Quick & easy tips to improve your memory

Do you have a poor memory? Do you struggle with recalling things? Try these tried and tested memory enhancement tricks to boost your memory. They are simple and easy to practice methods for improving memory.

Memory is our ability to recall something from the past. It can be from years back or something that we encountered just a few seconds back – like a phone number or an individual's name. We can take pride in ourselves if we can recall stuff and bemoan our poor memory if we fail to remember things. For better understanding, memory can be split into three phases –

  • Sensory Memory
  • Short-term
  • Long-term Memory

We use these, every day, in all of our interactions. However, not everyone is capable of exploiting memory, to their advantage. Some of us struggle with memorising stuff. We put in an effort to commit information to our memory, but our efforts are in vain because we cannot recollect any of the information when we require it. The info is either forgotten or the facts muddled. If you have a problem recalling the last four digits of a mobile number, then you know what I mean – is it 7075 or 7057, huh!

Why do we fail, despite all our sincere efforts? Well, the answer to that is simple – we fail to transform the sensory memory to long-term memory. We can understand this better by understanding the different phases of memory.

Phase 1: Sensory Memory

All of our experiences get filtered through the sensory memory. There is a lot of stuff going around me, while I am working on this piece. I can hear shrill calls of a Mynah bird outside my window, there is the hum of the fan and the rhythmic music emitting from the dance-class being conducted in the Club House. All this information is getting filtered through my sensory memory, as it is happening, but it will not register in my brain, because if I am not paying attention to it.

Phase 2: Short-term Memory

If I make a mental note of all that is happening around me or pay attention to it, the information will shift into the Short-term memory and remain there for less than a minute. Maximum forty seconds. If I leave it at that it will be forgotten.

Phase 3: Long-term Memory

This is the stage where the information that first passed through the sensory memory can be retained. This can happen provided I make a definite effort to store the information for future use.

The question that arises is, can it be done. Can we train our brain to remember and recall things? The answer to that is 'yes'. It is possible to improve memory, by practising some tried and tested methods

Paying attention helps

That is easily the most basic advice that I can give to anyone who wants to improve their memory. Paying attention to stuff is important to ensure that it gets imprinted in your memory. When you give attention to any information, you end up remembering it better. All that you read, see or hear is information. And as mentioned earlier, it passes through the sensory memory and enters the short-term memory, if we pay attention to the info. If we choose to ignore the info, our brain will not register it. Hence, paying attention is vital, to committing something to memory.

Understand the details

Paying attention, without understanding the bits of information, is pointless. You must aim to comprehend the material, instead of mugging it, by heart. Play questions in your mind – Why? What? How? When? Where? This technique helps you understand the information better, and helps with remembering it better. This happens because you can join the dots when you answer the questions. Alternatively, repeat the information in your mind, without omitting the minute details, remembering everything in a sequential order, as step 1, step 2, and step 3 and so on. This technique is called Elaborative Rehearsal and it is one of the best memory enhancement techniques.

Create chunks of information

Chunking is a method where a huge amount of information is chunked into smaller, 'bite-size' bits. The idea is to make it easier to remember all that information, by remembering it in smaller pieces. At the end of the day, you still have all the information.

This is how it is done –

  • Create simple chunks – Remembering a long 10-digit phone number can be difficult. But, you can still do it, by breaking it into smaller digits. For example 9460581038) this is a random number that I typed. It looks daunting, but if you break it into smaller digits, you'll probably be able to remember it. How about 9460-581-038? You have divided one large number into three, easier bits to remember
  • Meaningful chunks – This method involves forming something easy and meaningful to remember, something that is long and difficult to memorise. A long list of alphabets can either be turned into a phrase, where the first letter of each word in the phrase signifies the letter in the list of alphabets. For instance, MPCWTM can be remembered as My Pet Cat Wendy Told Me. Is this not a simpler way to remember the sequence of the alphabets?
  • Make lists – Imagine having to memorise a long list of items on a grocery list. How do you do it? Suppose the list has the following items on the list – cereals, deodorant, eggs, Haldiram mixtures, buns, sunscreen, orange juice, body wash, milk, shampoo, coke and wet wipes. You memorise the list by organising the items into 'like' groups

  • Group A – Breakfast 5 items (cereals, eggs, buns, milk, orange juice)
  • Skin & Bath Essentials 5 items – (deodorant, body wash, shampoo, sunscreen, wet wipe
  • Snacks 2 items – (Haldiram mixtures, coke)

Speak about it

Here is another simple trick that works like a charm. Describe whatever you want to carve into your memory, to others. The more you speak about it, the more likely you are to understand it better and store the same into your long-term memory.

Recommended reading : Expert recommendations to boost memory

Adopt the Method of Loci

This interesting concept involves going on a mind journey where you run things over, in your mind. Walk through whatever it is that you want to remember, in your mind. Let's, for instance, say you want to remember the digestive tract. Instead of memorising the different organs the food passes through, make the passage of food a journey, with halts and stopovers. So, food begins its journey in the 'oral cavity', where it is chewed and mixed with saliva, it passes quickly through tunnels - the pharynx and the oesophagus before entering the stomach, where it halts a while, while the stomach acids and enzymes break it down…

Did you notice how something boring is made easy to remember by making it in a sequential plot of events? It is like playing a drama, in your mind.

Speak out loud

Walk past a nursery school, and the first thing that you'll, perhaps, notice is the cacophony of voices, reciting nursery rhymes, numbers etc. You've been through the same grind as all others who have been through school. Even after all these years, most of us remember the nursery rhymes and all of the other things we were made to repeat, at that age.

So, repetition helps, more so, when you say it out loud. It serves a dual purpose, as you read the content, and you hear it, as you mouth the words. There is a dual opportunity for your brain to capture all that info.


Is it possible to draw the information that you want to memorise? If so, do it. Studies show that information is better remembered when you draw it. That is why, perhaps, science textbooks have so many diagrams. You remember the doodle better than you would the same info in plain text form.

Boost memory through better self-management

  • Sleep – You need to get adequate sleep to make your brain work sharper. Get enough sleep at night to enhance your brain's performance
  • Exercise – A good workout, 4-5 times a week will keep you physically and mentally fit. Cardio workouts provide more oxygen to the brain, making it function better. Go for a swim, dance some, run in the outdoors or play a sport, but do get moving
  • De-stress – Being stressed all the time can have an ill effect on the brain. It hampers the brains functioning and slows it down. Follow de-stressing techniques, take sufficient breaks and do one important thing at a time, instead of clogging your brain with too much information
  • Eat healthily – Watch what you eat. Prefer a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin D, C, B and K. Boost the brain's performance by feeding it right

Recommended reading : Foods that fight stress

Practising the psychological techniques explained above, and coupling them the right exercise and diet will help boost your memory power.

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