There are many memorization techniques out there that can help you own whatever it is that you need to mentally own. Below is a general overview of some of the more popular ones. There is much science behind all of these techniques (including short and long term memory), but here we (mostly) cut to the chase and talk about them in plain language. Variations on these techniques can be found throughout the site (and lots more in our ebook, Help Me Memorize), but this is your starting point to help you immediately.
Repetition is the old standby – the first technique usually used out the gate. And for good reason. You can’t memorize anything without practicing repetition. The idea is simply repeating the words or actions over and over again. It’s a form of rote learning, which is well known as a great way to place something in your short-term memory. There are many variations to repetition as a way to change things up.
Word-based mnemonic devices
Mnemonic devices sound complex and scientific, but really they are simply tools – or word tricks – to help you remember something. That something can be a list of things, a specific order of items, a group of names or many other things. Word-based mnemonics often come in two flavors: acronyms and acrostics.
When you create a word using single or multiple letters from many other words, you’ve created an acronym. You are surrounded by acronyms, especially with the rise of mobile devices, text messaging and social media. Some popular ones:
- ASAP: As soon as possible
- LOL: Laugh out loud
- BRB: Be right back
Most of these acronyms are used to speed up typing, but the same technique can hold true for learning. For words, lists or phrases you are having a hard time remembering, try creating an acronym.
An acrostic is related to an acronym, but instead of creating a word, you create a sentence using the first letter of each word you are trying to recall. It’s also a technique used in poetry where the first letter in each line spells out a word vertically. But you don’t need to write poetry, a simple sentence will do. This is a great way to remember lists.
The idea behind chunking is to group pieces of like information together and memorize them as a set. You can more easily put to memory smaller bits of similar information compared to a massive quantity of unorganized information.
You don’t have to use just your eyes to memorize. You’ll be surprised at how well memorization works through listening, smelling or even touching. The more senses you get involved in the memorization experience, the more likely you will be to keep the information for longer than a few weeks. If you are memorizing words, try recording them and listening to them in tandem to your repetition techniques. If you are memorizing an action, put yourself into the exact scenario and use all of your senses.
When you are trying to cement connections between seemingly unrelated word or idea pairings, repeating them or studying them right before bed can have a serious impact on your recall. If you want to get science-y, you can check out the formal study.
Clear your distractions or change your atmosphere
Sometimes a memorization technique means just clearing your world of distractions, tuning the world around you out, or changing up your surroundings. If you have a thousand things going on at the same time, finding a quiet place can greatly enhance your memorization focus. If you are finding you are in a rut with your memorization, changing up your location can also be just the thing. That new locale can be just the thing to awaken your mind, so it is ready to learn more.