the “Heisig” method being fairly well known and appreciated in language learning communities.[14]

The Heisig method uses visual association to help you remember the shape of the hanzi or kanji, for Chinese and Japanese respectively. Some of my friends found it extremely helpful, and others found it lackluster.

11. Bundle Memories Together

Make use of pattern recognition[15] and bundle together a lot of memories into one.

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The simplest aspect of this is perhaps when remembering numbers. This is called the “chunking technique.”[16] If you can bundle them together in a meaningful way that means something to you, it can make remembering strings of numbers a whole lot easier.

In Norway, we bundle phone number digits together in pairs, so you could, for example, think of them as years. (Our phone numbers are 8 digits long.) So, a phone number could be 45 80 90 18. You could therefore use 1945, being the year WWII ended, associate 80 with the ’80s, and 90 the ’90s, then 1918 is the year WWI ended.

12. Write It Out

Maybe it’s the added repetition, or maybe it’s the fact that writing activates completely different areas of the brain and you somehow store the information in more than one place; either way, writing something down makes it easier to remember.[17]

So, if there’s something that’s absolutely vital that you don’t forget, write it out by hand. Better yet, make an actual physical note and bring it with you.

That way if your cellphone malfunctions, or the sound is accidentally turned off, you are more likely to remember in spite of circumstances.

13. Talk to Yourself

You don’t have to do long dramatic monologues with a mirror as the only spectator. Simply say whatever you want to remember out loud. A study showed that it improved memory accuracy by up to 10%.[18] So maybe it’s a habit best practiced in solitude.

Bottom Line

While some of these are tricks, others are about developing and improving your general cognitive abilities. Needless to say, the latter will complement the former, so remember to take care of yourself and your brain if you want to improve memory.

As for the tricks themselves, a combination of many of the tricks are likely to provide the best results, as recreating a complete setting might just be the best way to recollect something.

More About Boosting Memory

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Department of Psychology, Montclair State University: Getting a Grip on Memory: Unilateral Hand Clenching Alters Episodic Recall
[2] Telegraph: Smell and memory: the power of scent
[3] Cognition. 2007 Jan: Body posture facilitates retrieval of autobiographical memories.
[4] New Scientist: Chewing gum improves memory
[5] Nutr Neurosci: Effects of chewing gum on mood, learning, memory and performance of an intelligence test.
[6] Orla C. Hayes: The Use of Melodic and Rhythmic Mnemonics To Improve Memory and Recall in Elementary Students in the Content Areas
[7] Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Study Shows How Sleep Improves Memory
[8] Psychon Bull Rev (2011): More is not always better: paradoxical effects of repetition on semantic accessibility
[9] Psychological Bulletin: Distributed Practice in Verbal Recall Tasks: A Review and Quantitative Synthesis
[10] PsyBlog: Cognition Accelerated by Just 4 x 20 Minutes Meditation
[11] The Guardian: Start running and watch your brain grow, say scientists
[12] VerWellMind: How Heavy Alcohol Use Can Damage Memory Function
[13] University of Leicester: The effect of the integrated keyword method on vocabulary retention and motivation
[14] Wikipedia: Heisig
[15] The Atlantic: Using Pattern Recognition to Enhance Memory and Creativity
[16] Lifehacker: Improve Your Memory with The Chunking Technique
[17] The University of Stavanger: Better learning through handwriting
[18] PsyBlog: Memory Improved By Saying Words Aloud

More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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