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Old Thursday, September 03, 2009
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Default Top 10 Tips to Improve your Memory

Virtually every day we are required to remember a name, a face, a number, or some other piece of information. For many people it is a struggle. It no longer needs to be so – here is a list of ten great tips to improving your memory.

1. Patterns

An excellent way to remember a large number or phrase, is to look for patterns. Here is a simple example:

3810151722242931363843

The number appears to be random until you realize that it is following a pattern: add 5, then add 2, repeat. Once you know the pattern, you only need to remember the first number in the sequence. This can be a useful way to create a numeric password that changes regularly. Another way to use this system is to remember the numbers in the form of a numerical keyboard. You can use your spatial awareness to remember the number rather than just blind memorizing.

2. Associations

This is an excellent method for memorizing numbers. In this system, you associate portions of the number with a word that has some relation to it. For example:

74736052007365

Split the number up and make an association for each sequence. Doing so can give us a list like this: Jumbo Jet (747), XBox (360), Deck of Cards (52), James Bond (007), Days in the year (365). This method can again be used for passwords that are easy to remember. To help you remember your images, try to imagine a scene that incorporates all of the items. For example, you may see a calendar with a photograph of James Bond playing poker on his XBox on a private 747. Sounds weird, but it works.

3. Alphabetize

We are all very familiar with the system of alphabetization – we see it every day in phone books, online directories, and a variety of other places. If you have a list of words to remember, put them into alphabetical order. If you wanted to learn a very long list – such as the States of the USA, start with one state per letter. Once you have that memorized, go back and add another state for each letter. Repeat until the whole list is stored in your mind. You would be surprised how much more effective this is than just trying to remember the whole list in one go.

4. Categorize

In a way, alphabetizing is categorizing, but with this method you can go a lot further. If you have a big list of things to remember, you can find similarities and group them. For example a shopping list:

Apples, Shampoo, Cheese, Milk, Sugar, Bananas, Soap, Coconut, Flour

Now, reorder them into categories and we have this:

Fruit: Apples, Bananas
Dried Goods: Coconut, Sugar, Flour
Dairy: Milk, Cheese
Bathroom: Shampoo, Soap

Another great way to remember your categories (especially in the case of a shopping list) is to remember your categories in the order that they are found in the supermarket. For example, if your first aisle is Fruit, remember the fruit first and think of the fruit aisle while you are doing so.

5. Chunking

Chunking is such a useful method of remembering things that we all use it every day. The best example is telephone numbers. When we are told a phone number we have to remember we chunk it up – usually into area code – 3 digits – four digits. This is not out of conformity – it is because it is the most effective way to remember such random numbers. This is also an excellent way to remember long sequences like pi to n digits. Taking just four extra digits a day you can easily remember pi to many decimal places. Great for a party trick.

6. Images

This is the most effective way to remember a person’s name. If you meet John Key, imagine his face with a big key right in the center of his face. If you meet someone called Patty Grant, you can try to remember a meat patty wrapped in wads of cash. I will leave it up to your own imagination if you meet Bob Johnson. Another way to do this is to find an association between this person and someone else you know – imagine them shaking hands or standing next to each other.

7. Visualize

This is a very ancient technique of memorization called Loci. In this method you imagine a location (something easy like your home) and you place the objects you need to remember in to a different part of the room. The famous Cicero had this to say:

“One must employ a large number of places which must be well-lighted, clearly set out in order, at moderate intervals apart, and images which are active, which are sharply defined, unusual, and which have the power of speedily encountering and penetrating the mind.”

For example, if you need to remember a list of vegetables, put each vegetable in a different place in the room. When you need to recall the list, move in your mind through each location in the room and see what you put there. If you find this one especially helpful, you can expand on it by adding additional floors to your location.

8. Story Method

This one can be very fun. Make up a story and include all of the things you need to remember in it. The story can be totally ridiculous. Let’s say you need to remember to buy a bucket, a dozen apples, a hairbrush, and some kitty litter, you might make a story like this:

After Jane emptied the kitty litter from Felix’s dirtbox in to the red bucket, she gave him a good brushing with his new hairbrush while she ate an apple for lunch.

It is not the most thrilling or original story, but it can be very effective in helping you to remember your list.

9. Mnemonics

A mnemonic is a word or short phrase that you can use to remember something because it is like a key to the rest of the information. For example, if you learned music as a child, you probably remember the phrase: “every good boy deserves fruit” – each word stands for a note on the musical staff – EGBDF. No doubt you were also taught a mnemonic to remember the colors of the rainbow as well.

Another slight variation is to use a phrase: desert and dessert: the sweet one has two sugars. We also use this to remember daylight savings time: Spring forward, fall back.

10. Senses

If you have to remember a word, try remembering it with your other senses. For example, if you have to remember to buy soap, try to conjure up an image of soap and whilst doing so, imagine what it smells like. You can also use your other senses in the same way: to remember to buy an alarm clock, remember the sound it makes when it goes off in the morning.

All of the items on this list can be used on their own, or in conjunction with the others to help you improve your memory. The more you practice these tips, the better you will become.

Source: 5 Minute Memory Workout

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