I remember when I was 13 years old, and I started questioning how my memory works. We’ve all been there at one point in time. You have some homework where you need to memorize a certain passage by heart, and eventually, you most probably did.

However, right this second, if I want you to recall and recite what you memorized 8 or 9 years ago, you will probably fail to do so. There are of course some exceptions, nonetheless, most of what you memorized years ago can not be recalled properly by your conscious brain anymore.

First off, let’s start by exploring the different components of the human memory:

  1. The sensory memory, as the name entails refers to the memory system linked to our five primary senses. Everything you touch, see, smell, hear and taste creates a stimulus that targets your sensory memory. This sensory based reactivity is the shortest memory system we have. It usually lasts for a fraction of a second depending on the length of the stimulus itself.
  2. The short term memory is an auxiliary memory function that we use pretty often. It is a short term storage unit, usually between 15 to 30 seconds of information retention. Your short term memory is very important as it constitutes the bridge that links information reception to the encoding phase where the information is stored in your long term memory.
  3. Our long term memory is different, a part of it is conscious, and another part is subconscious. According to numerous studies, the capacity of our long term is memory is unlimited. Every short term memory that is processed, repeated and encoded, becomes part of our long term memory that we can refer to and use in the future.

Talking about our long term memory, we need to know that it is the most complex part of our memory system:

  1. First off we have our declarative memory where we store general explicit information related to facts and events such as what the date 9/11 stands for, or how many continents there are in this world.
  2. The episodic memory is a lot more personal, where we store events and experiences that are personal. The memories you have from your brother’s wedding for example, are stored in your personal episodic memory.
  3. The semantic memory is similar to the declarative memory, yet different. While your declarative memory would store general facts such as, who is the current president of the United States, your semantic memory stores different kind of facts. The names of all the different colors, numbers, letters…etc
  4. Your procedural memory emphasizes the mind-body connection. This is the part of your memory where procedural, action-based memories are stored and recalled. If you learned how to ride a bicycle when you were a kid, and you hop on a bicycle 5 years later, you will notice that you still know how to ride it. This is all thanks to our procedural muscle memory system.

Now that you understand the different components of your memory system, let’s talk more about what you can do to improve your memory.

Mnemonic Devices:

To use mnemonic devices properly, there are a few different elements that you can use.

First off, you can start by finding words and phrases that rhymes. Roses are red, violets are blue is a perfect rhyme example that a lot of us are familiar with. When you use the rhyme method, it will help you when it comes to recalling information, as well as when it comes to the processing and acquisition of the information itself.

  • When the information follow a rhythm, remembering one word, or one bit of information would start a recalling chain system helping you to recall the next word or bit of information.

The example below will help you understand the system, however, you can use it in different ways.

30 days remember, has September, April, June, and November.

it’s done, All the rest have 31

Except February my dear son.

It has 28 and that is fine

But in the Leap Year it has 29.

When you are trying to remember information, chunk and information and regroup it based on rhymes that you can remember. You can alter the information while maintaining the sense by using similar rhyme words or phrases.

  • You can recreate a story based on the rhyme system.

Charlie walked in the forest. He was trying to be a florist. “ I will find the medical herbs! “ He promised, and he was always honest. While walking he met a guy in the forest. He said come back in the middle of august, when the temperature is not the hottest. Otherwise, you have to find a rainforest, but it is important to have a warrant, so they don’t think you are there to deforest.

  • Pick one of your favourite songs, it doesn’t even matter what language the song is written in. The focus is the melody. Write down the information you are trying to memorize based on the lyrics and melody of the song. Now try to repeat the information while following the same rhythm and melody of the song.

Take the alphabet song for example. The reason why teachers sing it for kids is to help them memorize it and remember it better. After years, you still remember the alphabet, and when you want to say it again, you have a tendency to sing along the song.

Let’s say, using a song you know was not the best idea for you, cause you kept getting distracted by the old lyrics. We talked before about how important it is to use the rhyme system to help you recall better. But what if we mix up those two systems and create a new song out of it.

By using the previous rhyme example, or the new one you created, try to add a melody to it, and sing it instead:

Charlie walked in the forest. He was trying to be a florist. He was always honest, “I will find the medical herbs!” He promised. While walking he met a florist. He said come back in the middle of august, when the temperature is not the hottest. Otherwise, you have to find a rainforest, but it is important to have a warrant, so they don’t think you are there to deforest.

