It's not too difficult to learn how to memorize fast and easily – if you use the right strategies, that is.
But most people don't use the right strategies.
In fact, most people don't use any strategy – they use a few tactics that don't work very well. So, let me be straight with you: If you've been using flashcards or repetition to try to drill things into your brain, you're making things difficult for yourself.
It's time to work smarter, not harder.
Here's the thing: Your mind is a supercar that you haven't figured out how to drive yet. With practice, you can learn how to memorize anything – whether it's a new language, speech, or answers to an upcoming exam.
Oh, and learning how to memorize fast doesn't have to suck, either – it can even be fun. For real. This guide will show you how to memorize fast and easily – the smart way.
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6 Tips on How to Memorize Fast and Easily
If you want to learn how to memorize things fast and easily, you need to be strategic. Here are six tips on how to memorize fast that you'll learn about in this article:
- Understand your learning style
- Learn the 3 'R's of memorization
- Practice the substitution method
- Learn the story and link method
- Use the memory palace method
- Apply spaced repetition strategically
Step 1. Understand Your Learning Style
Before you try to learn how to memorize fast, it can help to have a basic understanding of how you best interpret and absorb new knowledge.
Now, there are four main learning styles usually referred to by the acronym "VARK":
Let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Visual learners learn best through sight. They like information to be presented visually and tend to prefer seeing and observing things, such as diagrams, pictures, and demonstrations. Many visual learners also like to sketch, draw, and write lists.
Auditory learners learn best by listening and when the subject matter is communicated through sound.
They'd rather listen to podcasts, lectures, and audiobooks than read books and notes. If they have to read a book, they're likely to absorb more information if they read it aloud to themselves. Many auditory learners also like to engage in discussions.
Reading/writing learners prefer to learn through the written word.
They learn best when reading books and articles. They also learn well when taking and reviewing notes. This learning style overlaps with visual learning, however, these learners tend to prefer to express themselves through writing.
Traditional western education systems cater to reading/writing learners by focusing on reading books and writing essays.
Kinesthetic learners learn best by experiencing or doing things. They're sometimes referred to as "tactile learners."
This type of learner likes to get moving and use their hands. They excel when they can interpret the subject matter through their physical senses. They prefer hands-on exercises over book-learning every day of the week.
Which Style of Learning Do You Prefer?
It may be pretty obvious which learning style you prefer. For example, it's clear to me that I'm a visual and reading/writing learner – after all, I'm a writer.
However, if you're unsure which style – or styles – of learning you prefer, check out this VARK questionnaire to find out.
It’s also worth noting that most people have a natural preference for more than one style. Oh, and in case you were wondering, no particular learning style is better than the others. They're just different!
Step 2. Learn the 3 'R's of Memorization
It's time to understand the foundations of how to memorize fast and easily: The three 'R's of memorization.
These three steps are the strategy you need to learn how to memorize fast. Here's how they work:
- Registration: The first step is to record a new memory in your mind with the intention of storing it in your long-term memory. To learn how to memorize quickly, it helps to practice effective registration techniques.
- Retention: In this stage, you work to retain the information in your brain and move it from your short-term memory into your long-term memory so that you can recall it later.
- Recall: In the final stage of memorization, you can use techniques to retrieve the information stored in your mind.
People refer to these steps in different ways – for example, some people call them "encode, store, and retrieve" – but the basic principles are the same.
Most memorization tips miss one or more of these steps.
For example, repetition can help with retention. However, reading something over and over does nothing to encode the information into your mind intentionally. Plus, it provides no mechanism that you can use to recall the information.
In short, to learn how to memorize faster, you need to use all three 'R's.
Step 3. Learn How to Memorize Fast and Easily
Now that you have the basics under your belt, it's time to learn how to memorize something quickly. So, what is the easiest way to remember something?
The best way to memorize things is to use a mnemonic device – which is just a fancy way of saying a memory device.
What is a mnemonic device?
Simply put, a mnemonic device is anything that helps you to remember something. For example, the phrase "'I' before 'E,' except after 'C'" is a mnemonic device.
Here's an example of a visual mnemonic device to help remember the numbers of days in the months, with each knuckle representing a 31-day month:
Whenever you hear about 'memory athletes' that can recall the order of six decks of playing cards, they're using mnemonic devices.
It's not magic. It's just practice, and you can do it too.
There are countless mnemonic devices out there. However, we're going to focus on three of the most popular and effective techniques that you can use to learn how to memorize something faster.
Unlike repetition and flashcards, each of these mnemonic devices uses the three 'R's of memorization – registration, retention, and recall.
1. The Substitution Method
This first memory method is super simple. All you need to do is take what you want to remember and substitute it for something more memorable.
