Use These 8 Techniques To Boost Your Memory

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how to improve memory

Can you develop a photographic memory?


As a trainer, one of my biggest challenges is figuring out how to help my training participants to retain more from what they learn.

Don't we all wish we had photographic memories? And that friend or relative who seems to be able to recall minutest details from decades ago is probably blessed genetically or is an X-Men. And like the mutants, this gift is very rare.

These are eight techniques that I either use during my training sessions to boost memory retention and/or advise participants to do after the training.

1. Read Aloud

Many effective sales people will tell you that when they present their product's or service's features and benefits to prospects, while showing them an image or graph, the prospect's memory improves.

My sister is completing her PhD thesis on the topic of how reading aloud improves your writing skills. I guess reading aloud also ties in with memory in some strange physiological way, we haven't understood yet.

I love this quote from Jim Rohn, which I share with participants who attend my Leadership training - "Leaders are readers."

Here's some bad news for Amazon Kindle and you guys who love digital books. Recent studies show that reading a physical book improves memory much more than e-books.

2. Write It Out

All participants who attend my trainings always end up with painful hands because they do a lot of writing - and who writes much anyway nowadays.

After you've read something, take time to summarise the salient points of what you learned.

I suppose underlining and highlighting also aids in memory retention and my hunch is that it's not as effective as writing out a summary of what you learned.

Here's more bad news for you digital aficionados - research shows that writing on paper improves retention much more than writing on tablets or typing on computers. This the reason I still use printed work material for my participants rather than digital versions.

3. Teach It or Demonstrate It

When you teach someone what you've recently learned, your brain remembers more. That's why teachers and lecturers (trainers too), tend to remember the details of what they teach after many repetitions.

Demonstrating to others how something is done is a great memory enhancer. It's revision in practice. That's why the best surgeons are also teachers who have junior doctors attached to them.

4. Listen to it

This is very pertinent with regards to books. When you listen to something besides just seeing it in text or images, you remember more.

This is the reason audiobooks have become very popular. And many titles on Amazon exist in print, Kindle Books and Audible audiobooks. Kindle has become so popular that Amazon has created the Kindle Reading App that is free to be used with tablets, laptops and desktops.

There are some trainers who encourage their students to listen to their audio trainings at least 7 times to enhance retention.

5. Do it

After you've learnt something, immediately try to put it to practice. Whoever said "knowledge is power" was sadly mistaken. Tony Robbins got it right when he said, "Knowledge is not power, execution is."

In my training sessions, participants always get to practice a skill immediately after it's taught. This greatly improves their confidence to try it out in their work situations.

Here's some stats from the Learning Pyramid that substantiates everything I've mentioned above:

  • listening makes you remember 5%
  • reading helps you remember 10%
  • audio-visual helps you remember 20%
  • demonstrations - 30%
  • practice by doing - 75%
  • teaching others - 90%

6. Repetition

As much as we all hated revisions in school, in the working world, repetition doesn't bore you but makes you skilful. Once again I quote Tony Robbins, "Repetition is the mother of skill."

Research indicates that we forget 46% of what we learn, the following day!

One study advocates that to ideally remember, we must repeat our learning every 3 days. So revise, revise, revise.

7. Health supplements

There are several dietary supplements that clinical studies show improve your memory. One is gingko biloba. The other is cocoa flavanols. Both have been used for thousands of years. The former by the Japanese and the latter by the Mayans.

8. Music

This is probably the most controversial of all the techniques. After numerous studies, science still doesn't have any conclusive proof that music improves memory.

Some people say Vivaldi helps infants and children in their studies and these are probably merely anecdotal. Some will even swear that one of his Four Seasons ensembles if more effective than the other 3.

Recently, I got hold of a music CD that helps people concentrate while studying and it's music with binaural beats. I use it sometimes during training sessions to help participants improve their memory but I don't the statistics yet.


Take your pick of the method you like the best. Ultimately, you can't just depend on one method and you have to use several of the techniques. This is what we call blended learning - using different techniques to learn. No one method is superior to the others.

I would love to hear your success stories or other experiences in using these techniques.

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Article originally published on LinkedIn.


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