How to Improve Your Memory in 6 Steps

There are many techniques that, used in combination, will improve your memory and help you excel in whatever it is you are choosing to learn or remember.

We've chosen 6 of our favourites.

  1. Pay attention

  2. Don't overfill your memory

  3. Reflect

  4. Write things down

  5. Sleep well

  6. Practice Practice Practice

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

Pay attention to improve memory

Pay attention, be present and actively engaged in what it is you choose to learn. Give yourself time and space to allow your mind to do the work required of it.

It may sound obvious, but if you put energy into retaining knowledge, and if you are engaged with the subject matter you have a far higher likelihood of remembering it. A good test for this is to try and recall your most active credit card number. Most people buy online regularly add their credit card in to numerous websites. However, they are unlikely to be able to recall that number. This is because they don't want to and aren't therefore aren't actively engaged in doing so. Turn this on it's head and if you are actively engaged in something then you will stand a better chance of remembering it.

If you don’t do anything else, do this. It is unlikely that any of the other tips will help you improve your memory if you don't do this one.

Don't overfill your memory

You can’t remember everything. Acknowledge this and tackle it by establishing a routine and being mindful of what you need to actively remember, and what you don't.

For example if you are learning something make sure you put everything relating to that topic in one place, you’ll know where it is when you need it.

For the information you absolutely need in my memory, implement memory strategies. For the stuff you need to be aware of but don't actively need to remember, simply ensure it's stored in a safe place. Sometimes you just need to know where to go retrieve the information you need. A platform like BRIAN is ideal for this, as are OneNote and Evernote. Whatever you choose make sure you are able to easily tag and categorise your information, so you can locate it easily when you need it. BRIAN has been built with this in mind

Reflect and improve memory

In some industries, the tradition of reflection is rooted in the fabric of the job and encourages continual learning. Most healthcare professionals, for example, reflection is second nature. The practice is embedded from student to professional and often integral to their ability to legally practice. Most professions that are regulated by a Charter, Institute or Society will require reflection to be undertaken by their members as part of their Continual Professional Development.

The technique has enormous gains for memory retention. There are many models out there - Gibbs reflective model is one, but there are many - just google them and find one you like. Initially reflect on your own, but then to gain even more impact, reflect with a friend, partner or colleague. This can be open up a whole new level of memory and insight.

Write Things Down to improve memory

There have been a number of studies which have proven that the process of writing (not typing!) something down increases the likelihood of remembering it. The activity engages your brain and cognitive function in a way that reading and typing don't. And the benefits don't stop there. Writing can provide clarity on a thought or idea, taking you from merely learning verbatim to understanding and comprehension. If writing things down isn't your thing try audio and vocalising, use an app that allows you to dictate. Set reminders to reflect and review your writing or dictation.

Writing it down doesn’t always sit well with what I've just discussed about digitally saving things in one place that's easily accessible. You don’t have to sacrifice being efficient with pen and paper.

Write down your notes (keeping it short and concise). Take a photo of those notes and upload it to a portfolio like BRIAN. BRIAN boards will help you categorise what you are trying to remember.

Combine all these 4 tips to super charge your memory by using online tools to help you remember. A tool like BRIAN will keep you organised, supports notes and memory joggers allows you to use the goal setting tool to remind and then reflecting as well as breaking down topics into smaller, more memorable chunks.

Sleep well to improve memory

The benefits of a good nights sleep to memory, learning, health and well being have been proven in well documented and recent studies.

In relation to memory, a good nights sleep - which is advised as between 7 and 8 hours - helps in 2 ways. Firstly, a sleep-deprived person limits their ability to focus and therefore cannot learn efficiently. Secondly, sleep itself actually consolidates and formulates memory; meaning it's is essential for remembering and learning new information.

Research suggests that information learnt during the day is only cemented into memory when certain triggers take place, triggers which are only stimulated whilst asleep. Have you ever crammed for an exam or presentation and tested yourself before you went to sleep, only to find that you aren't doing as well as you thought you should? But then the next day, rejuvenated after a night sleep you can recall the information from the day before with added confidence? This phenomenon is not just coincidence, its vital to get a good night’s sleep after learning something new in order to process and store the information to memory.

Practice, practice, practice

There is no substitute for trying something out and practising what you've learnt. Whether you are trying to remember how to do something or retaining information, training your muscle memory will help.

If you are keen not only to know something but to fully understand and become proficient in it, practice is the way forward. This can sound obvious for skill-based learning - of course, you can't learn to swim if you don't practice. But it is also excellent for theory and research-based knowledge. For this type of learning "practice" might include saying what you've learnt out loud or actively engaging in the subject matter rather than learning something verbatim.

Of course, there are lots of other techniques you can try; mnemonics, memory palaces, incorporating emotional connections, visualisation techniques, and lots of good practices you should implement; sleep methods, scheduling time to learn, exercise.

However, these 6 simple tricks are, in our opinion, uncomplicated and the building blocks for improving your memory.

Give them a try and let us know what you think.

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