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How to Remember Anything

Three Methods:Remembering for SchoolUsing Memorization TricksRemembering Long-Term

Everyone experiences times when they just can't seem to remember what they need to. Fortunately no one actually has a "bad memory" and therefore with certain tricks and tips you can improve your memory and make it much easier to remember anything, whether it's memorizing for a test, or your grocery list.

Method 1
Remembering for School

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    Don't multitask. Concentration is incredibly important for retaining your memory.You need to keep things simple. This is why you enter a room and forget why you came in. It's because you were probably planning your party at the same time, or thinking about the TV episode that you just watched and you weren't concentrating.
    • When you're studying and trying to remember things for school, then focus on that one task.Don't think about that friend's party from the weekend. Don't try to do a bunch of different tasks at the same time, or you won't get the full benefit from any of them.
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    Avoid external distractions. Get away from your typical surroundings that make demands on your time, when you need to study. This means leaving your house, your family, your friends, your pets, your TV while you're studying.
    • Find a specific place to study and don't do other things while you're there (like pay your bills, do leisure activities, etc.). Make sure that you only study when you're in that place, as it will help your brain get into the studying mode.
    • Choose an area that has good ventilation and light so that you are more likely to stay awake and not get distracted.
    • If you do find that you can't work and that you're not retaining anything, take a short break (not too long and don't do anything that will start consuming your time like going on the internet). Go for a short walk, or get a drink.
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    Avoid internal distractions. Sometimes the distractions don't come from your friends or family, but come from your own brain. Often when you're reading something for school you find that your brain hasn't been on the material, but instead has been thinking about that party you're going to or wondering whether you've paid your electricity bill.[1]
    • Keep a specific notebook for these distracting thoughts. If it's a thought that requires later attention (like paying your electricity bill), jot that thought down and dismiss it from your mind so you can work.
    • Make the distraction a reward. Tell yourself that once you have finished reading (and understanding and remembering) this next section, you'll take a break to deal with the thoughts, or daydreams.
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    Study in the afternoon. Studies have shown that the time of day correlates strongly to how well people remember things when they're studying. Even if you think of yourself as a morning person or a night person, try to do the most important of your studying in the afternoon. You'll recall the information better.[2]
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    Summarize each paragraph in the margins. If you're reading something that you need to remember, write a short summary of each paragraph in the margins. Writing things over again not only helps keep things in your memory better, but it will also serve as a memory jog when you're looking over your notes and readings for that test (or even for class).
    • Write down the main points from each things you're reading, so that you can jog your memory when you need to and to show that you read and comprehended what you were reading/studying.
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    Write things over and over. Writing things down a bunch of times helps cement things in your memory, especially those peskier ones like dates and vocabulary words for foreign languages. The more you write them down the more they'll stick in your brain.

Method 2
Using Memorization Tricks

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    Use mnemonic devices. Certain things are hard to do through an association or visualization technique and so you have to use a different memory technique, called mnemonic devices. There are a variety of different devices that you can use. Some work better for certain types of information than others.[3]
    • Make acronyms for things you're trying to remember. Take the first letter of each word and turn it into an acronym that makes sense to you. For example you might do H.O.M.E.S. for the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).
    • Mnemonics can be useful for remembering spelling. Make up a little rhyme/nonsense phrase using a word for each letter. For example to remember necessary you might remember 'Never Eat Cake; Eat Salad Sandwiches And Remain Young'.
    • Make acoustics. This basically is a nonsense phrase that helps you remember the first letter of a sequence of information (this is used a lot for mathematical formulas). For example Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally is used to remember the order of operations: Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiply, Divide, Add, Subtract.
    • You can also make up little poems or rhymes to help you remember important information. For example: "I before e except after c/ or when sounding like a/ in neighbor and weigh" helps you remember where e and i go when they're together.
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    Use word association. There are a couple different types of association, but the importance of all the different association methods is that you associate something you already know with something you're trying to remember and what you already knows helps you recall the second part.
    • Use a funny or odd image to recall a fact that you need to remember. For example, if you're trying to remember JFK's involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion, you might visualize the president swimming in the ocean with a bunch of pigs. While it may seem silly, the association of ocean and pigs will lead you back to JFK and you won't forget.
    • Number association is associating certain numbers with a mental image. This is partly why so many passwords and codes that people come up with have some sort of meaning to them (like birthday, cat's birthday, anniversary date, etc). So if you're trying to remember your library number (say it's 52190661), you could say May 21, 1990 is your brother's birthday (that takes care of 52190). You could then say that your mother is 66 years old and you've only got one of her (which takes care of the 661). When you're trying to recall the number, visualize your brother and a birthday cake and then visualize your mother.
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    Visualize. If you want to fix something in your memory, make sure that you put a lot of effort into visualization of it. You want to focus on the details. For example, if you're trying to remember a novel, focus on imagining the characters and the scenery in great detail and make sure you have a visual aid that recalls each character, some specific characteristic.
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    Make up stories. When you need to remember a string of images (or words, as in a shopping list) come up with a silly little story to remember them. The story fixes the images in your mind, so you can recall them later.[4]
    • For example if you need to remember to get a bananas, bread, eggs, milk, and lettuce from the store, you might make up a story where a banana, a slice of bread, and an egg have to rescue a head of lettuce from a lake of milk. It's a super silly story, but it has all the elements of your list linked together and will help you remember them.
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    Change the position of a household object. A great way to help remind yourself to do something is to put something in your house somewhere obvious and out of place. For example, you could put a heavy book in front of your front door to help you remember to turn in your take-home final. When you see the out of place item it will jog your memory.

