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How can I improve my memory so that I can remember more, faster... learn faster...?

I know some people are auditory learners, others visual... but once you figure out which one you are, how do you get better?

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I've read a good book about memory techniques but each of them are optimized for specific purposes such as names, dates, and random words, to name a few. If you could specify your most urgent need I may be able to share a more specific technique. –  Renan Jul 27 '11 at 17:12
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14 Answers

Spaced Repetition Software

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material; this exploits the psychological spacing effect. Alternative names include spaced rehearsal, expanding rehearsal, graduated intervals, repetition spacing, repetition scheduling, spaced retrieval and expanded retrieval.

Spaced repetition is particularly applied to vocabulary acquisition and learning Chinese characters as part of language acquisition, due to the volume of data involved – some programs, such as Anki, have specialized support for these goals – but it is of general applicability.

I think Anki is the best out there right now, and its free/open source http://ankisrs.net/

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I highly recommend this as well! –  skaz Jul 27 '11 at 20:07
    
I have been using ediscio.com for 5 years which helps you to memorizing huge amount of information by Leitner system (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leitner_system) –  kami Mar 21 '12 at 18:01
    
Is there some kind of effiency rating for this kind of software? –  wizlog Jun 8 '12 at 16:26
    
Well anki will tell you how long you've spent on each fact and has some metric for how well you know it, if that is what you mean. –  Adam Jun 8 '12 at 19:36
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I suggest you should read this HELPGUIDE article, really great tips include.

  1. Don’t skimp on exercise or sleep
  2. Make time for friends and fun
  3. Keep stress in check
  4. Bulk up on brain-boosting foods
  5. Give your brain a workout

Also recomended links;

Don’t Forget! Playing Games With Memory

6 Ways to Boost Brain Power

Omega-3 Fatty Acids Improve Cognitive Function

Keep Your Brain Alive Exercise

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To remember something, the thing you want to remember needs to have made an impression in your mind, and you need to be able to access it.

For strengthening the impression emotion helps - you are much more likely to remember something that e.g. surprised you, made you laugh, or angered you, than something you had no paricular attitude towards.

The other thing her is to connect what you want to remember it to as many things as possible. Things are remembered better not in isolation, but when they are a part of a system, or connected to other things you know. These connections do not need to be something that follows the direct meaning - they can be silly things that rely on some aspect of what you want to rememeber, such as an association with an animal that somebody's name reminds you of.
These so-called mnemonics actually combine the two aspects: they strengthen the impression both giving an extra connection, and by provoking an emotion (most usually amusement).

Repetition (such as with spaced repetition systems for vocabulary learning) certainly helps, since the pathways you create in your brain get reinforced through repetition.
During repetition it's important not to repeat the same facts in the same order (unless that order is meaningful and necessary), since then your brain will perceive the order as part of the information. You then have the problem that the fact is easiest accessed as part of a sequence, not on its own. So try to have as many different contexts and sequences during repetition as possible, and connect the facts during the repetition wherever possible.

For access the extra connections are also essential, since you now have more angles from which you can come across a connection that will lead you to the fact you want to recall.

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+1 for mnemonic technique and importance of emotion, just think about your childhood, what are the most memorable events and why –  Hauser Jul 28 '11 at 12:43
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A picture is worth a thousand words. Most memory techniques rely on such observation. 1. the memory palace, visualize yourself a place that you know intimately well, perhaps your childhood room. Visualize everything in it and associate the things you want to remember with it, then to recall, just "walk the room".

  1. image association. Use your imagination to make the words into silly picture that act as a cue for remember things like phone numbers or the 13 original states.

both of the above will take a lot of training and practice but are the well known methods.

I would suggest research into them and pick the method more compatible to you or perhaps combine them for remember different type of things.

The thing to stress is that memory improvement is hard work, there is no quick fix. You'll have to put time and energy to it and be persistent. the reward is great but the journey is hard as well. Good Luck

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By being careful what you want to remember.

  • Use a todo system
  • Use your agenda
  • Use lists
  • Use a contact manager (with details about a person)

With this data out of your head, you create an empty head. Ready to remember more.

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Can you back up the 'empty head' part with references? I doubt it is true, but if you could show me a link, that would be great. –  muntoo Dec 10 '11 at 2:37
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I found The Memory Book to be quite a good read, it deals with those associative and linking memory techniques in great detail.

