6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You Read

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could have total recall when you read?

You may think that the concept is the stuff of sci-fi, but what if I told you it was entirely possible, without magic pills or something straight out of the movies?

Imagine being able to recall what you read and how that would change your life.

How would your life be different if you could remember material you’re reading without having to go back and re-read the text, or without losing focus?

Just think what this would mean for your career, your grades in school and the overall quality of your life.

It’s basically like unlocking a superpower, without needing futuristic technology to reprogram your brain – and it’s completely possible, because it’s already proven by brain science!

Table of Contents

1. Unlearn the Things that Made Reading Difficult in the Past

2. Turn What You Read into Mental Movies

3. Summarize What You Read into Mind Maps

4. Know How to Access Your Memory at Will

5. Create Associations by Asking Yourself “What Does This Remind Me Of?”

6. Use Memory Systems to Boost Your Recall

6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You Read

1. Unlearn the Things that Made Reading Difficult in the Past

6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You ReadYou might not even know it, but there are certain habits you might have been using since childhood that make it difficult for you to remember what you’re reading right now.

Actually, none of these are your fault – they happen only because you weren’t trained in the most effective reading techniques.

For example, do you find that you often have to reread parts that you’ve already read, because you keep losing track of the text or simply forget what you were reading?

This is called regression – or simply going back over what you’ve already covered.

You know the feeling when you try to load a video or show to watch but it keeps getting stuck after the first couple of seconds?

You end up having to rewatch the beginning over and over again – and it can get really frustrating.

Or imagine that you’re getting interrupted constantly by phone calls or social media, so you lose track of what’s going on, and you have to go back and rewind to piece together the plot.

These interruptions disrupt your comprehension and your total recall abilities when you read.

total recall learningmastering habits
memory skills made easy

I highly recommend that you complete the Eye-Q Reading Inventory, where I walk you through questions that help specifically narrow down what challenges you might be facing with your reading.

This in turn lets you figure out which specific reading strategy you need to unlock faster reading, comprehension and memory!

One of the very first things you can do in order to have total recall is to use a pacer. Your finger or a pen is the best choice. Follow the words as you read – not one at a time like you did when you first learned to read, but keep your finger moving.

This will not only speed up your reading, and give you better comprehension, but your eyes will be attracted to the motion and you’ll discover that regression goes away and your recall becomes better immediately.

2. Turn What You Read into Mental Movies

6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You ReadThis is the big secret to remembering everything you read.

The best and fastest readers, who retain more of what they read, do this automatically – they convert the words on the page into images inside their mind.

Neuroscientists have used technology like fMRI scans and PET scans to figure out that a whopping 80% of your brain is involved in visual processing.

As a result, it can recall images tens of thousands of times faster than text.

Let me demonstrate this to you.

Think of a common nursery rhyme – Jack and Jill, for instance.

Picture the story of this nursery rhyme playing out in your head – Jack and Jill tumbling down a hill that they’d climbed to fetch some water.

Now, try to remember the rhyme line by line.

“Jack and Jill

Went up the hill

To fetch a pail of water

Jack fell down and broke his crown

And Jill came tumbling after.”

Between reading the instruction to picture the story of the nursery rhyme, and then recalling the actual rhyme word for word, which took longer?

Your brain spends more time decoding individual letters and sounds, stringing them together, processing their meaning etc. than it does decoding an image.

You have a stronger emotional and cognitive response to pictures than you do to text, and this is exactly why being able to turn everything you read into mental movies helps you unlock your total recall!

It might take a little practice, but whenever you read try to focus less on the letters and words and more on the concepts they represent that you can picture in your mind’s eye.

Turn them into moving images, making them as colorful and humorous as you can – kind of like you’re a film director yourself!

3. Summarize What You Read into Mind Maps

This is another extraordinary visualization tool you can use to cement what you read into your memory and recall it at will.

Tony Buzan, a psychologist and author, developed mind maps as a learning and memory tool to align exactly with how the brain learns.

The brain doesn’t learn in a linear fashion. Rather, it creates associations between information and concepts and ideas – things its learning and what it already knows.

And as you already know, the brain encodes, processes and recalls images much, much faster than it does text.

Mind maps help you summarize what you’ve read into a visual format like the image above.

Mind maps don’t have to be artistic masterpieces. The basic structure begins with the main topic in the center, with a circle drawn around it.

Then, draw out spokes leading from this big, main circle to smaller circles where all the sub-topics and important points go.

You can create more branches and items that lead off the subtopics as needed.

The important thing is, when you sit down to summarize what you learned into a mind map, your brain is working to engage with the material meaningfully and condense it in a way that makes sense.

Have you ever tried highlighting the important parts of a textbook, to try and make them stick out more and be more memorable?

And has that ever really worked?

A lot of times, you just end up highlighting such a huge chunk of text that it’s almost like coloring the whole page yellow, or some other neon highlighter shade.

And for the same reasons I explained in my previous point, recalling words on a page is several tens of thousands of times slower and more inefficient than recalling images.

Mind maps solve this problem completely.

You take all the material you’ve studied, and meaningfully condense them into a single, easy to understand illustration that you can take in in a single glance.

Instead of yellow highlighting a bunch of unnecessary text that feels important, or copying down notes ad verbatim from your books, you gather all the main points into one place.

And as a result, this visual image is a lot easier for your brain to call up when it needs to recall information. You can intuitively tell what the important points are and how they connect to each other, without needing to memorize entire paragraphs for it!

4. Know How to Access Your Memory at Will

6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You ReadYou’ve read about how to get rid of the reading challenges stopping you from achieving total recall, and how you can encode memories for faster and more efficient memory.

