Best Memory Improvement Techniques
The best memory improvement techniques are mnemonics (geography mnemonics, rhymes, Method of Loci & chunking memory), speed reading, spaced repetition, and mind mapping.
It’s quite frustrating when you try recalling someone’s name or something you saw recently but can’t find the word to say it. Your memory slips off just when you need it the most!
It often happens when you haven’t trained your memory to complete its function from information acquisition, consolidation, and finally recall. When you don’t exercise your recall function, you will most likely lose the ability to retrace stored information.
Memory improvement techniques teach you how to strengthen your memory’s recall function. These techniques are ideal for students, professionals, or people who need help strengthening their memory.
This article will share the best memory improvement techniques, why they are the best, and how you can use them to strengthen your memory recall.
1. Mnemonics technique
Mnemonics is a memory tool that helps you recall certain facts and information, especially when the order of that information is critical. It can be in the form of acronyms, rhymes, memory palaces, positive images, symbols, absurd words, or numbers.
Mnemonics is a fast and clever way to pull info from your brain. It is best used for remembering your speech, shopping list, or daily to-do list.
It is also handy for remembering answers to questions that you know but can’t recall the exact answer to.
The best time to use mnemonic is:
1) When you have retention but don’t have recall. You can’t remember the answer to a question. The answer seems to have slipped away.
2) When you’re time-bound and need fast and clever ways to pull info from your brain.
Common types of mnemonics
Use this technique to remember geographical places. You could use an acronym to trigger a memory recall.
For instance, you could use the HOMES acronym to remind you of the Great Lakes. This way, you’ll remember that you have 5 lakes from the letters and can expound each letter to be Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, and Superior. In this example, the acronym becomes the trigger that helps you retrieve information about the great lakes.
Acronyms help you remember the components of an item you want to recall. When you use acronyms, they trigger your brain to recall the information you have retained.
Examples of popular acronyms:
- The ROYGBIV acronym helps you remember the order of colors of the spectrum. Each letter stands for a certain color – Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.
- The FANBOYS acronym helps you remember these coordinating conjunctions: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So.
Rhyme mnemonics, also called an Ode, turns the information you need to recall into a poem.
Here are examples of rhyme:
- Never Eat Sour Wheat to help you remember the main compass points. Each letter corresponds to a direction (North East South West).
- Every Good Bird Does Fly to help you remember the lines and order of a treble clef (E, G, B, D, F).
- Thirty days hath September, April, June, and November. All the rest have 31, except February. And that has twenty-eight days clear and twenty-nine in each leap year.
Mnemonics, especially rhymes, are popular with radio and tv commercials where you hear certain jingles trigger your memory to remember a particular brand.
Method of Loci (or Memory Palaces)
The Loci method is a special frame of reference where you put familiar objects into the things you need to remember. Then, you create a path or memory place that associates each item with an object you can relate to.
It works best when you need to remember detailed information, such as reciting a speech without notes. You can develop a story that links different parts of your speech by going through memory palaces.
Also called a memory palace, the Loci Method is a mnemonic technique for helping you to recall information with lots of detail.
It is suitable for students trying to pass their medical or bar exams. Or professionals who need to recall lots of names.
How to apply the Method of Loci
The summary is:
- Visualize how you get home from work. You could pass by your mailbox and pick up mail. Then open the door and hug your pet as you walk in. Perhaps the next step is to remove your shoes and coat. Think of this path as a memory palace
- When you have information to memorize, take this path and then associate what you need to remember with each step in that path.
So you’d associate passing your mailbox with information item #1, then opening the door to hug your pet with information item #2, then removing your shoes and coat with information item #3.
Other popular mnemonics
- Visual mnemonics
They help you associate an image to a thing or person. This image should reflect or be similar to the item you’re trying to remember.
- Your senses
Use your sense of touch, hearing, or smell to describe what you want to remember. Then when you trigger that sense, your memory begins to recall that event or person.
- Positive images
Store images in your head to trigger your brain to recall something you’re retained.
How to create a mnemonic
- Pick the keyword or first letter of the item in the list that you need to remember. Write it down.
- Do the same for the remaining items in the list
- Turn these letters into an acronym or a song. The song will help you remember the order of the items.
2. Chunking memory technique
Chunking is a mnemonic technique ideal for short-term and long-term memorization. This technique is based on research that our brain cannot remember more than 7 pieces of information at any given time.
