Four Memory Tricks
Nothing helps you get ahead quicker than a good memory. Whether you’re trying to remember the name of the guy you just met, a state capital, or complex sets of business data, these simple tricks can help you improve your memory skills.
1. Start by chunking. According to psychologists, it’s especially hard to make your brain recall long lists of separate pieces of information. To make it easier to remember a long list of almost anything, break the list into small and manageable groups, or “chunks.”
For example, you might find it hard to remember all of the original 13 British colonies in the United States. But if you break them into small groups based on common traits, such as the region each colony belongs in, it’s much easier. First, just concentrate on learning which colonies belong in which region. When you know each region, you know the whole set of 13.
2. New York
3. New Jersey
3. North Carolina
4. South Carolina
2. Rhode Island
4. New Hampshire
2. Use mnemonic devices. These are memory improvement techniques, and are sometimes quite elaborate. One common device uses words or abbreviations to compress lists of information into shorter bits that are easier to remember. Here are some common examples:
Names of the Great Lakes
H-O-M-E-S; Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior
Colors of the spectrum
R-o-y G. B-i-v; Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet
Order of operations in mathematics
Please Explain My Dull, Awful Subjects; Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication/Division,Addition/Subtraction
Planets in the solar system
Many Vocal Enemies Make Jokes Squealing Under Nervous Pressure; Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars,Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto
Kings Play Chess On Funny Green Squares; Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species
Every Good Boy Does Fine; E, G, B, D, F
3. Link information to visual cues. Often it’s easier to remember a place or an image and its characteristics, than it is to recall a set of unfamiliar pieces of information. To memorize the information, you can try taking an item from the list and associating it in your mind with a picture or place that you know well.
For example, let’s say you need to memorize the presidents of the United States since World War II. You could associate each of the presidents with a place you know well, such as your front porch:
Sitting on the steps
Knocking at the front door
Swinging on a porch swing
Standing at the mailbox
Ringing the doorbell
Sitting in a wicker chair
Standing under the porch light
Standing on the right
Sitting at a table
Standing on the left
To reinforce this, you could draw a sketch of your porch, and note on it the location of each president. This technique is so powerful that you might find yourself thinking of the presidents the next time you go to your porch.
4. Read with a purpose. Many psychologists think that the best way to remember what you read is to follow the PQ4R method. PQ4R is a mnemonic device for Preview, Question, and four R’s: Read, Reflect, Recite, Review.
If you are reading a chapter in your biology book, for example, you should start by skimming the whole chapter for an overview. Then create some questions to concentrate on while you study, such as “How does photosynthesis work?” Then read the chapter.
After you’ve finished, reflect–think about how the chapter has answered your questions. Recite the answers back to yourself, explaining the information in your own words. Finally, go back through the book, skimming again for the main points.
Sound like a lot of work? It may take longer than a quick skim, but it’s also a great way to make sure you retain what you are reading, rather than just sitting in front of the book and turning pages.