I’ve been getting asked a lot about how to study/memorize optimally.
Basically, how to study in less time, with no cramming, and being able to retain the information long-term.
Below are 5 steps. #3 is the most important one.
#1: Understand It, First
You must understand the concept…or memorization won’t help.
Identify if (and what) you don’t fully understand.
To fully understand a hard concept, you either need to re-read several times, immerse yourself in videos that explain it, or ask someone to explain it to you (like a professor, expert, or classmate who knows understands it).
#2: In Class
Here’s, what I think is, the optimal way to learn in a class setting (you can tweak this to apply to similar things, like: reading books, a work conference, learning a skill/sport).
Take handwritten notes during lecture (I prefer handwritten over typed because if forces you to condense & write less). It’s important to simplify.
Highlight or take notes when reading from a book.
Notes should be on main/important/new points and concepts…and anything else you want to learn.
Engaging with the teacher and asking questions helps cement information into your memory.
#3: Review (How to do it optimally)
Most people wait to study or review the night before the test.
Obviously that’s crazy. You’re overwhelmed and you forget the information very quickly.
Here’s what to do instead:
Review the evening after each class.
Scan through your notes and highlights FROM THAT DAY…this might take only 5-10 mins.
Since the material is fresh, it will be easier to review…saving time.
Review is what locks information into your memory.
It is the most important memory concept learned by memory athletes, like myself.
Use a Spaced Repetition Schedule to review your notes.
The Anki app is a great tool that automates flashcards using spaced repetition.
Spaced repetition counters your natural “forgetting” curve. The spaced review allows you to retain the most info for the least amount of work.
Look at your notes 2 days later, then 4 days later, then 8 days later (rule of thumb: double the days between reviewing).
This seems like a lot of work, but it’s actually saving you time and locking everything into memory.
You don’t realize how quick these review sessions will be until you do it. After a review session or 2, you might already know 90% of the info…so you can breeze through it.
Review reinforces what you learned…maintaining it long-term.
#4: Locking it in for Years
If you’re a medical student or someone who needs to MAINTAIN a lot of specific information for a long-term period (months, years, for life)…use the Memory Palace Technique.
It’s like having a filing cabinet of notes…downloaded into your brain.
I made this easy “How-to” on my twitter page
(Click the picture below to read it)
Simplify the information into images and store them in your memory palace.
*You still need to use a long-term spaced repetition schedule for this too.
#5: Trouble Remembering / Not Sticking
If you have difficult or boring concepts that aren’t sticking for you, the best memory hack is to create mental imagery for those concepts.
Imagine a story containing the information. Make it “mentally visual.”
Rhino- (as in rhinoplasty) in medical terms means “nose”. (Rhinoplasty is surgery to modify the nose).
To remember rhino = nose, just imagine a rhino’s horn is actually it’s nose with nostril. A weird mental image.
Corny, but extremely effective for your mind.
Teaching someone else the material you’re learning cements the information in your mind. Another reason why study groups and mentoring is beneficial to you.
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