How To Remember

How to remember, this is the synthesis of all the memory tricks the author has acquired through the years.

Are you finding it hard to remember important dates and telephone numbers? Did you just talk to a new acquaintance and seconds later couldn't remember her name? You're not alone! The fact is all of us fail to retain information at one point or another. You see, in the memory business, nobody's perfect. Even Einstein (yes, Albert Einstein, the great scientist) in his time could recall so much information, but you know what? Whenever he finished the day's work at the lab, he always asked his wife for directions on how to get home. This is incredible, but true. So don't feel too bad!

Besides, there's a way out of this mess. If things are getting out of hand already such as you have been missing some very important engagements lately, what I will share with you will certainly help. My tips to improving your memory certainly aren't some panacea, but I am convinced that they will take you down the road to recovering most of what you've lost so far. I am no memory freak either, but in my job as a writer for over ten years now I learned a few memory jugglers to survive. You see, as a writer, we are expected to retain a lot of information. Here are some of my memory secrets.

The first rule is that anything that means a lot to you will be hard to forget. For example, you may forget the name of a new acquaintance but it will be hard to forget the name of your dog, or that of your mother's, etc. When information is very meaningful to us, we seldom forget it. How come, however, Einstein always forgot his way home? The closest explanation I can find is that maybe to Einstein the way home had ceased to be meaningful since in the course of his workday, he was dealing constantly with matters that were infinitely more important such as, say, The Theory of Relativity.

This brings us to the point that meaningfulness is relative, or in other words, what is meaningful information to one person may have no meaning to another person at all. Following our Einstein example above, the way home may be meaningful to a regular workingman but the Theory of Relativity to him is entirely meaningless. That makes him the opposite of Einstein, doesn't he?

Which brings us to our next point, the importance of understanding to memory. Isn't it easier to remember something we understand and that conversely, it's hard for us humans to remember what we don't understand? How often has this happened to you? In school, you wanted to remember some piece of information for your, say, Physics exam, but that information got away because you did not understand it in the first place?

So there's your second lesson to improving that memory of yours. Make the information meaningful and understandable and you will seldom forget it. If the information were really not meaningful to you but you have to remember it anyway--by all means find a way to make it meaningful. If not, at least find a way to make sure you understand it. Let me give you an example before I start sounding as abstract as Einstein. How do you remember the Theory of Relativity? Well first, you have to strain to find out what it means. It simply means that everything is relative, that time, space and most other matters are relative. Even meaningfulness is relative. You remember your mom's name, but your classmate will find it hard to remember it--unless you took your classmate home one day and your mom quickly whipped up some hot soup for him one freezing winter afternoon?

The third lesson of memory is related to the second. If you don't understand something, then by all means keep repeating it to yourself lots of times until you remember. This is rote memory 101. You know this one from school. You did not understand the information, so to help you remember it, you kept repeating it to yourself all night before the exam. What do you know, it worked, didn't it?

Sometimes, it doesn't work though, and even if it does, the retention does not last very long! Like your computer, it's there for a while like RAM memory, but since it isn't in your hard drive once your PC is off, everything is forgotten completely. The same holds true for rote memory. So how do you ensure you retain an important piece of information for a very long time? Well, put your best effort in understanding what it is and you will seldom go wrong.

The other reason we forget information is when we don't take time to remember it at all. I am sure you are familiar with this situation. You just mentioned somebody else's name a while ago and now you can't remember it. The moral of the story is to make it an effort to pause to remember even for a short while so that you will not forget the memory task at hand. Or at least, try repeating the information to yourself a number of times.

Even better, bring in some association trick into the situation. If your new acquaintance, for example, is called Anna and she happens to have a big nose--make an association between the name and the nose. This will be hard to do at first, but if you get used to it, it becomes a habit. Here is how it became a habit to me. I wanted to be a real social animal and so attending parties; I always played this trick to myself. Here goes: Anna and the big nose. How do you associate the two for memory's sake? How about Anna and the Nose, which rhymes with Anna and the King, that Jodie Foster movie? Be creative. I am sure you can think of something better than my example.

Practice the art of making word associations and your memory will improve considerably, I guarantee. Who knows, in so doing, you might become the life of the party like me!

Let's wrap this up with one last association example. Say you have to remember five different things as part of your routine for a given day-- eat oatmeal, brush your teeth, pick up the kids at school, return the books to the library, and kiss your wife at goodnight. Sounds daunting? Not really. Watch this. Pick out the key words in each of the activities: oatmeal, teeth, school, library, kiss. Now, associate these words in the proper order in your mind. Imagine finding your teeth in your oatmeal, tooth-headed kids going to school, kids reading their books in the classroom, and hey, your kids kissing the teacher (what a cute bunch of apple shiners!). Well, I just strung five different things together in my mind, didn't I? Remember, the more creative and ridiculous the mental visuals the better your memory works.

Well, these are all my secrets to remembering things. What happens when they don't work for you? Just keep working on them until they become a force of habit. You see, it takes commitment to these principles of memory to make them eventually work as a part of your life.

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