What Is the Best Memory Strategy? (22 Science-Backed Methods) | Iris Reading
What Is the Best Memory Strategy

What Is the Best Memory Strategy? (22 Science-Backed Methods)

What Is the Best Memory Strategy

The best memory techniques, according to science, include employing acronyms and mnemonics, practicing spaced learning, developing a Memory Palace, sleeping after learning a difficult concept, writing down new knowledge, using visualization techniques, and engaging in active recall, to name a few. 

Do you find it difficult to recall the name of the person you just met?

What’s the name of your friend’s spouse again?

Don’t worry!

Not everyone is blessed with an exceptional memory. 

However, you can train your brain to recall more and quickly pick up new information, just like you can build any other muscle in your body. 

Improving your memory is simpler than it sounds, whether you need to study for a test, learn a new language, avoid embarrassing memory lapses, or just want to stay mentally sharp.

All it requires is experimenting with novel memorizing strategies or fundamental lifestyle changes. 

Here are the top techniques for improving your memory in the short and long term.

1. Structure and organize the information you need to memorize

The best thing you can do to boost your memory is to develop a “self-organizing structure” personality. In other words, start taking an interest in organizing things. Learning about bibliographies is one of the best methods to accomplish this.

Imagine organizing your thoughts like a library and storing information that way.

Understanding how libraries evolved to be organized could encourage you to organize your thoughts similarly. 

Have a variety of note-taking techniques at your disposal to handle this type of self-organization.

Using index cards can be beneficial. Index cards make moving notes easier than taking them from a book linearly.

You can mix and match the cards, shuffle them about, and memorize the information on the cards in a sequence that makes sense. 

This will help you be flexible in learning and remembering rather than constrained by the same sequential format as the book.

Try to keep an “index flex” while you build and arrange your ideas and memorization techniques so that you may move the structure around and rearrange it as necessary.

You can use your memory tools efficiently and effectively once your structure and organization are in place.

2. Associate information with sounds or letters

Words can occasionally share a similar pronunciation or spelling. And some words are simply challenging to spell. You can use sounds or letters, for instance, to help you recall some information.

Here are a few examples:

  • Gray is used in America, but “grey” is used in England.
  • Similar to how a shirt has one collar and two sleeves, the word “necessary” contains one “c” and two “s”s.
  • Stalactites grow from the ceiling, while stalagmites (a type of rock formation) develop from the ground.

3. Use acronyms and mnemonics

You can benefit from mnemonics and acronyms as memory aids.

An acronym is an abbreviation created from the initial letter of a group of words, whereas mnemonics are any method or device designed to help memory. Mnemonics are typical patterns of letters, thoughts, or associations.

For recollecting the mathematical order of operations, consider the abbreviation PEMDAS: Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction.

A mnemonic, such as I before “e” except after “c,” is a brief statement that helps you remember a rule or a principle.

This mnemonic helps pupils remember that when spelling a variety of words, such as “lie,” “believe,” and “pie,” the letter I typically comes before the letter “e.”

Using the most popular mnemonics, you may recall words or phrases more rapidly. 

For instance, you might have learned in elementary school that “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” helps you recall the order in which the planets orbit the sun.

Here are some more examples:

Acronyms or mnemonics for expressions

Similar to the planetary example above, repeating the phrase “Every Good Boy Does Fine” can help you remember the treble clef in music (EGBDF).

Music mnemonics

Due to its structure and propensity for repetition, music is an effective mnemonic. It’s much simpler to remember a catchy tune than to remember a large string of words or letters, such as your bank account password.

Additionally, it explains why commercials frequently use jingles to help their messages stick in your head. Don’t even start me on the Kars4Kids commercial.

You undoubtedly learned the alphabet through the ABC song, and if you’re studying a popular subject, there’s definitely a song for that as well. 

For example, you can learn the elements with the periodic table song or the 50 states of the USA through the Fifty Nifty United States song.

A rhymed mnemonic

Do you remember the line that begins, “30 days hath September, April, June, and November?”

Mnemonics for music are comparable to rhymes. Every line ends in rhyme, which establishes a melodic pattern that is simple to memorize.

Another famous one from culinary shows is, “Looks the same, cooks the same,” which serves as a reminder to slice and dice things consistently for even cooking.

System of rhyming pegs

The “peg system” can be used to memorize a list of things using number rhymes (also known as the “hook system”). You memorize a picture of a word that rhymes with each number in this system. 

You can use that picture as a “hook” or “peg” to remember information, especially in the right order.

