How to Improve Memory Retention

You may not be the genius with the photographic memory, but you can definitely stop losing your key and remember that 4 p.m. doctor’s appointment. Here’s how.

Backed up by science, you can actually improve your memory capacity and learn faster on a larger scale.

Here are methods you can use to solve the mystery of your lost keys, missed appointments and retain more information.

Become a Human Sponge

Ever heard of memory retention? It is the percentage information you’re exposed to that you actually store in your long-term memory.

They are different ways to remember things, and each has a different level of retention rate. Teaching to others, practicing by doing, and engaging in discussions are the highest methods you can use to remember information much quicker. Respectively, you can expect to retain 90%, 75% and 50% of the information using them.

Let’s say, for example, you have been hired by a company and the work material is heavy. You are looking to improve your knowledge to advance your career in your current organization.

Here is how you can incorporate them to absorb the material faster:

  • First, start discussing the material with other coworkers. The cognitive effort of consolidating the concepts you just learn will strengthen your comprehension much faster than just reading the work booklet.
  • Practice by doing. It is the easiest part to do because you actually get paid to do so. Work at a high pace, take extra tasks and put into practice everything you learn. Do not be afraid of mistakes; they are indicators of a healthy learning process.
  • The highest retention rate is when you get to share the knowledge and teach it to someone else. Help a new coworker in a similar position by offering a mentorship on the job.

At school, most students stick to reading their textbooks. Do not be like them.

  • Discuss complex concepts with classmates, suggest a weekly meeting for an hour where you discuss the lesson learned during the week.
  • Do you attend math classes? Solve as problems as you possibly can. If you are in non-technical classes such as psychology and English literature, write a lot! The kinesthetic activity of writing brings out your sense of touch and allows you to be involved with the material at a deeper level, which increases the retention rate.
  • Teach to others. Ask a friend in a different area who has no clue of your field of study, and teach him or her what you know. At 90%, it is the best way to memorize and by far the fastest.
Use a Work Frame

Part of the reason why you can’t remember things properly is based on the structure of your memorization process.

Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist at McGill University, advances that in order to remember things that move around, such as your car keys, you must make a premortem system, a framework that will allow you to find your things no matter what.

In moments of stress, your body releases cortisol, which causes cloudy thinking. The hippocampus (and no, it’s not a dinosaur), is the structure of the brain that keeps track of where your items are. It is good for things that do not move around, but not for things that do.

The daily stress of life constantly affects your memory’s performance. This explains why your keys seem to move by themselves.

So how do you remember where your keys are, no matter the situation, you ask?

  • Have a specific location for your keys. Always place them there habitually for it to be an automatic response for your subconscious to snap your memory that it’s around there if you ever forget. Place some labels (“Place keys here.”) if you have to.

Memory is like a story created by rote repetition made into a habit.

But what about your doctor’s appointment or any event?

  • Unless it’s a weekly or daily thing done repetitively into a habit, you need to take it out of your head to be manifested onto something tangible like writing it down or inputting into your phone. The distractions and everything that go on in your life will deter your attention from it.
  • There is a little mind hack you can do. Remember those events like your relative’s wedding or friend’s housewarming party. Home come you didn’t forget those? Because you made it into a grand spectacular occasion that you were looking forward to, contrasted to something trivial like a doctor’s appointment that doesn’t really excite you. Take that same sensational perception of an event you look forward to going over to something you’re naturally less enthusiastic about.

There is no such thing as a perfect 100% retention rate. However, with the power of science on your side, you now have the keys to getting a true sense of optimal learning and memory retention.

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    1. ricky September 18, 2016
    2. Elizabeth Cushman October 14, 2016

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