Method 3
Remembering Long-Term

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    Exercise your body. There's a huge correlation between mental health and bodily health, so maintaining your body's health and exercising it, will help you maintain your mental health and improve your memory.[5]
    • Walk every day for about 30 minutes. It's a gentle way to get some exercise (and you can do some exploring too!). The benefits of exercise on your mental health will last for a long time.
    • It's not just walking, there are lots of different ways to exercise and have fun! Try doing yoga, or put on some music and dance.
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    Exercise your mind. Working the mind can help prevent memory loss and can help improve your overall memory. Things that work your brain are the things that make you tired after you've done them, and make you need to take a break. These include: solving math problems, learning to knit, reading dense material.[6]
    • Change things up. You want your brain to keep from getting complacent, so keep learning and trying new things. This will force your brain to keep from going stagnant and will help improve your memory.For example: You could learn a new word everyday, or learn about your countries history. These improve memory and make you more intelligent.
    • You can also memorize a poem every couple of weeks. It makes for a good (if nerdy) party trick and it will help improve your memory. So get memorizing Beowulf!
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    Get enough sleep. Sleep is incredibly important to improving and maintaining your memory. It's why you shouldn't stay up all night studying for a big test, but do a chunk of studying in the afternoon and then get enough sleep that your brain can process all the information you just shoved into it.
    • Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, so that your brain can go through all the important stages of sleep and you feel well-rested.
    • Shut down any electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you go to bed, so that you give your brain time to calm down and prepare for sleep. This means all electronic devices: phone, computer, kindle, etc.
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    Say things aloud. Saying things aloud that you're trying to remember will help you remember them. If you tend to forget things like whether you've turned the oven off, when you do turn the oven off say out loud "I turned the oven off." You'll find that later you'll be better able to remember that you turned the oven off.
    • Repeat a person's name after you've been introduced to them (although do it in a natural manner). Say "Hi Anna, it's great to meet you." This will solidify the connection between the person and their name so it's easier for you to recall later.
    • You can also do this to remember dates and times and places. For example, if you're invited to something repeat the invitation back to the person who gave it, like "The Blue Mouse Theater at 6? I can't wait!"
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    Be observant. Of course, even with work, you're not going to be Sherlock Holmes, but training your observational skills will help you a lot in remembering things (people, faces, names, where you put your car keys). It takes to time to build this skill, but it's well worth it in the long run.
    • Practice this skill by looking closely at a scene (you can do this anywhere: your home, on the bus, at work) and, closing your eyes, trying to recall as many details about the scene as you can.
    • You can also do this with a photograph, as long as it's an unfamiliar one. Look at it for a for a second or two and then flip it over. try to recall as many of the details as you can remember. Repeat the exercise with a different photograph.
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    Eat the right foods. There are foods that can help boost your memory in the long term. You should be eating them anyway as a part of a healthy diet, but you should definitely be eating them if you want to keep and maintain your memory. You want to go for foods that containing antioxidants (like broccoli, blueberries, or spinach), as well as those with Omega-3 fatty acid (like salmon or almonds).[7]
    • Try to eat 5-6 small meals during the day, instead of three big meals. This will help you avoid dips in blood sugar, which make your brain not function as well. Make sure that you're eating healthy foods.


  • If you're being distracted from your memorization and can't get focused, try sitting down and figuring out what is keeping you distracted. Once you know whether it's a personal problem, or similar, solve it before you continue with your memorization.
  • Smelling rosemary has been said to help improve your memory and make you recall things better.[8]


  • Telling yourself that you have a "bad memory" will make your memory seem worse and not function as well because you are convincing your brain that you have a bad memory.
  • Not all mnemonic tricks will work for you, or work for every situation. Test them out and see what your best memorization process is.
  • If you're having a lot of memory troubles, especially if it seems to be starting early, go see your doctor and make sure that it isn't anything serious.

Article Info

Categories: Memorization Skills