Are you overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge that you are expected to remember every day? The Digital Age can leave us feeling like we are in a constant state of information overload. We have so many things competing for our attention, that it can be hard to stay focused. Your memory is one of the first things to suffer in the communications bombardment. Luckily, there are a few strategies that you can adopt to improve your memory without having to turn into a supercomputer.
Hack your brain’s storage system by understanding the basics of memory
Our brains have an incredible capacity for storing data. If we defined the limits of our minds in technological terms, we can store about 2.5 million gigabytes of information in our heads.1 If this is true, then why do so many of us routinely forget why we walked into a room or what we had for breakfast? We can store loads of information, but if we want to improve our memory we have to maximize our brain’s filing system.
If you’ve ever had to recall items that you need to pick up from the store without writing them out, you’ve likely forgotten a few things on your mental list. This is because your brain routed your shopping list to your short-term memory. The short-term memory can hold seven to nine items for a period of about thirty seconds.2
Your brain can hang on to some memories for an extended period of time. Not all long-term memories are created equally – some last for several hours or days, and you carry others with you for a lifetime. The clarity of the memory depends on your level of alertness at the time in which your brain was encoding the event.3
If your brain stored everything you ever saw or heard with equal importance, it would have lots of information clogging its filing system. The memory that you use to process and reflect on your world is your working memory.4 Your brain is like a giant hard-drive, and your working memory consists of the files open on your desktop. Just like the files on your computer, items in your long-term memory can change when we access them through our working memory.
4 Useful Memory Boosting Techniques to Try
As busy and productive people, we are constantly working to improve our recall and get things to move into our long-term memory so that we can easily retrieve them. Here are some excellent ways to help your brain encode information.
Give Up All-Nighters and Rely on Spaced Repetition
When we need to memorize large quantities of information before an exam or presentation, it can be tempting to review all of it in a cram session. This technique is ineffective for two reasons. If you want to remember more, you need to give your brain time to process, and since your brain doesn’t assign equal importance to all data, you won’t be effective by treating all your information the same way.