The human brain is a wonderful thing. It can assimilate and record a lot of information. Unfortunately we all, at some point or the other, feel that we are not able to recollect important things and that our memory retaining power is not as good as it used to be. Problems in memory retention occur when we do not pay attention to the information or are unable to understand the information given. Disinterest and stress also plays a role in poor memory. When the subject matter that you want to anchor into your brain is something that spikes your interest, it is very easy to retain such data. But when it is an abstract self contained body of information like a long list or random numbers, it is difficult to remember and assimilate this information. However, it is very much possible to increase your memory through some memory retention techniques and exercises. These techniques are also useful for students who are trying to memorize for an examination.
Memory Retaining Techniques
For retaining memory pertaining to academic knowledge, you need to follow a three pronged approach. The memory retention techniques detailed below are useful for anchoring information to your long term memory so that you can recollect them at your convenience.
Understanding the Material
Have you ever wondered why it is so easy to memorize a simple stanza from a poem but difficult to memorize a random treatise on say "abstract art". This is because you instantly understand the poem, but have difficulty it memorizing something abstract. Proper understanding of the material at hand is absolutely necessary if you want to retain the information in your brain and recollect it too. But how do you go about understanding something that is unstructured and unorganized? The best way to do it is by first breaking up the material into more manageable chunks of information. Organize the information into one cohesive structure and write it down on a piece of paper. Tackle each chunk of information one at a time and comprehend the meaning of the material at hand. Relating the information to your own life and surrounding is also a great way to understand the material.
Familiarization with the Material
To retain a particular piece of material or information, you need to look at it a few times at regular intervals. This is known as familiarization. Let me give you an example. Suppose you are introduced to a particular person at a party, you greet the person and move on. After a few days, you will not recall the name of the person that you were introduced to. But suppose you hear this person's name all through the party in some amusing anecdotes, then you are bound to remember the name and even associate the name with the face of the person. By repeatedly exposing yourself to the name (in this case), your brain retains the information. The same is true for say study material or a project report or even something as mundane as "statistical analysis report". By looking or reading through the material a few times two to three times a week, your brain retains the information.
Anchoring the Material
After you have understood the material and familiarized yourself with the material, the next step is to anchor the information. Creating mental association is the best way to assimilate and retain any information. Mental association are of two types, one is mnemonics and the other is visualization. Both of these are powerful techniques that aids mental retention. Let me explain mnemonics by an example. Do you remember the seven colors of the rainbow. They are Violet, Indigo, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange and Red. To remember them in that order, an acronym VIBGYOR is used. This is known as mnemonics. Visualization is also a tool that aids in retaining and anchoring information. If you want to memorize a list, then make an acrostic phrase that has a vividness out of it. Suppose you want to remember a list of things that you need to purchase from the market. And they are Anchovy, Eggs, Lemons, Watermelon, Jam, Ice cream, Prosciutto, Tacos, Italian dressing, Refried beans and Salmon. Then a good way to retain this seemingly random piece of information is to make an acrostic "An English Lord was jogging in the park in red shorts." All you need to do is remember this particular phrase and visualize a typical English nobleman jogging in your local park wearing red shorts. The humor in the visual imaginary will help in anchoring the list to your memory.
These were some memory retaining exercises and memorizing techniques that will help in retaining information for longer time. Try to use the memory retaining techniques given above and you will notice that you are better able to assimilate any information.