20 Ways to Improve Your Memory

Readers Share Their Advice and Tips

Did you forget to that you were having a quiz this week? Or did you miss an important appointment that you should have remembered? From forgetting little things like where we left the television remote to big things like the date and time of a significant meeting, memory failures can wreak havoc on our lives. Fortunately, there are plenty of things you can do to help improve your memory.

Psychologists have developed a number of great memory improvement tips that have been shown to be very effective. I also asked readers of our Facebook page to share some of their favorite tips and strategies for remembering dates, names, events, and other important information, and our fans had loads of excellent ideas to share! Some of these you have probably heard of and you might already be using in your daily life. Others are creative solutions that you might want to try out. The key is to find the method that works best for you!

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

kemalbas / E+ / Getty Images

For some types of information, particularly anything unfamiliar or difficult to remember, repetition is the key.

  • "Not sure about numbers but I love using flash cards and saying it over and over aloud. Eventually the subconscious will remember it! I'm studying hypnotherapy right now, very interesting what I'm learning about the mind." – Lisa
  • "Repetition drives things from the short-term memory to the long-term memory." – Ceejay
  • "As with most things in life, repetition always improves my recalling performance. However, I think the way people use repetition technique is what really varies. If I was a so-called visual learner, I may produce several spider-diagrams or posters whereas, if I was a verbal learner, I may record all the key facts on a mobile device and listen to it again and again and perhaps make new recordings later on." – Daniel
  • "I'm pretty hopeless with names, someone once told me to look a person in the face and repeat their name 3 times... Always works a treat! (Maybe it's the cognitive process instead of telling myself 'I'm hopeless with names... Chicken or the egg?!)" - Stephanie

Form Associations

Thought bubbles
Tara Moore / Stone / Getty Images

Many readers suggested that forming associations between the information you are trying to remember and things you already know can help. This might involve associating the new information with similar words, with a song, or with a mental image.

  • "I worked in a restaurant where you had to learn the name and number of every dish. So I'd remember dishes instead of numbers. My alarm code was raw juice, apple juice, chicken katsu curry." – Tara
  • "Association. When it's something like a name sometimes I use like-words. When it's something to do with numbers, a simple tune helps." – Maribel
  • "I have been successful with remembering things especially names by ASSOCIATION. Associating something or somebody with one that am very familiar with. At the very sight of same thing or person, it strikes a chord and the connection is established. I have tried it a number of times and it proved successful." – Ceejay
  • "Relate what I'm memorizing to some information I already have, update the schema, but especially tying to how pleasant I find it to be, using a feeling works very well." – Andrew
  • "I always remember things like dates with a song. I associate the dates with songs I love the most. I play them regularly so it reminds me of a particular event or date or person." – Inji
  • "Make an association with things that are important or mean something to you." – Eleni
  • "Another method I use is to associate keywords (of a definition, a list, or anything you want) with locations linked to each other. I can use points in my loungeroom, rooms in my house, shops in the shopping centre, points in the town, etc. They must have logical sequence though. Then create ridiculous images using the keyword and the prompt. Again, fast and effective." - Michelle

Write It Down

Write it down
Yagi Studio / Digital Vision / Getty Images

For many people, myself included, one of the best ways to commit something to memory involves simply writing it down. Something about the process of writing the information down and reading over it helps ensure that it won't be forgotten.

  • "While I'm studying for an exam or just retaining vital information I tend to have a habit of either changing color pens to write notes or tapping my feet something physical. So during exam if I try to remember either I start tapping or thinking what I have written in the 'purple pen' when I read about this subject. Physical and a bit of visual triggers I guess!" – Sandra
  • "I actually have a weird way but it's always effective when I use it! I always write on my hands what I need to remember, so whenever I make any move I'll immediately notice them. For more details, watch Christopher Nolan's masterpiece 'Memento'." – Ali

    Create a Song, Story, or Mnemonic

    Alan Graf / Cultura / Getty Images

    Many readers suggest creative memory strategies like coming up with a song or crafting a quick narrative to link bits of information together in memory. Mnemonics, which involve some type of image, rhyme, or figure of speech, are also popular.

    • "Sometimes I'll turn an important number into a song and repeat it over and over again. To remember dates and events I'll turn it into a song. Most often though, I listen to music when I study and that helps me remember. I'll sing the song during the test and what I studied pops back into my head. I'm always writing things down too. Sometimes, if I have to remember a list, I will take the first letters of each word and memorize them, then the word becomes a focal point and I'm able to remember the list. Like IPOS...input process output storage, the four main functions of a computer." – Angela
    • "I personally like to use narrative chaining as it enables me to visualize the information rather than just reading it word for word. Another really good method is also by taking the initiative to create a scenario where you are most likely required to remember the information such as an artificially simulated exam/test. The environment could potentially serve as a context -dependent cue that would assist in retrieving information." – Joe
    • "For a word list, for instance, say: "lamp", "necktie", and "alligator", I might visualize an old fashion floor lamp, with a necktie for a pull-chain, and an alligator biting the end of it. I QUICKLY memorized a list of 50 words that way. The more ridiculous the image, the easier it is to remember." – Bill
    • "I have a few sort of stock images in my mind that I associate with different numbers, usually rhyming things (like shoe for two) I make up little stories in my head using them to remember complex number sets. If you do it for a while it becomes second nature." – Mark

    Break It Down Into Smaller Parts

    Seb Oliver / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

    When you are struggling to memorize a large amount of information, breaking it down into more manageable pieces can help.

    • "By breaking it down in bits or chunks. E.g 0803 - 77 - 27 -186. Rather than picturing the whole , e.g 08037727186." – Terna
    • "At work I used to have to temporarily remember seven-digit serial numbers, so I would break it down to three and four digit groups, like a phone number. With phone numbers or my license plate number that I am trying to permanently memorize, I look for double digits, a digit that I can link to a zero, or significant combinations." – Bill

    Tools and Technology Can Help

    When all else fails, don't be afraid to rely on some type of tool to help you remember important information. Write it down on a calendar; set a reminder on your phone; whatever it takes to ensure that you don't lose or forget something important. Several readers suggested that they utilize their mobile phones or tablet devices to record essential information.

    Continue Reading