Let’s imagine you have a list of groceries to buy, such as milk, cookies, bananas, and bacon. The peg system allows you to learn or make the rhyme peg first. 

Create a clear mental image of the item that rhymes with each number. (What color is that bread bun? Which type of shoe is that? What shade of green do the tree’s leaves have?) 

Imagine the object that rhymes with each item on your shopping list. If the first item on your list is “milk,” for instance, “one” equals “bun,” thus picture a container of milk being crammed between a huge bun of bread. 

Afterward, picture a package of cookies tumbling into a lion’s enclosure at a zoo, a maple tree inside a shop with bananas dangling from a branch, and slices of bacon pushed into the mailbox opening of a dark door.

This method of memorizing a list requires some effort and imagination, but it will help you keep the information for much longer than if you simply tried to memorize the words in sequence. 

Once you’ve mastered the fundamentals of rhyme, you can reuse this for all subsequent lists.

4. Practice spaced learning

You know how you may learn something new—say, interesting facts from a book—or study for an exam and then instantly forget what you learned? 

If we don’t try to remember that information, we’ll probably forget it within a few days or weeks. 

The most effective method for learning content is spaced repetition. This learning technique is especially useful if you want to retain the information long-term, such as vocabulary in a foreign language or data you need for your line of work. 

Spaced repetition involves increasing the time interval between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to optimize the retention of the information. By spacing out review sessions, information is better retained in the long-term memory. 

Starting out, you’ll need two to four days between practice sessions. You’ll quickly reach intervals of years as you extend the interval with each successful memory attempt.

This keeps your sessions difficult enough to commit information to memory consistently. If you forget pieces of information, you’ll start over with short gaps and gradually move back to long ones until that info becomes ingrained in your memory.

This pattern keeps you focused on improving your least reliable memories while preserving and strengthening your most reliable recollections. Regular practice balances the old and the new because well-remembered information eventually fades into the distant future.

For learning a new language, use a spaced repetition approach either with physical flashcards or with an app to defeat forgetting. 

Naturally, digital tools are more practical, but making your own cards—including looking for images to connect to what you’re studying—is a great learning exercise. 

Daily reviews are best for both approaches, but any kind of regular pattern will speed up your learning and enhance your memory.

5. Create a memory palace

The memory palace is a mnemonic technique that has been used for a long time and merits its own section.

When using the memory palace technique, you link the information you’re attempting to recall to a familiar place, such as your home, the street where you grew up, or your commute to work or school. 

According to Nelson Dellis, a four-time USA Memory Champion, the memory palace is still and always will be the most effective strategy.

It works because you visually “insert” images of what you want to remember in settings where you already have vivid recollections of them.

Use the memory palace method as follows:

  • Take a moment to visualize your memory castle. Even though it’s not a palace, your house is a great place to start.
  • Take a mental tour of the palace, noting the unique details you can utilize to retain important information. Each stop along the way serves as a “loci” to which the idea or thing might be attached. For instance, your entrance door might be one loci, your entryway table another, and your living room lamp yet another. Memorize such details so that the path and furnishings will come to mind when you think of your palace.
  • Connect the locations in your palace to the things you need to remember. Imagine milk pouring over the front door from the inside, like a cascade of milk, if you had a grocery list, for instance. As you enter the foyer, you notice that the table is crumbling from the weight of the chocolate chip cookies that have been piled high on it. The lamp in your living room has fluorescent yellow bananas in place of the lightbulb.

Although it may seem silly, the more vivid, active, and outlandish you can create your recollections, the better, as we’ll cover in more detail later.

6. Go to sleep after learning something challenging

This is a pretty simple method to improve your memory. After learning something new, get a good night’s rest or a power nap. Why? You ask. 

Our brains seem to “reset” as we sleep, which is why it’s so important to rest after a learning session. 

According to studies, those who got the chance to sleep for 8 hours after learning new faces and names were better able to recall them than those who didn’t.

And according to psychologist Nicolas Dumay’s examination of two research datasets, a good night’s sleep prevents our brains from forgetting memories and improves our ability to retrieve memories.

Lack of sleep causes the brain’s neurons to become too wired and overactive, making it impossible for new memories to be stored.

This supports the argument against studying late at night for an exam or staying up all night to practice a presentation. 

The first half of the night has the highest concentration of knocked-out-cold deep sleep, which is when the brain consolidates new knowledge and words.

Those basic facts are more difficult to remember the next day without this retention territory if we stay up too late. Even naps count! 

Researchers discovered that napping for 45 to 60 minutes right after learning anything new increased memory capacity by 500%.

