Did you know that your brain is capable of changing—and you can improve your memory?

Just as you strengthen a muscle by working it, anything that exercises your brain will benefit your memory. So, crosswords and Sudoku puzzles have a positive, but indirect, impact on improving memory.

And perhaps you might be surprised to know: so does physical exercise.
And adequate sleep.
And a healthy diet.

But a specific work-out to improve memory? Read on….

  1. Focus on what you are doing. Focusing allows your brain to ‘encode’ information properly. This is also about getting rid of distraction. It’s essential your phone is silent and invisible, your workspace is positive for you and you value what you are about to study.
  2. Involve your senses. Using touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight. Some students draw extensive diagrams or cartoons or make physical models of concepts. Could you write a song or music piece you associate with certain ideas? Get creative and you will boost your memory.
  3. Repetition. This is not cramming. It’s about repeating something you want to memorise over and over again—revisiting the topic frequently over a long period of time.
  4. Chunk it. Although most of us cannot recall more than 7 things, we do remember 10-digit phone numbers. The reason? We chunk them. 0460 987 051 is much easier to recall than 0460987051. Smaller chunks are like bite-sized food: much easier to digest.
  5. Organise it. Why do books have chapters? Why do your teachers so carefully plan the sequence in which they teach you? When you plan your study time, consider reviewing topics in a way that builds the whole ‘picture’ in a logical and linear way—you could even use storyboards, like oversized comic strip panels, to present key ideas.
  6. Use mnemonic devices. Similar to involving your senses, these ‘devices’ help us remember complicated information. Use acronyms, rhyme, song or imagery. Once again, get creative!
  7. Connect the dots. Making associations can help strengthen our memory. For example, if you can reflect on HOW two things are connected, BOTH of those things will be embedded more deeply into your memory. Study groups may help you do this more effectively.
  8. Get to know your own style. It is true that while there are some tried and true approaches which work for most of us, we all have our own specific processes that work best for us. Diagrams on a whiteboard might be your best study friend. Or perhaps making sure you never study longer than 30 minutes before you take a break?

Finally, there are things you can do that will make your memory much LESS effective. Failing to work out your own style, failing to effectively review what you want to hammer into your brain, having a crap diet, avoiding exercise, and cramming can all ensure you don’t do as well as you could.

So give your memory what it needs and it might surprise you with how well it can work for you when you really need to remember stuff.

For more info about this topic, check out:

How does our brain store memories

8 tips for improving your memory

Scientifically proven best ways to study

How to triple your memory by using this trick | Ricardo Lieuw