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How to Improve Your Memory Skills

May 27, 2015
Ideas

Answer by Kevin Horsley, author of Unlimited Memory, on Quora.

Many people are focusing their energy on concern about memory loss, but few focus on how to keep their memory. What you focus on will dominate your reality, so rather focus on what you want and not on what you don’t want.

Nobody has ever taught you how to use your memory. I believe that there is no such thing as a good or a bad memory, only a good or bad memory strategy.

Many of the things you call memory problems, like forgetting your car keys etc, are quite normal and can be solved with a bit of attention and a better memory strategy. To keep your memories you need to store them effectively and if you follow these few principles then you will be able to remember more:

1. Catch your memory doing things right — Too many people become members of the ‘Bad Memory Club’ and focus on the 5% of the time that their memory fails them. If you think you have a bad memory, it means you have a good one because you can remember where your memory has gone wrong. Think about how much data you already have stored in your memory. Think about what an incredible memory you need just to have a conversation. You have to listen, create meaning from your store of millions of references and then search your memory for a response. Your memory does a lot right, so ask yourself, “How does my memory serve me – how did it serve me today?”

2. Get interested — As you get older you narrow your focus of attention. You know what you are interested in and therefore focus more on those things. Uninteresting things are not attended to and therefore not remembered.

3. Practice single tasking — To create a memory we first have to pay attention. In this day and age we are filling our lives up with interruptions, like social media, and we are dividing our attention and we wonder why we can’t hold onto information for long periods of time. We are training ourselves to become scattered by creating a state of ‘busyness.’ When you multitask, you divide your attention and you will never be as effective as focusing on only one thing at a time. Multitasking is a myth!

4. Bring information to life — Our mind never wonders away, it only moves towards things and to information that is outstanding, important and interesting. We want to make information ‘sticky’ and the only way to do that is to surprise the mind by turning information into an exciting movie or image. Just because you have seen or heard something doesn’t mean it will stick, but if you use your imagination the information will become more outstanding. My surname is Horsley and if you just repeat it over and over, there is no guarantee that it will stick, but if you see a Horse putting on Lee jeans and you make it vivid and alive then it is hard to forget.

5. Connect to what you already know — If you wanted to remember that the Zulu word for dog is inja, then you could think of an injured dog. The Zulu word for Snake is inyoka, so imagine a snake in your car. If you connect the new information to what you already know then you will strengthen your memory network. If you consciously do this then the more you know the easier it will be to get to know more. The older you get the more general knowledge and references you acquire. So theoretically if you apply this principle, the older you get the better your memory should become.

6. Review — As we get older we don’t review enough. The average person will only remember about 18% of information just 28 days after studying it. That is why it’s important to go over information that is stored in your memory in order to keep it fresh in your mind. If you haven’t thought about someone in years you can’t be expected to recall information about them instantly. We have to review our memories to keep them alive. No matter how many times you learn something, you will have to start over from the beginning if you let yourself forget it. Review your memories over longer and longer periods of time and keep them ‘alive.'

There is so much you can do to keep your memory and improve your concentration. I hope this helps.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What is the fastest and best way to improve my memory, cognitive skills and span of concentration?

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