My Spare Brain: 1 Effective Way to Improve Memory

The most effective way to improve memory is to write stuff down, then read it later.

During my studies in Cognitive Science, I learned a lot about human cognition, memory and thinking. We talked about how people can improve their memory with simple tricks. How the brain can be fooled with visual illusions and so on. The field is a fascinating area of study and research. What struck me most was a questioned posed during class. A fellow student asked what’s the best way to improve our memories. The professor said, “Write it down.”

Get a notebook and use it.

Get a notebook and use it.

Human memory is fallible and requires something to keep it working well. That requires pen and paper. Nothing helps you retain information than writing and reading your notes over and over again. Reading someone else’s notes isn’t as productive as writing it down yourself. The very act of translating the memory of class into comprehensible words and lists does wonders for memory retention–because you are re-encoding the material. With practice and additional classes, you can re-enforce correct form and again re-encode the memory into your mind. This cycle is the best way to memorize material.

Notebooks are the best invention for memory in the world. Take the time to do it soon after each class. Don’t let more than a day or two pass before you write things down. Just jot everything down in a flood of words. Don’t try to censor the material or format at this time. Most likely, writing things down will trigger more memories and thoughts about class. Record them, even if it’s a few days later.

Later go through your notes and arrange them in an organized manner. Rewrite things to make them sound better and add simple drawings if that helps you. These are like reference notes for you, so put them in a format that works for you. Most people have different ways of storing and sorting information. Use the one that fits your method and memory style best.

Another great tip is to add comments to your older notes. If the instructor makes a comment that applies to an old technique, adding the insight to the previous version of the notes goes a long way into understanding the technique. During your review of your notes, you may have thoughts on how the material relates. Record those thoughts too. Your notebook is a living document. Feel free to add to it all the time. Don’t let it become stale because you don’t want to contaminate it with new ideas. A notebook is a workbook.

Everyone is different so not all tricks work for all people. What is your trick to remember things?