7 Easy Tips to Improve Your Memory and Recall

Wish you had a better memory? The desire for an improved memory is a common one; fortunately, there are some simple techniques you can use to accomplish this goal. If you’re trying to learn something new or increase your ability to recall information, try these tips.

Woman planning her schedule on post-it notes
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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.

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. This is called "the magical number seven plus or minus two," founded by psychologist George Miller. It's based on the average adult's ability to store between 5 and 9 items in their short-term memory. Of course, remembering a list of 12 things to purchase at a store will be a challenge, but using this principle makes it simpler. 

Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices are 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 in piano lessons, some students are 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. Likewise, to learn the names of the spaces, teachers might use the word FACE, where each letter of that word is 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 a 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 become encoded 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

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.

Space It out

Rather than cramming before an exam the night before, studying information over a period of time will help you learn and recall it more effectively.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you've been gifted with an excellent natural memory or not, it can be encouraging to know that there are ways to more easily remember information. Sometimes, it just takes being intentional about receiving information in your brain instead of functioning on auto-pilot—which often happens when we're multitasking.

Take a few minutes to practice a couple of these techniques and then seek to incorporate them into your daily life. This may require a small amount of your time and effort, but if you experience an increase in efficiency and effectiveness of memorization, it will make the investment well worth it.

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5 Sources
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