We’ve all seen or heard of them; the people who can memorise incredibly long lists of words, numbers, names, etc. And while you may not have desire to be the next “Mr Memory”, most of us probably wish we could remember certain things a little more easily from time to time.Here are some of the current techniques recommended by experts.
Self Test and Fail
Believe it or not, experts say that if you forget it once, you are more likely to remember it next time. For example if you try to remember a list of random words, the ones you can’t quite remember when you test yourself, but get close to, prime your memory so as to better remember those particular words next time around. If the list is too easy and you remember it all first or second time around, you are less likely to still remember it a day or a week later. If the memorising task is hard enough to produce mistakes your mind focuses more and recall is likely to last longer.
Small Chunks, Small Breaks
It is best not to try to remember a long list all in one go. Learn a few items, then relax for 5 minutes and let your mind wander. This allows what you learned to sink in before you tackle the next batch. Once you’ve studied the full list, take increasingly longer breaks before testing and going over them again.
A Buffet, Not Courses
It may seem logical that categorising items into groups would help to learn them and it’s true that some people seem to prefer this technique. But many experts say that it is better to have a random mix in your list. And to start testing yourself and revising at random from different points in the list rather than becoming very good at the first few items and gradually weaker as you go through.
Leaving lists aside, experts say variety in learning is best, practising a range of skills and topics, together rather than focussing exclusively on one at a time. Making your brain switch between topics/skills makes it work harder so they say.
Make a Story
This is a common technique which many “Mr Memory” type people use. You can either create your own fantasy story, or more commonly, think of a typical day in your life. What do you do first (get out of bed?) and after that (have breakfast? Shower? Clean your teeth?)?
Map out your “programme” and then map the things you want to remember onto it. For example, if the first thing on your list is “eggs”, picture a giant chicken or Humpty Dumpty on the bed. If the second thing is “car wash”, picture your soapy car at the breakfast table. Making the pictures amusing or ridiculous, helps them stay memorable.
Try these techniques and see which ones work for you. If you have any other techniques that you use, please drop me a line and tell me about them.
Now, what was item 5 on that list? 😉