Understanding how the brain collects and recalls information is the key to improving memory.
Memory is made up of two factors: concentration and recall. In most cases, it is not that we forget, but that we never properly stored information. Generally the brain places most information in short term memory. Unless we find a way to put it in long term memory, 50% will be lost almost immediately and 20% of that will be gone within 24 hours. Here are several memorization techniques that will help you sort out the most relevant information and recall it when it matters most.
Know Your Style
Before you can hope to adopt new memorization techniques, it is important that you understand your learning style. There are three main groups of learners: auditory, visual, and tactile learners. Understanding your style will help you adapt techniques that make your study time as effective as possible. If you are an auditory learner, consider recording yourself reciting the material and playing it back to yourself. If you are a visual learner, consider reading the material several times and color coding the most important pieces. Tactile learners generally benefit the most from re-writing the information or acting out information with props to employ as many of the senses as possible. While all three of these methods can be effective, you should try to incorporate the best approach for your personal learning style as much as possible.
Concentration and Comprehension
Without proper focus, the brain cannot receive the proper information let alone store it. Be sure to eliminate distractions by turning off your phone, the TV and finding a study space that suits your needs and is generally free of distractions. In much the same way a computer will slow down and crash with too many applications open, your brain cannot effectively process several stimuli at once. Check your concentration by paraphrasing what you have just read at regular intervals to ensure comprehension. If you do not have a firm grasp on the subject matter before you try and memorize it, you exponentially reduce your ability to memorize it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help in attaining clarity on difficult subjects.
Repetition and Redundancy
Anyone who has studied a language will tell you that repetition is the key to successful memorization. Research shows that by studying 50% longer, students are able to recall 50% more material. Do not give your brain the chance to let information fade. Repeat the material several times and continuously review it in the coming hours and days to prevent it from slipping out of your memory. Not only should you repeat the information, but you should re-write it, recite it aloud to yourself, explain it to others, and listen to others talk about it. These multiple inputs will help ingrain the information into your memory.
Create Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic devices are tools we use to help prompt our brain to recall certain memories. They can be any number of tools including rhymes, acronyms, or visual imagery. One classic example is using the fictional name Roy G. Biv to remember the colors of the rainbow. A more complex version of this memorization technique is called chunking. This method breaks down complex information into manageable units. A great example of this is the way in which10 digit US phone numbers are broken into three segments. This approach helps our brains compartmentalize the information and recall it with less difficulty. Using these examples, break down the information into smaller parts and create a rhyme or some sort of association to help you remember them.
Finally, it is important to be well rested when attempting to memorize information. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for the brain to concentrate and store information. When taking a nap is not an option, you should take short breaks about every hour to walk around, get a snack, or answer text messages. By stepping away from the material for a short time you will be able to concentrate better when you return to it. Additionally it ensures you have time to eat and hydrate properly to keep your body running smoothly. While these are not the only memorization techniques, they are some of the easiest to implement and most effective in helping you achieve your goals.