For example, say that you're trying to memorize the periodic table of elements. When trying to remember the first element, "hydrogen," you could link it to the word "hydrant" because they sound similar.
For the second element, helium, you could imagine a balloon filled with helium, and so on.
Then, consider which learning style you lean toward and use that information to help you forge a lasting connection. For example:
- If you're a visual learner, you could visualize a bright red fire hydrant on the sidewalk.
- Auditory learners could practice saying the words "hydrogen, hydrant" out loud to emphasize how they sound similar.
- Reading/writing learners could write the words down, emphasizing how their spellings are similar, with both words beginning with "h, y, d, r."
- Every time they walk past a hydrant, kinesthetic learners could touch the hydrant with their hand and practice saying the word "hydrogen" out loud.
When you need to recall the first element of the periodic table, it'll be a lot easier to remember the red fire hydrant first, which will trigger the memory of "hydrogen."
Substitution is an effective way to register new information in your brain and have a way to recall it easily later.
Plus, this technique doesn't just work with words – you can also use it to remember ideas, concepts, names, dates, or even the key talking points in a speech.
Okay, but how do you remember lots of things?
2. The Link and Story Method
Here's where things get interesting: After you've created some substitutions to memorable words and objects, you can link them together with a story.
Here's an example of how you could link "fire hydrant" (hydrogen) with "balloon" (helium):
Imagine a bright red hydrant (hydrogen) on a sunny sidewalk at a park entrance. Stood next to the hydrant at the park entrance is a vendor selling balloons (helium) to children entering the park.
Here's the trick: Exaggerate the story so it sticks in your mind more – this will help with retention and recall.
For instance, perhaps the hydrant is broken and is spraying water everywhere. Or maybe the balloon vendor is dressed as a clown. Use whatever works best for you!
Once you create effective associations and link them together with a compelling story, it becomes very easy to remember things.
This method is a great way to register large amounts of information in your mind while also providing a mechanism to recall it.
3. The Memory Palace Method
If you want to know how to memorize a lot of information, try the memory palace method.
This method has stood the test of time – it was first presented in a book called the "Rhetorica ad Herennium," written in 80 B.C. by an unknown author.
Here’s how to use it:
- Think of a place or a journey you know well, such as your home or a daily commute.
- Identify some significant points in your home or on your commute.
- Link what you want to remember to each one of those points.
For example, say that you need to remember a speech.
You could break your speech up into points, such as your introduction, three main talking points, your summary, and final thoughts. You can then link each of these points to something in your memory palace.
Your home's front door could represent your speech's introduction. Then, your three main talking points could be the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. The summary may be the hallway leading out of the house, and your final thoughts could be the front yard.
Then, whenever you practice your speech, you can imagine walking around your house for each point.
If you have a long speech – or a large amount of information to remember – you can break the information down into smaller chunks and link them to things in each room.
For example, say you have three aspects in your first talking point (the living room). You could link each one to a piece of furniture, such as the sofa, coffee table, and standing lamp.
If you practice the memory palace method, you should be able to walk around your house – or run through your commute – in your mind and recall all of the information.
Again, this method hits all three 'R's by providing a way to encode, retain, and recall information.
Step 4. Apply Spaced Repetition
Once you've registered new information in your mind, how can you stop yourself from forgetting it? Apply spaced repetition.
Way back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus created the 'Forgetting Curve.' This concept demonstrates how we forget things. Simply put, as soon as we learn something, it starts to fade from our memory.
However, we can prevent this decline by reviewing the information periodically. When we do this, we can increase the strength of the memory.
If you're a visual learner, here's what it looks like:
So, when should you review the subject matter?
At first, it helps to review things often – for example, you may want to review something daily at first, then bi-weekly, and then weekly until you're confident you won't forget it.
Again, look to your preferred learning style to help you. For example:
- Visual learners could draw a storyboard or sketch their memory palace.
- Auditory learners could tell their story aloud or describe walking through their memory palace.
- Reading/writing learners could write their story down and review it regularly.
- Kinesthetic learners could act out the story or walk through their memory palace in real life.
You may also want to review material late in the evening before bed.
Why? Studies show that people who study before bedtime can often remember more of what they learn a day later. Plus, they also felt more confident about their answers.
Summary: How to Memorize Quickly
If you want to learn how to memorize fast, repetition alone won't cut it – you have to be strategic.
Start by identifying how you learn best. Are you a visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic learner?
Then, understand the three 'R's of memorization (registration, retention, and recall) and put them to work:
- First, encode the information in your mind using a mnemonic device, such as the substitution method.
- Link this information to a story or memory palace to ensure you can easily recall it later.
- Practice spaced repetition to combat the forgetting curve and retain the information.
What are you trying to learn? What is the best way to memorize something for you? Let us know in the comments below!
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