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Have a look at Increasing Memory Stamina and Remembering People's Names.

Some good answers in both of these, including vocalising, visualising and repetition - key techniques to implant a memory in short or long term.

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learn to develop your focussing skills. living in the moment ensures you absorb the most out of your mind. often your consiously and even unconsiously distracted. ever noticed how after a long drive back home, you cannot remember how you got there, but you get there? your unconsiously drove all the way home! Every femtosecond in your life, your either living unconsiously or consiously.

some (very very old) fashioned methods are things like meditation: say http://www.dhamma.org/

yoga/martial arts: various

focussing: http://www.focusing.org/

the difference between someone who does well at school and one who dosen't is mostly a difference in ability to focus. the naturally gifted people have had either * a more suitable environment that taught them focussing. * are genetically disposed to focussing.

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Numbers

Use the Phonetic Mnemonic System. This is basically converting numbers to words or sentences. Humans can temporarily (as in seconds/minutes) store ~7 arbitrary digits in memory, but memorizing words is easier. For example:

Cat and dog jumps.

Is easier to memorize than:

7121176390

For long periods of time.


For memorizing really long sequences, such as pi, you're stuck with plain memorizing. But this gets easier as you keep doing it. A common strategy is to group the numbers in threes or fours.[1]

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I'll give that a try, thanks! –  wizlog Dec 9 '11 at 20:04
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The quickest and dirtiest way to remember things would be with flashcards. That works well for remembering specific content. As far as long term overall memory improvement goes, I would recommend looking up memory-training games. Lumosity has some fun free memory games.

Another tip I like to use is: always try to stimulate your brain. Consciously analyze what you perceive, and try to recall a series of events from the day.

Memory isn't everything in learning faster. Being able to analyze and comprehend material leads to the memorization of it.

If you're looking for temporary boosts to mental capacity or functionality... try caffeine, ginseng, or ginkgo biloba, or do some research on herbal stimulants.

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I've used James W. Heisig's "Remembering the kanji" book for memorizing Japanese characters. It worked remarkably well and used a mnemonics approach that divided the characters into parts, assigned a keyword to each of them and built stories from those keywords.

Depending on what you are trying to memorize, different techniques are available. If you want to memorize long numbers, you can use a number alphabet that assigns (consonant) sounds to numbers. Add vowels yourself and build words from the numbers, then build a story from the words.

Over all you need to practice all of those techniques, but it's way more fun to do it with a system than using rote memorization.

HTH

Raku

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One contentious way to help your memory might be to make sure you have enough of the B group vitamins in your diet. This along with being well hydrated and having your mind free of distractions always helped me when studying to make whatever methods I was using more effective.

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Try learning a language and use it, even if only writing for output.

Since I have learned a language, everything has improved for me: memory, recall speed, native grammar, native spelling, learning, etc.

This is one of the few disciplines where memory is make or break, and it's not something which you can just look up, so you must train your mind to memorize everything, which is intensive, to say the least.

Another way to look at it through this lens is to output everything that you learn/need to remember. You can teach somebody else what you learned, write a story about it, connect it to something else that you already know or have learned, etc.

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I've learned over the years that Association is the key!

Three examples from today:

  1. Renew an online magazine subscription
  2. Meet a friend for Lunch
  3. Turn down the basement water heater for summer.

Given that these were three items I could easily forget I did the following.

  1. Magazine subscription - I put the credit card that I use for online payments in front of my computer monitor, so I would remember to use it to pay... the subscription.

  2. Meet a friend. I made it a lunch date and kept reminding myself with notes, to-do's appt reminders, etc. Finally on the day itself I kept thinking "what will I do for breakfast today... given that I have lunch plans..", etc.

  3. Turn down the water heater. This was something I always remember 'in the shower' but always forget 'once I got out'. So last time I took a shower, I put the razor on the floor outside the shower ("trim" down the heat metaphor) so that AFTER the shower I was still reminded.

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Just because you remember to do something - I think - does not mean your memory improves. –  wizlog May 14 '12 at 21:09
    
I was forgetting stuff a lot. With these tips I find myself remembering a lot more spontaneously. Maybe not for everyone but it's noticeable to me. –  Michael Durrant May 16 '12 at 3:44
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