3 Brain Hacks to Easily Memorize New Info and Save Time While Studying
We’ve all been there before — You’ve got a big exam to cram for or a crucial presentation to make, and you need a quick way to learn a lot of information quickly. Heck, maybe you just need help remembering to return a phone call when you get home from work.
This collection of brain “hacks” will come to the rescue again and again, and can save time (and Post-It notes).
Chunking is generally used for remembering numbers, but can be used to remember other things as well. It’s based on the concept that a typical person can remember about 7 items in their short-term memory. This is why telephone numbers were designed to have 7 digits — beyond 7 digits, and we have a much more difficult time remember the information.
Furthermore, telephone numbers are broken down into sequences of either 3 or 4 numbers. There’s a good reason for this as well — Trying to remember the full number sequence of “4563441″ is much more difficult that memorizing “456″ along with “3441.” This is chunking in action.
By breaking down information into more manageable “chunks”, we can memorize more complex information in a shorter period of time. We can gain even more memory traction by relating the chunks to things that already mean something to us. For instance, remembering a phone number like 555-1996 will be made a lot easier if we associate “1996″ with something important to us, such as the year we graduated from college.
2. A Walk Down Memory Lane
We humans aren’t great at memorizing sequences of facts – for instance, a series of events for a history test or an instructional presentation. We are pretty good, however, at remembering other types of sequences, such as the path we take to work or school every morning.
We can utilize that knack for path memory using the method of Loci. This technique involves mentally visualizing a well-known path, like the route you take to work in the morning. At each landmark or turn in the path, mentally “place” a piece of the information you’re trying to learn. Once each point in your route has a fact associated with it, it’s very easy to recall the sequence simply by mentally “walking” down the path and remembering the facts along the way.
This method also has the benefit of working both forwards and backwards. If you need to remember the information last-to-first, simply visualize yourself walking the route backwards (as you would when you’re returning home from school or work).
3. Your Mind’s Eye (and Nose, and Ears, and Mouth)
Perhaps the most powerful memory technique involves coming to your senses — your five senses, that is.
Try to remember everyone that showed up to the last birthday party you attended. You can figure it out, but it probably took a few seconds (or minutes). Now try to remember how the birthday cake tasted, or how the candles smelled when you blew them out. That probably came to you a bit more quickly, didn’t it?
Vivid memories, or memories that involve one or more of our senses, are much easier to recall. We can take advantage of this by including senses in our memorization. Do you want to remember to call your best friend when you get home from work? Mentally associate the cold feel of your front door’s doorknob and the smell of the juniper bush by the porch with an image of your friend’s face. Once you actually get home later in the day, you’ll recall those vivid memories much more easily than simply trying to memorize the phrase “call Steve when I get home.”
This technique can be used to enhance just about any other memory trick — that’s what makes it so powerful. Adding vivid imagery to your loci-based path memories, for instance, will help you recall the items even more easily. This type of brain “hacking” can save time and frustration by using your natural tendencies to learn more efficiently.
And finally, if you’ve got a large amount of info to go over before a test or presentation, some memory experts recommend saving time by speed reading. By reading more quickly, your brain ignores smaller details and can more easily retain the over-arching concepts of a text.
Do you have any memory tricks? Share them in the comments below!