Recently, the New York Times interviewed several physicians, researchers and other experts on memory–specifically how to improve our memory skills. The obvious tip is to stop using smart devices that give us instant access to much of the things we were trying to remember. But giving up our devices isn’t going to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, here are four tips from the experts for improving what memory we have left.
Saying or reading the information you want to recall over and over continues to be the best method for transforming short-term memories into long-term ones, according to the experts. Repeat words, thoughts, and ideas over and over until you get them right. It’s the easiest brain game there is. Let us repeat: it’s the easiest brain game there is.
There’s no such thing as speed-repeating. Keep your memorization effort slow and break it up into sessions. But be careful: Spacing out sessions or scheduling them too concurrently both seem to slow gains, so find a healthy medium that works. When you rehearse knowledge and practice it often, it sticks. So if you can incorporate what you’re trying to remember into daily life, ideally over time, your chances of retaining it drastically improve.
But beware: Once you stop rehearsing that knowledge, the retention drops profoundly, a phenomenon called the “forgetting curve.”
Memory and focus go hand-in-hand. Excess stimuli in open-offices, stress from procrastination, useless talks like surfing all conspire to blow up our focus. Stop engaging in useless tasks like surfing the web and just tackle whatever it is you need to work on.
Minds wander constantly. For students, adding frequent quizzes incentivizes focus because they know they’ll be quizzed. Daniel Schacter, a psychologist and a co-author of the book, “The Seven Sins Of Memory,” suggests that employing cues — like telling students there will be a quiz the next day — to associate places and things with the thing you want to recall. “Memory is very cue-dependent,” he said. “When you don’t have that cue, you can forget almost anything. The really tricky thing about absent-minded memory failure is it can affect almost anything if the cue is not present at the moment you need to catch a reaction.”
More on memory
Ever since we started using our smart devices to remember for us, we’ve become interested in the topic of memory. Here’s a link to a previous post that includes links to several past articles that we keep forgetting we have in our archives. Didn’t we mention that you should repeat things if you want to remember them?