Let’s sleep on it, and if you’re caught napping at work by your boss or coworkers, just share these facts with them.

7. Write down new information or say it out loud

Our recall is greatly improved when we write the information down. The reticular activating system (RAS), which is located near the base of the brain, is physically stimulated by writing. 

Your brain pays more attention to what you’re doing right now when the RAS is activated. 

Additionally, we tend to rephrase the material when taking handwritten notes, which is a more active type of learning.

Create mental maps for the subjects you are learning; this is possibly even better. It mixes handwritten text with the visual component—remember, our brains grasp onto visuals.

8. Practice visualization techniques

Images are processed by the human brain more quickly than words. Our brains actually process 90% of information visually. Additionally, we process visual data 60,000 times faster than verbal data.

Humans remember images more easily than words, so using visuals to help you remember words or mathematics is a good memory trick.

Create an image out of a fact that you wish to keep in mind. Try to make the image humorous or exaggerated. But not just any image; it will be easier to remember if it is more ridiculous.

You may use this to help you recall that anions are negatively charged ions and cations are positively charged ions, for instance.

Think of a cat and consider the fact that they have paws. Cations are positively charged since the word “paws” conjures up the word “positive.”

An onion can make you cry, thus, the word “anion” kind of sounds like “onion.” Anions are negatively charged since crying is typically seen as a negative thing.

Similar to the memory palace method, visualization involves anchoring new visual information to a physical characteristic of the thing you’re seeking to remember rather than a specific location.

Animate the pictures

It’s best if you can make these pictures as lively and colorful as possible. This makes stronger connections between the information you want to retain and an image in your brain.

Take advantage of all of your senses

Do you recall how your senses trigger the brain’s initial encoding stage?

If you use your senses of hearing, taste, and smell, you’ll be able to recall abstract information like names and numbers more easily. 

For instance, you might hear audible feedback from the mics in the Mike. Perhaps part of the fruit is spilling out of the melon in Melanie’s, and you can practically smell it.

Similar methods are used when dealing with numbers. You can remember long sequences of numbers more easily if you associate the numbers 0 through 9 with pictures. 

For instance, the best way to remember the number 210 is to visualize a swan swimming past a flagpole while grabbing a donut. In this example, 0 represents a donut, 1 a flagpole, and 2 a swan.

9. Engage in active recall

The memory method known as active recall uses what is referred to as the “testing effect” to its advantage. This is the propensity for memory improvement when you allocate some of your learning to actively retrieving the knowledge.

Passive recollection differs greatly from active recall.

You can learn the information passively by reading notes, listening to a lecture on audio, or viewing a video explaining a scientific concept.

Active recall, on the other hand, involves practicing information retrieval. You can achieve this by responding to questions regarding the subject or by taking tests and quizzes.

Retrieval exercises can significantly improve memory compared to just reviewing the same material again. 

Due to the enormous additional effort required, this method is probably one of the most effective ways to commit information to memory.

10. Break the material down into chunks

Another mnemonic technique that can help you remember a lot of information is the chunking method. Most likely, you already use it.

Instead of using the more memory-intensive “8 8 8 5 5 0 0 0,” it’s likely that you chunk phone numbers into easier-to-remember “888,” “555,” and “0000” combinations.

According to research, the human brain’s working (short-term) memory can store a total of four different things on average

But by organizing knowledge into smaller groupings, we can “exploit the boundaries of our working memory,” as The Atlantic puts it, to retain information.

The chunking technique entails structuring the pieces of information after grouping them and looking for patterns in them. 

Suppose you want to establish sections of a historical era. In that case, you might seek linkages between events, such as instances involving the US Constitution in the 1920s, or you might organize the things on your grocery list by aisle.

Chunking functions because our minds are wired to seek patterns and connect the dots. 

According to Brain Pickings, when using such sophisticated techniques [as chunking] to derive usable structure from unstructured material, our memory system becomes considerably more effective, efficient, and intelligent than it could possibly be.

You can put this into practice by grouping vocabulary words for a new language you’re learning according to topics, arranging items in a list according to the first letter of the item’s name or the number of letters it contains, or connecting items to the larger whole they might be a part of (apples, pie crust, brown sugar, and butter = apple pie, for example).

11. Use difficult-to-read fonts

Researchers from Indiana University, and Princeton University found an intriguing result. When given information in difficult-to-read fonts, test participants remembered it more easily.

One explanation for this is that difficult-to-read fonts, like Comic Sans MS, cause us to reflect more deeply on what we’re reading. This contrasts with fonts that are simple to read (like Arial).

