Learning is an essential process at any stage of life. You may need to remember large amounts of information for school, learn how to do things at your job, or even learn new strategies to improve your health or relationships. No matter what kind of learning you need to do, it can be helpful to have some tricks up the sleeve that will allow you to retain information better.
Memory is a complex process that works differently for every person. The same techniques may not work for every person. The best way to find the methods that work for you is to try out different strategies and see which ones fit your learning style and help you remember more information.
Explain it to Someone Else
It’s always easier to remember something if you understand it. Making sure that you know the information and the topic as a whole is often more effective than simply memorizing facts. One of the most effective ways to see if you can understand something is to explain it to someone else.
If you don’t have a study buddy to explain topics with, try writing down an explanation, or saying one aloud. This can help you to see what you do and don’t understand. If you have trouble explaining things, try going back to the original lesson material or finding another source that may explain it in a way that is easier to understand. Explaining what you’ve learned can also help you retain information by allowing you to repeat it and understand it from a different perspective.
Break Up Your Learning
It may be tempting to try and do all your learning at once. This is what many students do when they cram for exams. It can also happen if you try to do all your studying at once, like blocking out a significant amount of time on one day of the week. While this may be helpful for planning, it’s not always practical for learning and may mean that it takes more time to learn the same concepts.
To work smarter and not harder, try learning more consistently in smaller blocks of time. Instead of studying for five hours in one day, try checking for an hour each day of the week. When you give your brain adequate time to process the new information, you can retain it more efficiently. You’ll also be more ready to take in further details the next time you study.
Active recall is essentially the process of testing yourself multiple times throughout the learning and revision process. This is more effective than just quizzing yourself once after your review session. The practice of finding and retrieving information in the brain can help you retain it for longer and recall it more easily when you need it.
Try thinking of different times you can test yourself throughout your studying. When you learn a new concept, see if you can explain what you’ve just learned. If you’re reviewing your notes, try seeing what you remember before rereading it. It can even be helpful to do something called blurting, where you write down everything you remember about a topic before reviewing your notes or other material about it.
The Memory Palace Technique
This is one of the more complex memory techniques, but it can be very effective. The Memory Palace Technique harnesses the brain’s power to remember things visually and spatially to help you recall information.
Start by visualizing a familiar place. It could be your bedroom or the house where you grew up. It should be a place where you know your way around instinctively so that you don’t have to spend time remembering what the site looks like.
Then, pick images to represent everything you want to remember, and “put” these images in places around the space. For instance, if you’re going to remember a grocery list, place each item on the list in a different place in your metaphorical area. You might put the eggs on your desk, the milk on a chair, or the cereal on your bed. You can then remember these items more efficiently by imagining yourself moving through the space and seeing each image in its location.
Keep Working Out Your Brain
Like many other body parts, your brain will get stronger as you use it. The more you practice learning and using different memory techniques, the more accessible these processes will become. As you practice additional learning and memory techniques, you’ll also be able to use them quicker and more efficiently.
Working out your brain can also help improve your memory overall. Many people use puzzles or brain games to help keep their brains active. This can be especially helpful as people get older and lose memory function. You can also exercise your brain by learning new things, improving existing skills, and engaging with new ideas.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.