The short-term memory works like a computer RAM. The brain can take in 7 (+/- 2) individual units of information at a time. You can only hold that information for a limited time before it slips your mind quickly.
An experiment by George Miller on chunking confirms that we cannot store more than 7 units of information in our short-term memory. His work reiterated William Hamilton’s experiment on the brain’s inability to locate more than 7 marbles at a time.
Reasons why you may need to use chunking
- It helps your short-term memory retain a lot of information at a go. Chunking is about grouping 2, 3, or 4 similar items together, so you take in 7 trunks instead of 7 individual pieces of information.
- It comes in handy when you want to recall lots of details, such as a grocery list.
- Best for remembering the names of people with difficult surnames more than 14-letters long.
- It saves time because you don’t have to keep stopping every time you take in 7 pieces of information at a time.
- To help you spell certain words correctly. This is especially when phonetic pronunciation is different from the actual spelling, such as Wed-nes-day or Mis-sis-sippi.
How to use chunking memory technique
For example, you may need to remember 12 cranial nerves as a medical student. With chunking technique, you can create 5 groups or more of these nerves to help you recall this information.
It is easier to memorize long digits if you format the numbers in chunks of 3s or 2s. This would be similar to writing a phone number with an area code.
You can combine the letters into chunks for easy recall. For instance, you could break this code XIBMSATMTVX into chunks of 3 letters.
- Break the letters into chunks.
XIBM SAT MTVX
- Visualize using images to help you remember the order of the spelling or words.
A mnemonic image or visualization mnemonics can help you create images of these chunks. For instance, IBM would remind you of the company, SAT on the exams, and MTV on the television channel.
Example of a grocery chunking technique:
Create categories of your grocery list:
- Produce for strawberries, bananas, tomatoes, and cucumbers
- Bakery for bread and cakes
- Dairy for milk, cheese, yogurt, and sour cream
Tips for effective chunking technique
1) Chunking works fast if you keep practicing it.
2) Start practicing it with your grocery list or to-do list. See if it will help you memorize these items better.
3) Mind-map chapters after you read them,
3. Speed Reading
Speed reading helps you comprehend lots of information quickly and retain it longer. It is useful when you have to stay current with changing daily trends in your industry or profession.
It also works for people who need to read lots of technical manuals.
Speed reading trains your brain like how weight lifting trains your muscles. As you train your brain, it becomes stronger and more capable of higher-level performance.
You become more equipped to absorb information faster, consolidate and recall it effectively. The more you speed read, the more you activate your memory.
Reasons why you may need to use speed reading
Speed reading helps you improve your logic. This is because you train your brain to sort information and create correlations with other stored information. Your brain makes these logical connections much quicker as you increase your reading speed.
Speed reading is good for its emotional effect. As you read faster, you’ll find yourself focusing even more on the information. You enter a meditative state known as ‘active meditation’ where you become less tense and relaxed.
Tips for speed reading
- Be patient with your reading and comprehension rate. Some people can read more than 1000 words per minute with 90% comprehension. They not only read faster but retain a chunk of the information.
Worry not if these are not your statistics. With practice, you can increase your comprehension rate gradually.
2) Use tools such as AccelaReader to help you calculate how long you read an article.
4. Spaced Repetition
Spaced repetition is a well-known memory strengthening technique for revising content before an exam. This technique recommends that you space your revisions in gradually increasing intervals.
For instance, you could space your revisions in 1 day, 3 days, 6 days, 9 days.
How to use spaced repetition
- Read the material before bedtime so that your brain processes this information as you sleep
- Take a break between revisions to allow your brain to absorb all the information you’re reading.
- Link new information with retained information. If you choose to use the 10-80-10 rule, you’d review 10% of the old information, add 80% of new information, and preview 10% of new information that you’re reading next.
- Apply creative ways of learning. You could try reciting the information or writing it down. You could use positive images to help you retain new information. Try a mix of these methods to see what works for you.
The best memory improvement techniques include mnemonics, speed reading, and spaced repetition. With mnemonics, you can use various memory tools ranging from memory palaces to the chunking technique.
We suggest taking the Maximizing Memory course if you need help with these techniques. Whether you’re a student or a professional, this course will cover the practical aspects of these techniques and help you recall information more effectively.