The more meaningful something is to you, the easier it will be for you to remember. The less meaningful, the more difficult it will be to remember. By making information more meaningful it becomes easier to remember. There are several ways to make information more meaningful:
Organizational strategies that can make information more meaningful include Chunking and grouping. For example, trying to remember the digits 7434828321 can be difficult to remember, but, by grouping it as follows 7-434-828-321 it can be easier to remember.
You can find more techniques for organizing information on the page about Organization.
You can make information more meaningful by relating it to something you already know. For example, you can use association to help you remember people’s names. When you are introduced to someone, associate them with another person you already know who has the same name. This can be done by thinking about or visualizing the person you already know while interacting with the person you were just introduced to.
You can find more information on the page about Association.
The more you know about something the easier it is to learn new things about it. This involves something called schema. Schema is a mental framework that exists in your mind which you can easily add new information to.
Familiarity also lends itself to association (as described above) — the more you know about something, the easier it is to associate new information with it. The more associations you make with knowledge you already have the better you will learn it.
Familiarity can also contribute to passive learning. Studies have shown that simply being exposed to certain kinds of information can make it easier to learn at a future time. For example, listening to a foreign language can help familiarize your brain to that language. Later, when you are trying to learn that language it will be easier to pick up because of your familiarity with it. However, it is important to remember that passive learning will only get you so far. To truly learn something requires conscious effort.
Finding rhymes in information, or organizing it so it rhymes, can be helpful to learning. This is a common technique which is frequently used in verbal mnemonics.
Finding patterns in information can help you remember it better. In fact, just looking for a pattern can help as it will make you more familiar with the material (see above for information about familiarity). Also, by looking for patterns you are actively processing the information which also helps you learn it better.
Finding patterns is also a way to chunk information. When you find a pattern in information you just need to remember the pattern rather than a list of separate pieces of information. For example, the number 1123581321345589144 can seem difficult to remember. However, if you recognize the pattern that each number is the sum of the previous two numbers (a pattern known as the Fibonacci sequence) the sequence is very easy to remember.
Substituting information that is already meaningful to you for information that is similar but not meaningful can help you learn better. Say you need to remember a meaningless identifier such as KAR-456 you can substitute the more familiar word (and image) ‘car’ for KAR.
Other things you can do to help make things more meaningful is try and make words out of meaningless letter combinations. Say you need part number LNXKT from a store you could remember it as ‘lynx cat’. Furthermore, by substituting with something that is easy to visualize you can use visualization techniques to further improve your memory.
Pictures vs. Words