How to Be Better At Everything: 5 ways to improve your memory

How to Be Better At Everything: 5 ways to improve your memory

CultureNovember 02, 2013

Just because your mom says you're perfect doesn't mean she's not losing her mind. You can always be better, so take that, mom! In this edition of How to Be Better At Everything, we show you 5 ways to improve your memory...which will really help when you're trying to remember what the hell happened last night...

1. Recreate the environment

The last time you lost your stash, your roommate told you to retrace your steps to the last place you had it — and the asshole was right. It was there. What happened was an example of context-dependent memory. Your memory retrieval cues are built around the sensory inputs you’re experiencing at the time. The more accurately you can reconstruct these sensory cues, the more chance you have at total recall. You might also have seen this phenomenon at work when you learned something high and could only recall it high. Next time you have a test or presentation, recreate the scenario to the best of your ability while studying. And if that doesn’t work for a better grade, just wait for the curve to kick in.

2. Chunking

Sadly, your short-term, working memory doesn’t have the same stamina as your sexual prowess. It can only handle so much at any given time. So to make up for its lack of capacity, the brain chunks things together. Chunking is essentially taking a large amount of information and reducing it into smaller chunks that are more manageable. You do this when you set your PIN number to your birthday. Or when you memorize your drug dealer’s phone number in three sets of numbers. When you need to memorize lists, look for patterns and numbers that can be broken down and associated with memorable things for you.

3. Just focus for a goddamn second

Our teachers, therapists, AA sponsors and parents were onto something when they said we could get more out of life if we just focused. By simply paying attention for a measly eight seconds, you can greatly improve comprehension. In these eight seconds, your brain surreptitiously transfers information from short-term memory to long-term memory. Unfortunately, complete focus requires turning off “Teen Mom 2,” all sick dubstep tracks and focusing on the task at hand. A steep price to pay, we know, but you’ll thank us later.

4. Method of Loci

This mnemonic practice uses visualization to organize and recollect information. To commit information to long-term memory, visualize a vivid, unique image with each item you’re attempting to memorize. Then visualize a very familiar route, like your house or path to work. As you visualize the route, place the vivid images along that route at very specific stopping points or loci. When the time comes to recall those items, retrace the route, observe the image, and translate that back into the necessary item you need to remember. Sounds daunting, but it’s the oldest and most-practiced mnemonic method.

5. Sing Your Heart Out

The radio jam that’s ingrained in your memory like the first time you saw your parents having sex might have more significance in your life than aiding in your slow decline toward insanity. Research — and your mastering of the ABC’s — shows taking information and setting it to the jingle of your favorite single enhances your ability to memorize the text and bolsters recall when the time comes. The musical structure can assist in learning, in retrieving and in reconstructing a text more so when compared to regular speech. So what are you waiting for? Is that the distant jingle of “Get Lucky” we hear?