Memories can be elusive at times when you are trying to place a name with a face. The brain’s capacity to store and recall information is amazing. Poor memory can strike at any age, and it could hinder your work and personal life. If you want to memorize something quickly and thoroughly, repetition won’t cut it; however, recalling something will. The problem is that recalling something requires learning, and we all learn in different ways. Below are some universal steps to mastering the art of recalling so that you can start memorizing a ton of data in a short amount of time.
We’re all much better remembering what interests us. Few individuals have a hard time remembering the names of people they find attractive. If you’re not inherently interested in what you’re learning or trying to remember, you must find a way to become interested.
Leverage your Visual Memory
You will be surprised by how much more this will enable you to remember. For example, imagine you’re at a party and are introduced to five people in quick succession. How can you quickly memorize their names? Pick out a single defining visual characteristic of each person and connect it to a visual representation of their name, preferably through an action of some kind. It requires mental effort to do this, but if you practice you’ll be surprised how quickly you can come up with creative ways to generate these images. Here’s another example: How often do you forget where you left your keys, your sunglasses, or your wallet? The next time you put something down somewhere, pause a moment to notice where you’ve placed it, and then in your mind blow it up. If you visualize the explosion in enough detail, you won’t forget where you put it. Remember: Memory is predominantly visual.
Develop a Mental Memory Tree
If you’re trying to memorize a large number of facts, find a way to relate them in your mind visually with a memory tree. Construct big branches first, then leaves. Branches and leaves should carry labels that are personally meaningful to you in some way, and the organization of the facts (“leaves”) should be logical.
Writing out facts in lists improves recall if you make yourself learn the lists actively instead of passively. In other words, don’t just copy the list of facts you’re trying to learn but actively recall each item you wish to learn and then write it down again and again and again. In doing this, you are, in effect, teaching yourself what you’re trying to learn—and as all teachers know, the best way to ensure you know something is to have to teach it. This method has the added benefit of immediately showing you exactly which facts haven’t made it into your long-term memory so you can focus more attention on learning them rather than wasting time reinforcing facts you already know.
Studying in the Afternoon
Though you may identify yourself as a “morning person” or “evening person” at least one study suggests your ability to memorize isn’t influenced as much by what time of day you perceive yourself to be most alert but by the time of day you actually study—afternoon appearing to be the best.
- Exercise your body, it doesn’t even have to be vigorous, just a few hours a week
- Exercise your mind, because doing things that work the mind may delay or prevent memory loss
So if the mind is a muscle, then using the mind will only make it stronger. Read, do math problems, anything that will work your brain.