Remember Everything Important
What was I saying?
Of course: memory! Memory is an important part of daily life because it allows us to learn and experience the world around us. From an early age, we are capable of remembering what has happened to us, but nobody is exactly sure how memory works because the human brain is so complex. Some memories seem to be stored in long term repositories while others are stored in short term circuits. And it seems like memories come to us differently sometimes.
Now, don't get upset that there are so many nuanced ways your memory can use to work. This actually provides a strategy for us to increase your memory. This isn't a magical guide that'll make it easy to remember pi to the sixteenth digit or anything absurd like that. But it will help you remember things that are important to you.
Memory is largely about the way your brain links or associates different concepts, objects, etc. If you want to increase your memory, you have to intentionally create and identify those links. This helps you think more about the things you remember.
The Forms of Mental Representations
Some of these steps may seem like they don't fit what you're trying to remember. Don't fret. Just try to come up with something and you may be surprised that the weirdest memory tools sometimes leap to mind first.
I. Repeat from Memory
This is sort of the simplest way to remember something. This is relatively weak by itself, but it lays a foundation for the other methods. Just repeat what you are trying to remember.
II. Pretend you're teaching
State what you're trying to remember as if you're explaining it to somebody else. Even better, actually tell somebody else.
III. A Written Version
Write a few sentences elaborating on what you're trying to remember. Writing accesses a different part of your brain than talking. Some people remember what they've written down much better than what they've heard or said.
IV. A Vision of it
Picture what you're trying to remember. If it's an activity, visualize yourself doing it. If it's a person's name, try visualizing the moment they told you their name.
V. A Graphic of it
Draw a diagram, map or illustration of what you're trying to remember. You don't have to make it a good drawing. Sometimes bad drawings are even more memorable than good ones. This step, like writing it out, has two benefits. The act of drawing accesses parts of your brain that merely thinking about visualization cannot typically access. Futhermore, you have a drawing once you're done which becomes a new object and way to remember it.
VI. A Good Example of it
If you're trying to learn a rule or theory, try to think of a good example. If you're trying to remember a single thing, try to think of how it may be an example of a bigger rule or theory. This is one of the tools that can get very silly very quickly. If I'm just trying to remember that my new friend's name is Bill, I might want to think "All the Bills I know have dark hair and glasses" or something else like that. Even though I know that there are Bills without dark hair and glasses, it's a link that will be easy to remember.
VII. A Past Experience
Think of something that's happened to me that fits with or illustrates what I'm trying to remember. Again, this is easier with rules and theories. You can personalize a thing by analyzing how you've interacted with what you're trying to remember in the past.
VIII. A Metaphor that Fits
I think of an analogy or metaphor for what I'm remembering (i.e., "that's like..."). People talk about historical events being remarkably similar or different to other historical events because it helps assimilate new information into info we already have and processed long ago. Is the Iraq war like the Vietnam war? If my new friend Rose like a Rose, lovely until you get too close to the thorns?
IX. A Hands-On Experiment
I do an experiment or set up a situation to apply or show it. This again gets pretty goofy for simple day to day stuff. But just putting on your analytic hat and trying to come up with a lab process might be enough to help remember. The way to set up an experiment is to establish a hypothesis (maybe you can shape the thing you want to remember into a hypothesis). Then you test whether or not the hypothesis is true either through actual experimentation or just a thought experiment.
X. A Formula
If you can find and use a formula or rule containing it, that will help remember things. This is similar to XI and XII. If you can think of other examples that are like this and how it relates to those examples, you might be able to come up with a rule that governs stuff like the thing your trying to remember.
XI. A Personal Role for it
Think of one or more ways you can use it in your life. Imagine a meeting with that person where you use their name. Imagine using the knowledge later on.
XII. A Creative Activity
Make up a story, poem, cartoon, or other creative work containing it.
Xlll. A Memory Trick (Mnemonic)
Come up with a trick to help remember it based on the sound of the words rather than the actual content of the language. We often fail to realize how the words we use (except for onomatopeia) are largely unrelated to the things they describe but we remember them perfectly. Take advantage of that link that already exists by building onto it with other memories.
XIV. A Compare and Contrast Exercise
Fit it in with some other thing(s) you know about. How is it similar or different to something you already have no trouble remembering?
XV. A Mapped Out Concept
Make a list of the critical features that you are trying to remember. If you are trying to remember the names of several people, you might want to map out all of them and draw connections between the people who know eachother or show which ones already know friends of yours. A lot of social networking sites like facebook already show clouds of data like this that can help you remember things better.
Repetition is key
You get better at anything with practice. These excercizes are all about practicing with your memory in different ways to preserve memories with a full range of motion. The more you link a thought to other thoughts you have, the more likely you are to remember it all.
A case study: 9/11
Did you know that a lot of people don't remember what year 9/11 happened? I mean, we plaster 9/11 everywhere so tons of people know "9/11" and don't remember 2001. Some people even remember 9/11 but forget the month EVEN THOUGH THE MONTH IS IN 9/11. It's all about repetition. People who stop thinking about the actual events and only remember the tagline we throw up there have forgotten basic details about the event.
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