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6 Tips to Improve Your Memory and Recall

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Updated April 23, 2014

How can you improve your memory? If you’re trying to learn something new or increase your ability to recall information, try these tips:

  • Chunking
    One way to make it easier to remember several pieces of information is to put it into chunks. For example, instead of trying to remember these numbers: 2,7,5,3,8,7,9,3,2,6,5,8,9, & 5, try to remember this instead: 2753, 8793, 2658 and 95. Your brain can retain more information if you group it in this way than if you think of each number as a separate piece of information. Recent research demonstrates that chunking information continues to be a very effective strategy throughout early Alzheimer's.

  • Remember the Number 7
    As you try to store information in your short-term memory, consider that scientists have concluded that our brains can store approximately 7 things in our short-term memory. Trying to remember a list of 12 things to purchase at a store will be a challenge.

  • Mnemonic Devices
    This device is a great way to remember things. It’s quite easy to develop and remember a mnemonic strategy. For example, to learn the notes that fall on the lines of the treble clef when I took piano lessons, I was taught the following phrase: Every Good Boy Does Fine. The first letter of each word, (E, G, B, D, F) is the note name for the lines of the treble clef. To learn the names of the spaces, I was taught the word FACE, where each letter of that word was the name of the note in ascending order.

  • Attach Meaning
    You can also remember something easier by adding meaning to it. So, if you’re trying to remember items on a grocery list, you can make a sentence out of them like this: The turkey ate bread and peanut butter before she laid eggs and drank lettuce-flavored milk. This may help you remember to purchase turkey, bread, peanut butter, eggs, lettuce and milk.

    Attaching meaning is also helpful if you’re someone who doesn’t remember names easily. Associating someone’s name when you meet them with something you already know well will more easily help you to recall their name the next time. Let’s imagine you just met Bob and Cindy. Think of someone else you know with the name Bob and find something they have in common with each other. Then think of Cindy and consciously connect her face with her name. Thinking of them as B.C., for Bob and Cindy, may trigger their names the next time you see them.

  • Repetition
    This may seem like an obvious one, but being intentional about repeating something will help it land beyond your short-term memory. In the example of Bob and Cindy above, repeating their names in your head, along with the meaning you’ve given them, can help you recall those names later.

  • Write It Down
    Finally, write things down. This usually works the best if you have a specific place to write things down, such as a notebook you always keep by the phone. The act of writing things down can help implant the memories into your brain, as well as serve as a reminder and a reference for you.

Sources:

Bor, Daniel., Hampshire, Adam, Huntley, Jonathan, Howard, Robert. The British Journal of Psychiatry. Working memory task performance and chunking in early Alzheimer’s disease. Accessed December 18, 2011. http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/198/5/398.abstract

Univeristy of Louisana. Memory. Accessed December 18, 2011. http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~rmm2440/Memory.pdf

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