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”.((Wikipedia: The Forgetting Curve )) 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.((PLOS One Journal: Replication and Analysis of Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve)) 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. 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.((ResearchGate: Spaced repetition learning games on mobile devices: Foundations and perspectives)) 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. 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”.((Annual Reviews: Sleep, Memory and Plasticity)). Another research published in Current Opinion in Neurology shows that,((Current Opinion in Neurology: Functional neuroimaging insights into how sleep and sleep deprivation affect memory and cognition))
“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.
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.((Sage Journals: Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology)) 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
- How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything
- 7 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Short Term Memory
- 10 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Long Term Memory