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How to Remember Things

Feeling overloaded by information? Use tried-and-true methods to retain what you've worked to learn.


  • Step 1: Improve recall Improve memory more easily with visualizations of the past, using pictures, music, or mental cartoons to recall what would otherwise be lost. In some cases, assign a mantra or try mnemonic devices to remember better and retain quickly.
  • Step 2: Use it or lose it Test yourself by using the information soon and several times in succession to make it part of the brain's network.
  • Step 3: Associate and connect Associate what's to be learned by connecting new knowledge with what you already know, so that one emanates from the other when you try to recall.
  • Step 4: Write it out Write out facts in lists, purposefully reading aloud and using your ears and eyes to anchor each item. Try to build automatic recall of information, no matter how simplistic or hard it seems at first.
  • TIP: Not everything to be learned is fun or interesting -- use willpower to improve your memory.
  • Step 5: Summarize to think Summarize each paragraph in the margin as you read, thinking about what is read and, in effect, recycling it.
  • Step 6: Create mental constructs Create a mental memory tree, with information labeled on big branches first. Assign pertinent details subordinate to each branch as leaves. Organizing the facts in logical clusters aids memorization.
  • Step 7: Memorize at the right time Memorize at times of the day when you are most focused, alert, and likely to retain. Studies suggest that the optimal time period is in the afternoon.
  • TIP: Benign forgetfulness is nothing to worry about and can be caused by stress. Relax and get used to revisiting some sources of information.
  • Step 8: Get sleep Get adequate sleep to retain memories, and to have the energy the next day to actively make associations.
  • FACT: In 2007, the brain-training products industry generated $80 million in the United States.

You Will Need

  • Visualizations
  • Associations
  • Lists
  • Mental constructs
  • Memorization
  • Sleep

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