Memory is an amazing thing… when you have it, you don’t really appreciate it, and when you lose it boy do you miss
I am writing this guide to pass on the techniques that I have used and mastered throughout my entire university
education, and to try and help you with some really simple basic techniques that work really well.
I have used the following techniques for studying my MBA, as well as in meetings with customers, contractors and
upper and lower management. These techniques can be easily applied in any work environment, or at any level of
How memory works / Why we forget
Forgetting is normal and necessary. Your brain is bombarded with millions of bits of information every day. All of
this information could not possibly be stored, nor is it important enough to remember for any length of time. The
mind decides what information is unimportant and immediately disregards it. What your mind remembers is what you
need to function. There are strategies to use that will increase your ability to remember important information.
Types of Memory
Sensory Memory – We are constantly processing information gathered through our senses. Through selective attention,
your mind determines what of the huge amount of incoming information is important and ignores the rest. When you
concentrate on your professor’s lecture, or the boss' speech, or the discussion that is going on, you use selective
attention to deem this information important. Although sensory information is only kept in your mind a few seconds,
by concentrating on a certain piece of information, you can transfer it to your short-term memory.
Short-Term Memory – Information in your short-term memory lasts only about a minute. When you meet someone and they
tell you their name, chances are, an hour later, you won’t remember. By reciting and rehearsing information like
names, lists or phone numbers, you can increase your retention of the information. Short-term memory is limited,
however. The average number of items you can keep in short-term memory is seven. To remember larger amounts of
information you must group it into common themes, memorize "chunks" of information at once, or use other strategies
to improve retention.
Long-Term Memory – Once information is moved to long-term memory, it is integrated with existing information. If
this integration is not successfully done, the information may get "lost" and will be harder to recall. Long-term
memory is like a giant warehouse full of filing cabinets. You take information you know and you place it in existing
"files." If there is no existing file and you do not create one by integrating like information, the information may
be more difficult to recall.
The 3 R’s of Memory
Reception – Be attentive and observant. This will help you receive important information more easily. Engage all of
your senses. Look at the professor, or boss, or your friend, listen to the lecture or discussion, and take notes.
Ask questions if you aren’t clear about something. If you don’t understand, you won’t be able to remember. Survey
before reading any material. If you know what the selection is about before reading, you will be more attentive to
Retention – Make a conscious effort to remember what is being said. If you set goals for your performance and
motivate yourself, this will give you the incentive to remember. Become an active reader by highlighting and marking
your text. Review your notes frequently to increase your retention. Recite your notes aloud when possible. By using
both your visual and auditory senses, you will increase your retention rate. Do all your homework when it is
assigned. Using information in and out of the classroom will help you remember it better. See the list of Memory
Aids for tips on improving your memory.
Recollection – Organise your material before the test. Group tests, summaries, and notes according to chapters and
similar topics. Make a list of important topics and what you should know about them. The week before the test set up
a block of time (2-3 hours) to thoroughly review the information. Remember to take breaks when studying! During the
test visualise your diagrams and flashcards to help remember the information. Use practice tests to study.
Anticipate possible test questions and make up your own test or look at old tests if they are available from the
Mnemonics – rhymes, sayings or phrases that repeat or codify the information you’re trying to remember. Here are
- HOMES – an acronym that stands for the first letter of each of the five Great Lakes in the US
- Fall Back, Spring Ahead – this phrase helps you remember Daylight Savings Time
- Thirty days hath September, April, June and November, … - this jingle helps you remember how many days there are in
each of the twelve months.
Associate – Relate the information you’re trying to remember to something you already know. To help remember the
three stages of memory (reception, retention, and recollection) you can associate the mind with a computer. By
recalling the computer’s three processes (input, storage, and output) you will be able to remember the stages of
Visualize – Drawing out pictures and diagrams makes the information easier to recall by visualizing the drawing
while taking the test. When memorizing the names of bones in the body, draw a human skeleton and label the bones.
During the test, visualize the skeleton and you will be able to remember the names.
Flashcards – Write key words or terms that you need to know on one side of an index card. Write the explanation or
definition on the other side of the card. Carry these cards with you and review them as often as possible. Small
cards work well, but large pieces of card stuck on your office / bedroom / toilet wall can also be effective ways of
Not all of the techniques or ideas may be useful in your situation, but perhaps a combination of techniques will
help get you throuh. Take away what you have learn here, and see if you can remember the basic points:
- Why We Forget
- Types of Memory
- The 3 R's of Memory
- Memory Aides
In your next meeting, lecture or important conversation, try a technique and see if it works for you. I think you
will be pleasently surprised when you hit on a method and CLICK!... it will all fall into place!
Recently, I have heard a lot about taking various pills, such as Brahmi and Fish Oil… I am not sure how well they
work, all I do know is that drinking to excess is not so helpful, especially if you have a bad memory already!!
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions or experiences you would like to share, please contact me any time!