Jar your memory, and keep it bottled up: tips to improve your studying December 09, 2015 15:57

Unbearably late at night, face planted in a text book... slightly snoring. That was me... It was also me - on the bus to school - hoping the ride wouldn’t be too bumpy because I was still in the process of making flash cards. I hoped that cramming concepts late at night and at the last mobile minute might give me an immediacy that would allow me to regurgitate concepts freshly from memory. Yeah sure... that’s why I procrastinated... But is there something to that theory? Should procrastinators rejoice?

It turns out that there is a great deal of research to show that studying just before you crash helps you retain knowledge. See I was right all along! But make sure you do GET sleep and lots of it because the other side of the coin is that lack of sleep is a terrible culprit when it comes to memory loss. REM sleep is said to be conducive to retaining memory and lack of REM will shred your recollections.

Memory and is a tricky beast and unreliable at best but there are tried and true ways to stimulate your memory in order to make sure you retain the concepts you need.

Do not distract

The writer Ray Bradbury was said to have a writing shed wherein he would deposit all manner of odd yard sale objects. I like to imagine it was like a prop closet for The Twilight Zone. When he was stuck for material, he would just zone out at his typewriter until his attention landed on one of his totems and then the words would start flowing. That’s nice for a sci-fi novelist. But if you want to remember what you are studying, it’s important not to have distractions.

Stay on task too. Multi-tasking may seem efficient but it is not and might even be harmful. So if you are trying to study, don’t be Ray Bradbury.

One way to promote this behavior is to have a dedicated schedule beforehand and stick to it.

There are several apps that can help you...

30/30

Is the perfect app to keep you on target, allowing you to set timers to complete tasks. When the timer is done... then you can go on Facebook.

Evernote

Is universally praised as an excellent productivity app. It lets you keep all your notes, thoughts, and assignments in one place even when switching devices. It also helps you with presentations.

And how many times have you set to a task only to be distracted by Facebook or a text message (or an email update). Turn off your email notifications, turn off your phone and if you don’t need to use the internet at all for your studying Freedom will keep you honest. You enter the time you want to work and it won’t let you on the internet at all. The only way to fool it is to turn your computer completely off and back on. Similar apps have further flexibility if you just want to block out time sucks... like Facebooking exes all night long.

What does it mean to you?

And the best way to retain information is to create ways of making the material meaningful to you from another perspective. Can the numbers you need to know be related to dates or other parts of your life?

Use mnemonic devices that will assist your memory, like putting something to music, creating a name out of the first letters (like the ubiquitous ROY G BIV to stand for the colors of the rainbow) or inventing a phrase that uses the first letters of the words you are trying to remember in order (i.e. My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas for the order of the planets in the solar system). There’s even a site that helps you create your own ridiculous sentence.

Other "study hacks" include ideas like taking a walk, speaking what you are learning out loud, or listening to specific music but the best way to remember what you’ve learned is to avoid distraction and sleep on it.

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