Improve your Study Memory: Four Easy Steps

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Have you ever wonder how you can become more effective in memorizing something? Are you a student wishing to improve academic performance or improve your grades with less effort?  If the answer to that question is yes, then the good news is that improving memory is not difficult once you understand how memorization operates in your brain. Once you have this knowledge, then it’s easier to optimize your memory process. Your brain stores and process memory in 4 steps: attention, encoding, storage, and retrieval.

Step 1: Paying Attention


The process of storing information into your brain starts with your attention span.  As you engage with the environment, all the information collected from your five senses goes through a filter.  This filter is needed, since there’s a limit to how much information your brain can store. Since the brain can’t store everything, it will only store information that is considered important. For example, if you’re doing your math homework with the TV playing in the background, your brain will automatically tune out the background noise.

If your goal is to increase memory power, then you can start by focusing exclusively on something you wish to remember. In other words, avoid multitasking.  It’s also important to reduce as many distractions as possible. Studies show that people perform best when they focus exclusively on one task at a time. In fact, multitasking can reduce productivity by 40%.  The reason is because when you multitask, you are really task switching.  There’s a penalty in task switching, since your brain has to get back in the right mode to finish the task.  If you’re writing an essay and checking Facebook, then your brain will have to readjust to where you left off in the essay. Even when taking a break while doing your school work and you check your Facebook, send a few text messages or maybe surf the web, you become less motivated to get your work done. So in either scenario, you are obviously increasing the time it takes to finish the essay. So, why not check Facebook at another time?

Step 2: Encoding Information


It’s not enough to gather information, but you also need a way to store it. That is why the next step in the process of storing memory is information encoding. This process is what allows us to keep memories and not lose them.

One way to maximize how efficiently information is being stored in your brain is by making an analogy to something you are already familiar with. For example, a tech person learning about how memories work in the brain might compare short-term memory to random access memory in the computer, since the information being stored there doesn’t last long. Likewise, this same person might compare long-term memory to a hard drive on the computer, since the information stored there is persistent.

Another way is the use of mnemonics. For example, you might recall the elementary phrase, “Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally”. This phrase was designed to make it easier for students to remember the order of operations: P for parenthesis, E for exponents, M for multiplication, D for division, A for addition, and S for subtraction. Whenever you’re forced to memorize something you might find it more effective to search for a pattern or make up an easy to remember phrase.

Step 3: Storing Information


After information is encoded, it needs to be stored. If you’re serious about keeping long-term memories, then the solution is simple – get sleep. You cannot afford to sacrifice getting sleep. It is one of the most important activities for your body.  Yet, it’s always the first thing people sacrifice.  What’s ironic is that people think they are saving more time by reducing the time that they sleep. Studies show that getting a proper night’s sleep (around 8 hours) can give a large boost to your productivity.

Whenever you sleep, your brain is consolidating memories.  Short-term memories transition into long-term memories. During your 6th to 8th hour of sleep, your memories are being rehearsed.  If you are only sleeping for six hours, you’re losing memories since your brain doesn’t get a chance to rehearse them. This is also part of the reason why cramming for a test is discouraged.

Step 4: Retrieving Information


The final part of the memory process is information retrieval.  Even though information is already stored in your brain at this point, this step is still important since retrieving memory makes your memory stronger. Rehearsing the same information repeatedly helps you remember better. You’re forcing your brain to encode and store the same information repeatedly.

In summary, there are times when you will find that you are good at remembering certain information and bad at others. That is because certain aspects of your memory are inefficient and need to be worked on.  So, you might have a tendency to forget where you’ve placed that math homework. For this to happen, you either did not pay attention to where you have placed it; did not encode the location properly; or did not retrieve memory accurately. In order for you to determine the problem, you will have to track down the four steps of the brain memory process and isolate the distraction. Here’s to remembering!

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