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Three Methods to Improve Your Memorization and Learning Ability, Starting Today

Published 5/18/2015

In today's episode, I discuss three different methods that will help create long lasting, usable memory more effectively.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'm going to be talking about three simple methods to improve your learning and your long-term memory. Memory is fundamental to the learning process. If you are a beginner or if you are well seasoned as a programmer, you still need the skill of memory. You still need the skill of memorization. Now memorization is a skill that can be practiced and we know this because there are people who compete with their memory. They learn 2000 digit numbers for example. Now if you watch an interview with these kinds of memory athletes, mental athletes is what they call themselves. They will talk about the concepts that I'm going to be talking about today. I'm going to give you three very simple things that you can do as you try to learn new things, whether it's a new programming language or perhaps you're trying to learn something completely unrelated to programming. These three methods are going to help you memorize more effectively. Our brains are powerful organic computers basically that hold massive amounts of information and they start when we are born. In fact, we have yet to determine exactly how much the human brain can hold in its long-term memory. Now we know that the short-term memory is relatively bad at holding information and in fact we are taught from a very young age that in order to memorize something we have to repeat it over and over to try to burn it into our memory. But a lot of research has come out that says that this is completely ineffective that our short-term memory gives us an illusion of memorizing something. But for our long-term memory, when we try to memorize something through repetition, it simply doesn't work very well. So I'm going to give you three simple methods as I said previously to improve your learning and your long-term memory. Number one is called low chi. This is perhaps the most important and most popular method of memorizing a lot of information. For example, most memory athletes use this method. The method is very simple. You utilize this concept of taking a trip through a place that you have either been or that you have created in your mind, an imaginary what might be called a memory palace. You can Google memory palace and in fact there is a ton of information available about memory palaces. The concept is simple. You create a location, a place that has architecture that has a way of traveling through that place. And then you place the pieces of whatever it is that you're trying to memorize in that place. Now if you want to memorize something, for example, 2000 digits of pi, you might place them throughout different rooms in that memory palace. One effective method is to remember a place that you were fond of as a child and place new things in that place that you are very familiar with from your childhood. This is because those memories that we have as children have had a long time to sit in our minds. And we remember very specifically the things that are connected most closely to our emotions. And our emotional memory is much stronger than our non-emotional memory. The things that we have emotions about, we remember more fondly and more strongly than the things that we don't have emotions connected to. An easy proof of this is to think back to your childhood, perhaps to your grade school years, and try to remember the people that you encountered that you did not have friendships with. Of course you can remember the ones that you did have friendships with, and perhaps you were exposed to both groups equally, but the ones that you had friendships with, you remember more easily. And that is because you have emotions connected to those people. The second simple method to improve your learning and your long-term memory is to intentionally recognize and create triggers. When we learn, we have different points in our brain that things are connected to. We uncover these points by remembering a particular thing about that point. For example, we experience this naturally when we encounter a particular smell that reminds us of our childhood home, or perhaps a particular meal that we experienced. It is far easier to remember these single triggers than to create separate recall points for each of the things that we are trying to remember. This is, for example, why we all have different understandings and emotional evocations when we see a particular color. When you think about the color red, perhaps you also think about a stop sign or maybe a red dress. These kinds of things come to mind because our minds have a trigger point for the color red. These trigger points happen naturally, for example, when you're exposed to a society that uses red as a symbol for stopping, then you probably will associate the color red for caution or for stopping. But we can also intentionally create these trigger points in our mind. In a previous episode, I mentioned using models in order to understand a particular thing. Our brain uses these models in order to point to larger volumes of information that are stored in our long-term memory. There's some kind of sensory trigger that goes along with each of the models that we have in our minds. For example, seeing a cat, we don't necessarily have to hear the word cat in order to trigger that model. Smelling something that smells like our childhood home, we don't have to be told what that thing is or even understand what that thing is in order to immediately unlock some of those memories, some of those pieces that we have stored away in our long-term memory. So as you're studying, as you are reading through a book or maybe watching a video, remember things about that video in relation to something that you already know, that thing that you already know or that you already understand can become your trigger. Another way that you can create a trigger is to actually learn in varied locations. This is studied to be true that if you learn in varied locations, the things that you learn in those different locations can be recalled by thinking about that location. For example, if you're studying for a test, you might study one chapter in one coffee shop and then study the second chapter at home and maybe the third chapter at a friend's house. This is effectively the same thing as placing those different memories in your mind in different places that you have already experienced being in. But instead of actually going through the process of placing those in your imagination, you are doing the learning in those places and it provides you the ability to anchor those different pieces of information, those three chapters to those three separate places. I'm going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor and then we'll talk about the third simple method to improve your learning and long-term memory. Thanks so much to today's sponsor, CodeShip. CodeShip is a hosted continuous delivery service focusing on speed, security and customizability. You can set up continuous integration in a matter of seconds and automatically deploy when your tests have passed. CodeShip supports your GitHub and Bitbucket projects and you can get started with their free plan today at codeShip.com. Should you decide to go with a premium plan, you can save 20% off of any plan for the next three months by using the code DeveloperT. Now that code will be in the show notes, so go to codeShip.com and use the code Developer Tea for 20% off today for fast, secure and customizable continuous integration. Go to codeShip.com. So we've talked about two different methods to improve your long-term learning. One is low-key and the second is intentionally recognizing triggers, creating places or understanding smells or different contexts in which you learn. Both of those go very well together but the third is altogether different and that is very simply sleep on it. Now you might have heard this in the past to calm you down whenever you were being emotional or perhaps you were thinking maybe I need to sleep on it before I make a decision. And the reason for this is because our long-term memory is actually consolidated. It goes through a process that is typically called consolidation as you sleep. That is process of consolidation happens over time not only when you are sleeping but also when you're not consciously thinking about a given subject, when you're unconsciously going throughout your day, that consolidation is happening and you're relating the information that you have been exposed to to information that you're being exposed to when you are unconsciously consolidating that information. So sleep on it, give it time, rest between your different study intervals. If you simply cram for something and you don't give your mind time to process that information to comprehend the things that you've been exposed to, then you won't be able to store that in long-term memory and you won't be able to relate it to other parts of your life. And as we said previously, relation is how we build long-term memory. It's the only way that we can build long-term memory. Otherwise, all we're doing is working with what's called working memory. And that working memory is very limited. It doesn't last for a long time. The only way we can create long-term memory is to actually relate it to something and allow it to consolidate over time, to sleep on it, to give it intervals between our study. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Developer Tea about learning. I hope that it has been enlightening and that it is making you think and perhaps it is sparking discussion between you and other developers around you. Thank you once again for being a part of the audience of this show. I would love to have you again. And the best way for you to stay up to date with Developer Tea is to actually subscribe. In whatever podcast app that you subscribe in, there's also an RSS feed that you can find at developertea.com. And there's over 70 other episodes at the time of the recording of this episode on developertea.com. All of them are accessible through iTunes and also through Stitcher. So thank you so much for listening. I hope you listen again and until next time, enjoy your tea.