Throughout the day you have all types of information thrown at you, and a lot of that info needs to stay in your memory for a short period. Maybe it’s a phone number, the name of your new dentist, or the difference between mitosis and meiosis for a biology test. It’s actually pretty easy to remember these tidbits with little effort on your part.
It’s hard enough to commit big ideas to your memory, but for the little stuff — schedules for work, the cast list of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for trivia night, your families phone numbers — it’s all about getting the information in front of you. For larger pieces of information, we’ve shown off a few techniques, but this is about the little things. Here’s a few ways to do just that.
Use Your Phone’s Lock Screen to Remind You of Things
How often do you look at your phone? Chances are it’s pretty often, especially if you use it as a clock. As we’ve mentioned before, your phone’s lock screen is a great place to stuff a picture of your something you need to memorise.
Something like a train or work schedule is useful on your lock screen, but you can stuff pretty much any information you need here. Having trouble remembering one section of a test? Take a snapshot of the question to commit it to memory. The same goes for any other small things — medication doses, your nephew’s shoe size, the time your favourite show is on — if it’s short and just needs to be pounded into your brain, your lock screen does the trick. It might take a little while before it sinks in, but it’s bound to get in there a little bit.
Use Location-Based Reminders to Tie the Memory to a Place
We’re very good at spatial memory, and that’s the reason why the memory palace works so well. One way to subtly recreate that is to tie a memory to a location, and using location-based reminders apps like Checkmark for iPhone (or the built-in Reminders app), or Astrid for Android makes it easy.
For example, take the schedule you want to memorise. Create a reminder so that every time you get to the location, the schedule pops up. Even the more ridiculous things, like a cast listing can be put here. The idea is that you’re seeing the same thing, in the same place each time, and that might make it easier to commit to memory.
Get the Information in Your Face Repeatedly Throughout the Day
Some ideas just need to get pounded into your brain before they take, and that means getting the idea in front of you as obnoxiously as possible. For that, we like Memstash.
To use Memstash, highlight a block of text in your browser, bookmark it, and then Memstash sends you an email or SMS message several times throughout the week. You can use this for things like quotes you’re trying to remember, a complicated concept, or even just the name of that guy in accounting that always rides the elevator with you. Memstash puts the information in front of you at random points over the course of a week so that you can commit it to memory.
Remove Your Tech Blinders
In some cases, the reason we don’t remember things is because, simply put, we don’t have to. But that’s not always a good thing. For instance, it’s good to know your emergency contacts by heart. For these, you can replace their names with the phone number in your address book. So, when your mum calls, you’ll see the phone number each time as opposed to “Mum”, and you’ll eventually commit that to memory.
The same goes for memorising directions in a new city. As we’ve talked about before, GPS makes it incredibly easy to ignore your surroundings. If you rely on it too heavily, you may never actually memorise the order of the streets in your neighbourhood, or the grid your city is based on. Don’t use the GPS all the time, get lost now and again, and you’ll memorise your addresses in no time.
Of course, there’s also plenty of age-old techniques for committing things to memory, including tying a phrase to a physical movement, creating mnemonics, writing it down as opposed to typing, and making sure you get a good night’s sleep. As with most memory tricks, it’s about finding what works best for you. The key is to get the thing you need memorised in front of your eyes as often as possible.