Visual Memory:

Flashcards are one of the most well known tools to use. Some people would not consider them as mnemonic devices, however they are a very reliable resource to use. Using flashcards can be used as a mnemonic device when you focus on the imagery aspect of it. Flashcards can be based on a combination of mnemonic devices we talked about.

When you use flashcards, to write down primary bits of information, you need to focus on writing clear, big sentences to use your eidetic or visual memory as an auxiliary tool.

  • Mind maps act a visual representation, a map, that can help you aquire the information through proper brainstorming. It can help you store the information through the correlative basis of it. It can also help you recall the information through the information flow and imagery based perception.

Start off by identifying the main idea. You will then brainstorm and write down all the ideas you have or trying to memorize on a piece of paper. Draw a circle and out the main idea in the middle of the circle. Now you need to identify, between the supplementary ideas you wrote down, those that match or have a correlation. You will then draw arrows pointing from the main circle or idea, and out. At the ther end of the arrow, you will write down those supplemental topics or information.

You will then add another set of arrows for the secondary circle based information that you wrote down, and add another square or circle with the details you need to know or understand to build a coherent system.

Let’s take an example. You want to start creating youtube videos. You put youtube video creation in the main and first circle. Now you add the information or topics related to it. You add the niche, video editing, topic identification, equipment..etc

Those are the secondary bits of information placed in the secondary circles around the main idea.

Finally you add the details. for example, details for the video editing idea can include, video trimming, light adjustment, audio editing…etc

  • You can use the mind mapping system right now. Not long ago, you read about the different memory systems that we have. Try to take a minute and remember the all the different memory types we talked about. You might remember some of them, you might even remember all of them, but I can guarantee you, that you at least forgot some bits of information there. What you can do, is you can go back to the illustrations that I made in the form of a mind map. Look at those illustrations and read them for about 2–3 minutes, and then you will notice that it is way easier to remember the information this way.

You are going to associate images or visuals to remember information. If you read or heard a story, and you want to remember it better, you can make different imagery entities to help you remember properly. You can also visualize a movie or a scenario.

You are trying to learn more about World War II. Instead of memorizing information, create images in your head or videos of the events that happened and how they happened. Add all the necessary details you need, then focus on memorizing the visual aspect.

You can also link imagery aspects to other topics. If you met someone and you are trying to remember their name, identify and link the name with the image of the person. The tall guy with long hair and glasses we met at the coffee shop… His name is Andrew.

The Method Of Loci:

You want to use either a place you are familiar with, or just create a new space in your head. Let’s take an exmaple of a house:

If you lived in a house, where there’s an overall of 5 rooms, every room will represent a chunk of information. You were reading a book about time management, and you learned 5 different systems you can use. You will associate every room with one formula. Let’s say one of the formulas was to focus on finishing your priorities first, second one was to build a monthly and weekly schedule, third one was to take 15 minute breaks in between work or study sessions… You walk into the house, in the first room is your dad working on his priority. You walk to the second room and find your brother writing down his daily, weekly and monthly goals. You go into the third room and you see your mom taking a 15 minute break before going back to work…

  • You can use the same exmaple to associate chunks of information with a location based recalling system.

When you have a huge load of information, it is always harder to try to memorize all the information at once. If you are reading a self-help book, and you finished the entire book in one day, you will not remember as much information as you would, if you read one chatper a day, while practicing what you learned after reading it.

  • Same thing goes for trying to memorize a number. It’s easier to memorize 243 566 8992 than to memorize 2435668992.

For information as well, instead of memorizing an entire paragraph, it is easier to chunk it into different phrases and memorize it one chunk at a time.

  • Connection Based Mnemonics is another tool you can also use. It works on a more personal level.

While reading a story, or learning something new, adding a personal connection factor, can be very helpful. Going back to the example of the time management book. If you remember prioritizing by linking it to the habit of working on secondary tasks that you would usually do, or make a connection between the weekly and monthly schedules that you usually replaced with a daily crammed schedule… Or even if you link the 15 minute break idea to the fact that you tired quickly and can’t focus after a while, you will have an easier time processing and remembering the information.

Why do those systems work?

Your short term memory can be very powerful if used properly. For you to enhance your memory, remember and recall more information, the primary focus is our long term memory.

Once the information is properly processed through the short term memory, it is then encoded into your powerful long term memory. In all the exercises I talked about above, what’s happening is that you are associating short term information with long term memory mechanisms. This will help you push information processed by your short term memory into being encoded in your long term memory.

Check out the course below if you’re interested in learning more: