Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could save something to your memory the way you do on your laptop or smartphone?
It would be so handy in a conversation where you can’t recall the name of the person you’re speaking with.
Or during a presentation when you don’t want to keep glancing at your notes or when you come back home from grocery shopping only to realize you forgot the milk.
Some people seem to do this with ease.
Take a look at the International Grandmaster of Memory and World Memory Championship medallist Kevin Horsley, for instance.
Among his many incredible achievements, he is a World Record Holder for the Pi Matrix Challenge, also known as the Everest of Memory Tests.
This challenge involves not only recalling the first 10,000 digits of Pi but also recalling the digits consecutively, from any point within the sequence.
But the truly inspiring thing is that Horsley was not born with an incredible memory.
In fact, he struggled through school with reading and retaining information.
It was only after intensely studying how the brain learns and remembers best, and developing and fine-tuning his memory strategies, that he became the memory champion he is today.
And while you may never have a practical reason to recall 10,000 digits of Pi, you can use many of the strategies that he, and memory champions around the world, apply to improve their memory.
Take a look at these 3 ways to optimize your memory.
3 Ways to Optimize Your Memory
1. Optimize Your Memory with Stories and Images
You can picture what the characters look like, what the setting looks like, the taste of the food described, the scents and feel and shape of things.
You are also more likely to remember the stories that created such vibrant scenarios in your mind a lot more than a novel that didn’t.
This is because the brain loves images – it can recall images with much more accuracy and speed than it can several lines of words.
In fact, research suggests the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does words.
Images get stored in your long-term memory faster than text and can trigger emotions and contextual comprehension faster and more easily than decoding text.
This creates the backbone of the strategies used by not just memory champions but also learners who have a predominant visual learning style.
They are adept at translating information they learn and need to remember into pictures, which is often why visual learners have an advantage in a school setting where instruction is largely visual.
They do not just create static pictures – converting what you learn into a vivid mental movie improves your recall because you are creating dynamic, engaging, and meaningful images.
Horsley summarizes an effective visualization strategy with the acronym S-E-E.
S stands for senses – create images rich in detail that appeal to your sight, that you can imagine the sounds and smell and taste and texture of.
The first E stands for exaggeration – the brain loves humor, so the funnier and more ridiculous the images, the more likely you will remember them.
The second E stands for energize – animate the images you’ve created, make them as dynamic and lively as you can.
So, let’s try this out – say, for example, that you are trying to recall the Spanish word for moon, luna.
It’s essential to give the images you come up with personal relevance, so say you know someone called Luna.
Perhaps you’re thinking of a fictional character, like Luna Lovegood.
Or perhaps you realize that luna rhymes with tuna.
Now how can you give the mental image you have in your mind of Luna, the person, or the tuna can, meaning?
Picture Luna Lovegood winking down at you from the night sky instead of the moon.
Or picture that the moon has turned into a giant can of tuna.
Or better yet, picture Luna Lovegood enjoying a nice tuna sandwich perched on the moon.
A pretty memorable image, isn’t it?
2. Optimize Your Memory with Your Mind Palace
But while this modern-day take on the famous sleuth inserted this concept into mainstream vocabulary in recent years, the mind palace has been around for centuries.
In fact, it was the strategy used by Greeks and Romans to recall long speeches and epics like the Odyssey, in a time when written records had not yet become the norm.
This is the perfect technique to recall longer sections of information, and the good news is, it builds on what you already know about visualization.
Places and routes that you are very familiar with – like your home, your route to work, the path you usually take during your morning runs – stick to your memory and have relevance to you.
The mind palace concept involves taking your vivid, exaggerated, animated images, and placing them in a specific order down a specific route.
So, you essentially go down a mental journey through your home, or to work, or to your desk through your office building.
At specific points within this route, you place the image you’ve created for a specific piece of information.
This involves creating mnemonic associations – you create a relationship between a specific location within your mind palace and the images you’ve associated with what you need to recall.
As a result, when you have to retrieve this information, you trigger a mental pointer to the correct spot in your mind palace.
This helps you recall that image much faster since, as you learned, the brain processes images more quickly.
3. Optimize Your Memory by Reviewing
Let me explain.
As the brain learns and experiences information, it creates pathways between its neurons to store and build up on this information.
This is the basis of your memory.
Now, much as a plant would wither away if you didn’t tend to it, your memory of what you learned does the same.
Neuroscientists find that the act of retrieving information that you have previously learned strengthens the neural pathways associated with that memory.
The more often you recall that information, the more frequently those associated neurons fire, and the stronger your memory of it becomes.
This is why it’s essential to review what you learn.
In fact, one of the best memory friendly strategies involves something called the Pomodoro technique.
This technique involves breaking learning up into shorter sessions because the brain finds it far easier to digest sections of information than it does trying to make sense of the big picture all at once.
You focus on learning a chunk or section of information for about 30 minutes.
Then you take a short break – this gives your brain time to start consolidating what you have learned.
Then, before you start learning the next section, review what you have already learned.
This further helps cement the memory of what you studied, creating a stronger foundation for your memory and for the new information you are about to follow up with.
Many memory strategies can help you grow into a faster learner – specific systems for remembering lists, numbers, and more, that you can explore.
Starting off with these simple 3 ways to optimize your memory, you too could become a memory champion for school, work, or just daily life, with ease!
Which of these techniques are you thinking of trying out first?
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com, best-selling author of over 15 books, and known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.
She gets results for students and adults in the workplace by showing them how to achieve their learning goals with her Total Recall Learning ™, Total Recall Reading ™ and Total Recall Memory ™ online and live courses.
In addition she uses the Learning 2.0 and Career 2.0 Brain Advantage Programs which help learners strengthen the 27 essential areas required for learning, reading and memory success. If you would like to apply for accelerated learning results and have Pat personally coach you, contact her at fasterlearning (at) gmail.com