However, the researchers pointed out that this effect has its boundaries.

The advantages of information recall start to wane as fonts are increasingly challenging to read.

12. Use all of your senses

Is there ever a smell or a song that transports you back to another time and place?

If so, you’ll realize that our senses are crucial to memory encoding.

The famed Montessori Method is based on the notion that sensory stimuli, including touch, sight, and sound, can promote learning. You’ll recall the knowledge more clearly if you use more senses during the learning process.

For instance, you may summarize important ideas using images and graphics.

You might also listen to soothing classical music, which has been proven to enhance learning as you study.

13. Practive interleaving to “mix up” the topics

Interleaving is learning various connected skills or types of knowledge over the span of an hour or more. Before moving on to the next, students must master one skill or amount of information.

For instance, a person studying the blocking method of basketball might simply concentrate on dribbling.

They won’t start learning how to make a chest pass until they have mastered dribbling. And they won’t begin studying the bounce pass until after they have mastered the chest pass.

In blocking, you would study Skill A first, followed by Skill B, and then Skill C.

However, by interleaving, you would learn many abilities or types of knowledge at the same time—or almost at the same time.

The same basketball player, for instance, might practice dribbling for 15 minutes, chest passing for 15 minutes, bounce passing for 15 minutes, and so forth.

A training session can include two to three iterations of this cycle.

Educators have long recommended blocking as the most effective method of learning. However, recent studies have demonstrated that interleaving yields many superior results.

One study found that interleaving increased learning by 25% to 76%.

Try to vary your study subjects within a given subject during each study session to maximize your memory.

Don’t limit your practice to questions about circles in geometry, for instance, if you are learning geometry. Answer some questions about circles, then some about triangles, and finally some about quadrilaterals.

Your overall understanding and recall will increase by answering a variety of loosely related questions.

14. Make use of colors

Our attention is drawn to colors. Additionally, they function as a form of mental shorthand.

Colors provide context for the subject you’re learning and speed up your processing. The brain processes visual information, such as colors, 60,000 times faster than text. As a result, when you color-code material, your brain can pre-process it before you actually examine it.

Here are some ideas on using color to improve your learning:

  • It is best to color code your notes after taking them, not while taking them. (This is because color-coding while taking notes may halt the flow of your study session, and you risk going overboard.)
  • Use colored sticky notes, highlighters, and multicolored pens.

Apply the same color coding scheme to all of your themes and subjects.

For instance, you might choose to employ the following system:

  • A key fact in blue
  • A Key explanation in green
  • A key example in red

Something to keep in mind: Don’t use colors excessively as a study aid. You’ll get lost if too much of your study material is colored or highlighted.

15. Share what you’re learning

According to research, learning new information and then imparting it to others considerably improves one’s comprehension. So teaching others about what you’re studying is a useful memory method.

This will improve your understanding and recall of the information.

Additionally, it’s always beneficial to assist others and impart knowledge if necessary!

Your urge to study will rise as you begin to understand that knowledge is meant to be shared, not held in reserve.

16. Understand the information fully before you try to memorize it

People sometimes try to memorize something without understanding it, which is a mistake. Such rote learning is ineffective.

When using rote learning, content is challenging to memorize. This is because you won’t have any mental “pegs” on which to hang the new information if you don’t comprehend a subject.

This brings up the notion of “mental scaffolding’.’

Let’s examine a case in point.

Suppose you want to understand Pythagoras’ theorem, which states that the square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle equals the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

If that is all you study, it will be tough to memorize the theory.

What if you also discover that, by applying this theorem, you can determine the third side’s length for every right-angled triangle given the lengths of the other two sides?

The theory will then make sense to you, making it simpler for you to memorize.

17. Read the information out loud

The research done at the University of Waterloo served as the foundation for this method. According to a study, reading information aloud to ourselves increases our long-term memory retention compared to reading the information silently.

This phenomenon is based on a concept known as the “production effect” by researchers.

Words spoken aloud stand out to our brains more than words said silently. The process of encoding the information in our memory is made easier by its distinction.

Therefore, read the material out loud when you want to make it stick in your memory.

18. Take a walk before memorizing anything

Exercise benefits both the body and the mind.

In a research by James T. Haynes IV, individuals who walked for 15 minutes on a treadmill before the learning period remembered better two lists of 15 words.

Take a quick stroll before listening to a lecture, studying flashcards, or memorizing definitions or equations to get the most out of this memory approach.

19. Study in different locations

So why would studying the same material in multiple places help with memorization?

