In our busy world of non-stop notifications and with the amount of content we’re exposed to, it’s getting harder and harder to retain all the information we come across over the course of a single day.
Improving your memory and being able to recall useful bits of information and important lessons has its advantages. Particularly in the “self-help” space, it’s important to remember the lessons we’ve picked up from books. Otherwise you’ll have spent 10 or so hours reading, only to forget the most important lessons, and what’s the point in that?
If you want to retain more of the information that you hear, then I might just have a solution for you…Quite simply, when you hear a piece of information or learn something you’d like to remember, one of the best ways to retain it for later is to repeat the information.
When I say repeat, I literally mean, pretend like you’re telling someone about what you just learned and explain the concept out loud. Repeating information requires you to understand the information and explaining the concept out loud requires you to put this knowledge into your own words. In doing so, you’re far more likely to commit the knowledge to your long-term memory bank.
But, repetition alone isn’t enough. To really engrain that knowledge into your brain, you have to store it, then retrieve it later. A 2006 study at Washington University found that repetitive recall of information produced a 100% increase in memory retention. So the trick is to understand, repeat, store and then repeatedly recall the information a day, 3 days, a week or even a month later.
Long term memories are stored in the brain when neural networks (i.e. a group of neurons primed to fire together) are created. When you recall a memory later, the neural network that was created to store the memory has to be reproduced. The more you practice memory recall, the stronger these networks get and the easier it becomes to retrieve information. The brain is basically a big muscle and it’s very similar to lifting weights; the more you practice, the greater your lifting ability.
The reason why repeating the information out loud is so powerful is that it allows you to attach more meaning to the information. When you put it into your own words, you don’t really have to remember much because you’re not trying to remember an exact definition. It’s easier to remember because you understand the information as it’s more meaningful to you and how your brain likes to think.
The next time you read a book or learn something worth remembering, take a few minutes at the end of the chapter to repeat what you learned. Try and repeat the same information a day later and see how your memory holds up.