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5 Memory Hacks To Boost Your Information Retention

By on May 9, 2018 in Memory with 0 Comments

Have you ever met someone, had a good conversation and then promptly forget the person’s name? Or maybe you went all the way to the shop and struggle to recall what exactly you need to buy?  Or are you having trouble remembering key facts and figures needed for your work?

Trying to retain quality information is a skill. Sadly, with automatic information retention nowadays, it is a skill that we use less and less often every day. We don’t have to remember phone numbers anymore. It is all programmed into our smartphones.   Passwords and bank account information? All already pre-programmed into our online accounts. We don’t even have to remember a shopping list when we can easily ask virtual assistants to order them it for us. It is no wonder our memory recall skills are getting poorer.

A young man attempts to remember information

The brain, like a muscle, needs exercising and constant stretching to be in its best shape so here are five memory hacks to help you keep information:

1. Visual memory

Back to our example, do you have trouble recalling someone’s name? Visual memory is often the strongest to embed and easiest to recall. The trick is to visualize the person, the more absurd the visual the better.

For example, when you are introduced to someone named Bill. Visualize any standout image that reminds you of Bill. About ten years back, there was an absurd animatronic singing fish called Big Mouth Billy Bass who sings Don’t worry, Be happy.  Imagine this fish. Casually ask Bill whom you are talking to, his favorite song. Now imagine the fish singing that song. Ask Bill what hobbies he likes. If he says fishing, now finish the visual with Billy Bass carrying a fishing rod.  Your visual image will be this fish called Bill, singing out loud and carrying a fishing rod.

Pretty difficult to forget, isn’t it?

So next time you meet Bill, not only you will remember his name, you’ll remember his favorite song and hobby as well.

Are you looking for more practice?  Test yourself with this visual memory quiz.

2. Say it out loud

Have you ever found you remember songs better if you sing them out loud? Or reading out parts of a book made the story stick? It is no coincidence.  Studies show that saying a text out loud cements the information into memory.

There is no simple explanation why saying something out loud can embed it into our memory. It is suggested that reading out loud involves active participation hence it helps. This is a great memory hack especially if you pair the speech with some sort of movement.

Interesting research conducted in 2010 showed that participants in a study recalled words much better when they said them out loud as opposed to reading them silently.

3. Write it down

Remember how we used to take notes?  With note-taking, not only you have a visual reminder of the information being presented, you are also allowing your brain to process the information or what the Scientific American article termed as ‘doing the heavy lifting’. Hence, better memory retention.  This is why learners are encouraged to write notes down by hand instead of typing it.

This hack can be further improved if the note-taker were to use different colors for different sections.  This will be a way of further processing the information and the colors also act as visual cues.

4. Chunk it

For a long string of numerical information, the best way to recall it is by using the chunking method. This just means breaking down the string into manageable portions. Competitive memory champs use this method to memorize and regurgitate long strings of information.

For example, if you have to memorize a telephone number 08352267852, it is easier to break into chunks 0835 2267 852. You are effectively memorizing three sets of numbers, which is less taxing than trying to recall a long sequence.  This method is even more effective if you can ‘visualize’ each set in your mind.

5. Method of Loci

Another memory hack is to use what is termed as ‘method of loci’. If you are a fan of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, you will be more familiar with the term ‘mind palace.’. It is another neat visualizing trick. This time around you will imagine your ‘home’ or ‘palace’ and things you want to memorize are located or anchored to a certain place within the home.

For example, if you need to get a bunch of bananas, some kitchen napkins and can of paint in a shade of green, visual them in your home as a bunch of bananas sitting in a bowl in your dining table, then kitchen napkins on the kitchen countertop and a can of paint outside by the fence. When you are a outside and teeing to recall your showing list, imagine walking into your house room by room and you will see what you need.

Other tips for better memory retention

It goes without saying that exercise and getting enough sleep will go a long way in keeping our memory recall in good condition.  You might also want to try these strategies for maintaining a youthful brain generally.  Our cognitive functions are enhanced with regular exercise and having a good night sleep will ensure our memory recall ability is enhanced.

The other tip for better information retention is to ensure we give enough time to let the memory embed. Often, we are often too much in a hurry or too distracted. If we want to have better memory retention, take a step back, process the information and let it sink in. On the same principle, be conscious when you are trying to retrieve the memory back.  Make sure you give yourself time without any distractions to think back, follow any mind visual cues or triggers and place the memories.

In conclusion, there are nifty tricks you can use to enhance your information retention.  Visual cues are still one of the strongest ways you can anchor and retain a memory.  Use any of these hacks singly and they are highly effective.  They are even more powerful when you combined them together.

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About the Author

About the Author: Tom Andrews BSc is the editor of He devotes his time to psychology and mental health research and also enjoys climbing, hiking, and team sports. Tom is a contributor to several other highly regarded health magazines and blogs.


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