The brain is forced to form many associations with the material when the same material is studied in several contexts. In other words, the many environments add to the amount of “mental scaffolding” you have available to “hang” the new information.

Many people advise you to conduct all your studies in one location.

The theory behind this is that making learning associated with a specific location would help you study more successfully.

However, studies indicate that this isn’t always the case.

In a well-known experiment, psychologists handed 40 words to college students to memorize.

In two distinct classrooms, the kids memorized the list. While one room was cramped and without windows, the other was contemporary and offered a lovely outlook.

Compared to others who studied the same set of words twice in the same classroom, these students performed significantly better on the test.

Other comparable tests have likewise produced these results.

Try altering your study setting to benefit from this effect. Study in various locations, including the library, home, and classroom.

But remember that you must study the same information in many locations for this method to be effective.

20. Create mind maps

This tactic is fantastic, exceptional, and possibly even unmatched.

The process of mind mapping involves thinking and working memory. Additionally, it enables you to compare ideas and use analogies and factuality stress tests. It enables you to chunk items in a specific way and break them down.

Better yet, you are not obligated to do any of those things. What matters is: “What is your strategy?”

Mind mapping will be useful when you consider your long-term learning objective and your strategies inside it. Also included will be how exactly you use mind mapping.

Spaced repetition can benefit from mind mapping.

Consider mind mapping something you wish to memorize as an example. You now have this fantastic visual display that you can view and return to as often as you like. 

I suggest marking a small roman numeral in the bottom corner to indicate how frequently you have visited the display.

You will profit if you aim for at least ten reviews. This is a unique way to use spaced repetition. 

It’s a terrific approach to incorporate mind mapping and spaced repetition, but it’s not mnemonics or a memory technique (at least not in the sense of Memory Palaces).

21. Establish relationships

Establish relationships with other individuals and past recollections.

What existing memory comes to mind when you hear someone say something in a specific circumstance? What comes to mind when you think of a writer, a book, or an item?

For instance, if you think of Frances Yates, you might recall reading The Art of Memory for the first time. Moonwalking with Einstein might also come up.

These are all very arbitrary examples, but they show how to practice connecting an object to past memories.

Establishing relationships is the skill of being able to create a connection to memory (or more) on demand, even if it’s just a very tenuous one. 

It also involves the exercises of free association and fluid memory. And the more you can do that as you read and study, the more you will retain.

Next, get comfortable using analogies. Even if they are bad or inaccurate, mental associations might assist you to connect two things.

Comparing and contrasting the two things also helps. Because existing memories and analogies are more like comparisons, contrasts are frequently more helpful. 

So, increase the contrast to balance out the attention.

Ultimately, comprehend what actual facts are. Be careful not to be complacent and believe they are what you want them to be or what you were taught. 

Find out the genuine truth about what the facts are instead. They are frequently highly testable and dependent.

22. Make up a story

Create a narrative around the information you’re attempting to remember to help you recall it better.

Let’s imagine that you are attempting to memorize the equation for gravitational potential energy (P.E. = mgh).

Imagine that you’re taking a physical education lesson when suddenly, your mother, grandma, and a horse appear in front of you.

Or perhaps you’re attempting to memorize the equation E = mc2.

Imagine an elephant (E) approaching a monkey (m) who is carrying a square cracker (c2).

What is the most effective memory strategy?

Based on each person’s unique learning preferences and the kind of knowledge they need to retain, the best memory technique varies from person to person. It’s important to understand that the ideal strategy is the one you will find easy to follow. 

Spaced repetition, mnemonic devices, chunking, and mind maps are among the more popular and more efficient memory strategies. However, you must try and test more than one technique to see what best suits you. 

Careful consideration and experimentation are necessary to choose a method that is effective for a particular person. 

The chosen technique should be simple to comprehend, apply, and yield acceptable outcomes. 

Finding a plan that works best for oneself and sticking with it while remaining open to modifying and improving it over time are the keys to success. 

Takeaway: Boost your memory with short- and long-term memory techniques

Now that you have 22 distinct methods at your disposal, you can boost your memory and conquer the world. 

Your preferred mental model is in place. And you are aware of the kind of person your memory studies should make you. It’s now time to start implementing these tactics as habits. Show up frequently and consistently. Work hard. Then, return and repeat the process.

Remember that strategy is the science and art of achieving goals, while memory is the capacity to recall information when needed since it can be stored.

This course on memory optimization is a wonderful place to start if you want to use memory strategies to help you achieve your goals. 

Additionally, keep in mind the speed of implementation rule and don’t just sign up. 

Start straight away!

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