Have you ever wondered how is that some people can memorize so many lines in a drama play without messing up a word? How is it that some musicians can play for hours just on mere memorization without messing up on a note? Or how about people who have the ability to memorize information right before a test an ace it, while others spend all day studying and still fail?
It is because these people understand how to tap into their long-term memory banks. They have mastered how to take something that seems impossible to memorize to the average person and have stored it in their memory for those necessary moments. There is no “special ability” between people who are gurus at memorizing information and people who aren’t that good at it. You can be a memorizing guru to if you wanted to.
Being able to store things quickly and have it ready for later not only increases your memory, but helps tremendously in your work ethics. Whether this is taking information from direct sources such as books and websites, or taking information indirectly such as passing something you see on the street, memorizing things will help you add material to you work and make your work life easier.
Let’s take a quick at look at how information is stored in our brains. Each of our brains has about 1 billion nerve cells that are scattered around. Each of these nerve cells have fibers called axons and dendrites that have the ability to connect one nerve cell to another nerve cell. When a nerve cell “connects” with each other, information is processed.
But where does this information go? Well, it is either stored in the short-term memory bank of the brain or the long-term memory bank of the brain. The long-term memory bank of the brain is called the Neocortex and when information is stored here, usually it won’t be forgotten for a very long time, even years. The part of the brain that decides if or if not information is put into the Neocortex is the part of the brain called the Hippocampus. This part of the brain usually gives information only a limited time before it is forgotten. So how does the hippocampus which information stays and which information goes?
It’s determined by the “strength” of the connection of nerve cells. As stated above, nerve cells connect with each other when information is stored. However, if the bond is not strong enough, then usually the Hippocampus says, “Toss!” But if the bond is strong enough, then the Hippcampus says, “Keep!” It then places it in the long-term memory bank, which leaves us to the final question – How can we cause nerve cells to not just connect, but make a “strong connection.”
Although here are many things that contribute to making a stronger connection, such as using your five senses, making an experience intense, making something stand out, exaggeration something, using your creativity, and so on, I only use a couple of techniques that I believe are the most helpful when it comes down to quickly storing information and using it for later when it is necessary. I’ll share the process that I use.
Focus on What You Want to Memorize
The first step is to focus on what it is that you want to memorize. Pay attention to it and do not get distracted by anything else. By paying attention, you’re consciously accepting that the object in front of you, no matter what it is, will soon be stored inside your memory bank. So take a deep breath, relax, and make sure you are paying attention. Even if what you’re about to memorize seems like a huge task, you still need to focus on it. Remember it’s okay if something seems huge; the brain see it in that way if you do not let it. This brings us to the next step.
Small Chunks at a Time
Once you’ve put your undivided attention on what it is that you want t focus on, the next step is to break it down into small pieces. The main reason why people do not begin to memorize something is because they look at the quantity of it, and it’s too overwhelming for them. It scares them off because their body feels tense, telling the mind, “Abort! Give up now! It’s way too much and you’ll never memorize the whole thing!” Don’t listen to your body when it is giving you negative signals; trust that you can do it by breaking whatever it is that you are memorizing into very small pieces at time, ignoring that bigger picture that might scare you off. Even if what you’re memorizing is extremely smal, it’s still one step towards completing the final picture, and plus, you can memorize small things right? It’s easy!
The next step is repetition. When you have broken down whatever it is that you wish to memorize, you need to repeat it over and over again until it is stored in the long-term memory bank. This is probably the most important step for memorization. The key here is to test yourself. For example, if you wanted to learn ten new words a day to improve your vocabulary, you should make flash cards. Look at one word and the definition of the word; go to the next word and remember the definition of that word, then go back to the first word and repeat that definition (seeing if you did memorize it). If you can’t repeat the first word, then you’ll know that you didn’t have it memorized. That’s okay; that is the purpose of ”testing yourself” and increasing memory through small steps and repetition.
Visualization is used here because most of us are using memorization for work purposes. If you were playing piano, all you need would be to hear and listen carefully. Here, you need to be able to picture images clear in your head. Taking the vocabulary word example from above, if you wanted to learn a new word, you might associate a word by visualizing what it looks like. Whenever you see the word, you’ll also see an image of what the word means, and this will help you bring out the definition of the word. So provide yourself with a crisp, clear, and detailed imaged of what it is you want to memorize in your head; you’ll see that memorizing something will become a lot easier this way.
Once you have used the steps above, you can also use emotions to help you memorize things and make a stronger connection in those nerve cells. Say you are memorizing something but it gets boring, what you could do is create associate memorizing that thing with an emotional? Things such as it need to memorize something in order to pass an important test would bring out a sense of urgency or memorizing something makes you feel happy just of mere enjoyment of gathering more knowledge would make the make the memorization natural process for you. Whatever you can think of to bring the process of memorization more emotional in a positive way, the funner it becomes even when the going gets touch.
So those are some memory techniques to help you increase your memory. It is said that humans only use 2% to 3% or their brain capacity. If you think about this, the limits of how much information that can be stored in our brains is almost limitless. All it takes is being aware of what want to memorize, breaking it down into small pieces, repeating it enough times, and adding visualization or an emotional impact to help make the process easier.
You can memorize anything you want – big or small. Hopefully, this can help you gather more knowledge, increase your memory, and make better decisions in life.