Now, I’m going to tell you about the Eye-Brain Connection, which basically lets you access different types of memory at will.

As the name suggests, the connection between your eyes and your brain have important implications for your learning and memory.

It’s not just that your eyes are your primary input method of information when you’re learning. Eye movements, according to neuroscience, can also activate different parts of your brain and access different types of memory.

Try and recall a time you were a little upset about something – your favorite shirt was too wrinkled to wear out and you didn’t have time to iron it, or you spilled some of your coffee. Something minor but enough to put you in a slightly bad mood.

Where do you end up looking? Probably, downward, either to your right or to your left.

When you look in these directions, your brain is in its kinesthetic state of learning – you’re focused on negative emotions and dwelling on what made you upset.

On the other hand, when you’re in your visual learning state, you tend to look upward, to either your right or your left.

You can test this out. Ask a friend or family member to picture something in their minds – like the image of Jack and Jill tumbling down the hill, for instance.

Ask them to imagine it in as much detail as they can, and follow the direction their eyes move in.

Most likely, you’ll see them looking either up to their right or their left – the visual memory eye position that allows them to access and create mental images!

Remember the mind maps you learned about in the previous section? When you need to recall it in an exam room or during a presentation or project pitch, look up to your left or your right and you’ll be able to access that image in your mind!

In Total Recall Learning, I go into much more depth about the different visual memory eye positions and how to access different types of memory, so you can switch to the learning style you need at will!

5. Create Associations by Asking Yourself “What Does This Remind Me Of?”

6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You ReadYou already know that visualization is the key to total recall memory.

And when you’re trying to learn something new or remember something specific, you use mental images along with associations.

Remember how I said earlier that your brain learns by connecting new information to existing information?

Say, for example, I was trying to explain how big an elephant is to you, and you’d never seen one in real life before.

I could keep telling you that elephants are really big – or I could tell you something like, “Adult elephants are as big as trucks!”

Since you already know what trucks are, what they look like and how big they are, your brain gets a mental image of how big an elephant would be, right?

That’s how associations work.

When you encounter something new and unfamiliar that you need to learn, ask yourself “What does it remind me of?” and create a mental image of this association.

For example, say you’re studying a subject with a lot of technical words, like physics, and need help remembering the terms.

The definition for inertia is that an object that’s moving in a straight line will continue moving in a straight line or if it’s in a state of rest will stay resting unless an external force affects it.

Now, this is the theory of the concept. Creating an association and mental image of it in your mind, however, makes your understanding of the concept richer.

Think about how when your car rounds a bend, your body ends up swinging a little to the side – because it’s still trying to go in the direction the car was moving at first.

Or think about what happens when you kick a soccer ball, and it’ll keep moving in the direction you kicked it in, unless someone or something else exerts a force to push it in a different direction.

There are so many scenarios you can imagine that illustrate the concept of inertia, and what makes your understanding richer is being able to connect something new to something you already know.

total recall learningmastering habits
memory skills made easy

And what if you’re trying to remember the word “inertia” itself? Ask yourself “What does this word remind me of?”

Perhaps it reminds you of a rhyming word – like Alicia, ending with that same “shuh” sound.

Why not imagine Alicia, who could be someone you know, a celebrity, or even a brand new person you’ve imagined in your mind, sitting “in er” car swinging this way and that because the vehicle keeps turning corners too quickly?

The more colorful, humorous and vivid your mental movies and associations, the more memorable they’ll be!

6. Use Memory Systems to Boost Your Recall

6 Ways to Have Total Recall When You ReadDid you know that thousands and thousands of years ago, when the ancient Greeks and Romans had not yet developed written records, they used to record everything inside of their memories instead?

Speeches, poems, epics like The Odyssey, which takes the average reader over 8 hours to complete, were all recorded inside the brains of poets, scholars, politicians and so on.

And here’s the incredible thing. The same techniques that they used are still used today, by memory champions who break world records with incredible memory feats, like remembering thousands of random names and numbers in any order!

The technique goes by many names – it’s known as the memory palace as well as the mind palace. I like to call it the Roamin’ Room, and you’ll see why.

You already know that your brain remembers best through creating associations and making images.

When you need to remember information in a specific sequence or order, do this.

Imagine a location that you’re very familiar with – like your home, office, the route to work or school, etc.

Picture a route through this place that goes in a specific order, for example walking in from outside your front door to your bedroom, or your garage to your workplace reception desk.

Now, convert the items you need to remember into images by asking “What does this remind me of?”, and place those images in the right sequence throughout your Roamin’ Room.

Let me give you an example. Say you need to remember the names of the American presidents in order.

The first president was George Washington. Perhaps you could imagine George Washington trying to use a washing machine on your doorstep.

Going through the front door, imagine the second president, John Adams, offering you his apple – basically, an Adam’s apple – next to your coat rack.

And as you go toward the stairs, maybe Jefferson’s son, who just looks like a mini version of him, is peeking at you through the banisters.

Make the images as funny and animated as you can, and link them to specific places within your mind palace in a specific order.

By doing this, you’re creating associations that work like mental markers. When you need to remember something from that sequence, your brain immediately pulls up that location in your mind palace for the information you’ve kept there.

And you already know that that’s thousands of times faster than trying to recall all that text you memorized in order!

In Total Recall Learning, I have several other memory systems you can use, for things like remembering grocery lists to recalling numbers in order, so do check there for more!

And there you go – you don’t need sci-fi technology or magic pills to unlock your brain’s full memory potential. With these 6 ways to have total recall when you read, you can do it naturally!

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™. Use coupon code LEARNMUCHFASTER to make the course $27 today! Save $70!

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

Related article