The Memory Power Switch: 16 Strategies to Know

Your brain is a powerful learning tool, but it requires some effort to hang on to information in short-term memory, and then a bit more effort to move it into long-term memory. Power up your memory by learning sixteen strategies and mnemonic devices.

Memory Strategies




First, create the Ultimate STUDY Playlist:  Researchers have found that we learn best with predictable, monotonous, and familiar noise conditions in the background.  So, make a study playlist of pleasant but monotonous sounds that fade into the background, but also block distractions.  Some examples are nature sounds, ocean waves, or fan noise.  Set Pandora to a station with soothing background sounds, like “Easy Listening:  Relaxation Radio."

Researchers also discovered that listening to stimulating, invigorating, energizing music BEFORE performing a task actually boosts cognitive abilities, reduces stress, and stimulates the mind.  When it is time to study, switch over to the pleasant monotonous sounds that fade into the background and block distractions.  Now you know how to create the ultimate study playlist!  (Sources: Eric Miller, Professor of Neuroscience at MIT, 2010 Study by Researchers at the University of Wales)


Pictures  |  Visual

1.  Silly Pics:   Create a silly picture in your head to connect a list of unrelated things you need to remember.  For example, if you need to pick up toilet paper, bananas, and light bulbs at the store, imagine toilet paper worn around your neck like a necklace, light bulbs stuck in your ears, and a banana in your mouth like a cigar.  Link to and drag objects onto an infographic to create silly pictures.  

2.  Memory Palace or The Journey Method  Pick a location, route, or a house that you know very well and mentally associate the items you need to remember with specific physical locations or objects within this building or along the route.  When trying to remember the items simply “walk” through this place or “journey”  along the route and mentally “pick up” the items along the way.

3.  Visual Organizers  Draw graphs, tables, time lines, charts, etc. to organize the information visually. Check out these fantastic organizers to print and use today.  Link to Bubbl.US to generate a quick visual organizer.

4.  Associations:   Link together the things to be remembered.  Create associations by crashing things together, wrapping them around each other, placing things on top of each other, group by color or shape, or have them dance together.


Words  |  Sentences

5.  Creative Key Words  Link new words to things you already know very well.  For example, if you need to remember the capital of Kansas, which is Topeka, imagine having your big toe [TOE-peka] stuck in a can [Kan-sas].   The more unusual it is the better you will remember it.   Visuwords can help if you’re at a loss for words!  

6.  First Letters:   Turn the beginning letters of a list of information into ONE word.  For example, if you want to learn the names of the Great Lakes, use the letters of the word HOMES to list the lakes:  [H]uron, [O]ntario, [M]ichigan, [E]rie, and [S]uperior.  To make it easier to remember, imagine your HOME in the middle of a LAKE.

7.  Make a Sentence:   Turn the beginning letters of a list into a sentence. For example, remember the steps to long division with Do make some brownies! (Divide, Multiply, Subtract, Bring down)

8.  Peg Words:   Peg Words can help with memorizing lists.  First, memorize an easy list of words associated with numbers. These are the “pegs.”  See the list below.  If you are trying to remember that insects have six legs, but spiders have eight, doodle a sketch of an insect crawling on a stick (6=stick) and a spider hanging from a gate. (8=gate)
   1 - Bun
   2 - Shoe
   3 - Tree
   4 - Door
   5 - Hive
   6 - Stick -->  insect crawling on a stick
   7 - Heaven
   8 - Gate -->  spider hanging from a gate
   9 - Vine
   10 - Men



9.  Poem, Rhythm and Rhyme:  Did you learn the alphabet to the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star?”  Have you ever heard,  “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?”  Poems, rhythm and rhyme can help you remember by using auditory encoding and your brain’s incredible ability to store audio triggers.

10.  Sing It:  Take the information you need to remember and turn it into a new set of silly lyrics for a tune you already know well.  If you feel creative, make your own tunes with  [Click “Make Music” and choose “One Click Start.”]     


Tips   |   Tricks

11.  Get Physical:  Adding any type of movement enhances memory for most people.  Exercise helps the brain "grow" new brain cells by increasing blood flow, which carries oxygen and other necessary nutrients.

12.  Make It Personal:  Find ways to connect what you are learning to things you already know very well. Use concrete, meaningful examples from your own life so the information becomes personally relevant.

13.  Outsmart Test Anxiety:  Try a few 2-Minute Strategies to relieve test anxiety.    

14.  Sleep:  Get eight hours of sleep. During the longest stages of sleep, your brain turns recent memories into long-term memories by building the branches of brain cells. "The sleeping brain actually secretes molecules to form these new connections, which significantly enhance learning and performance."  You can increase your alertness by 25% if you sleep from 8-9 hours. (James B. Maas, Ph.D and Sleep Expert)

15.  The Three Rs:   Reviewrehearse, and repeat the information.  When information is rehearsed and repeated, it moves to another part of the brain to be coded. Repetition also makes the pathways in your brain work more efficiently.  You will remember better if you actively think through a list, rather than simply repeat it. Come up with creative ways to review so that you don’t get bored, such as shooting a basketball after each repetition or creating a silly dance with moves matched to each item you are rehearsing. Use your favorite app or media tool on the phone to record yourself repeating the information.  Set it to LOOP and practice rehearsing along with it while you are running, working out, swinging, sunning, or whatever works for you.

16.  Teachley's Amazing Talking Brain:  Pick up a few tricks with Teachley’s Amazing Talking Brain.


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