Right at the beginning of this book I talked about the mind is like a filing cabinet, and about short-term and long-term memory. Short term memory is useful for those day to day tasks, such as getting ready in the morning. You need to remember those things that you have just done, such as cleaning your teeth, so that you don’t keep going back to do them over and over again. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to remember every time in your whole
life that you have cleaned your teeth!
Unfortunately, you can’t decide when something goes into your memory where it will go – into short-term or into long-term! In fact, it will ALWAYS go into short-term memory first and it requires further work to get it into the long-term memory area. Its like having a filing tray and a filing cabinet. You can store only so much in the filing tray and you need to get it into the cabinet. Rote learning appears to work because you are using familiarity, but in reality, you are putting materials directly into your long-term memory, and this is not how the mind was designed to work. It’s the difference between building a guide path and then strengthening it into a path, road, carriageway and finally a motorway/freeway; and trying to build the freeway from scratch with no guide whatsoever. It is my belief that this, coupled with boredom (the brain doesn’t like doing things over and over; it stagnates and STOPS learning) makes it very hard work and makes you tired.
But there is more...
When you RECALL a memory there is a much more profound chemical change going on which establishes stronger memory links much quicker. Rote or familiarity-based learning does not create the same strong chemical changes. This being the case it stands to reason that you should form images, and then recall them once they are in your head so as to create the stronger memories.
But again, just doing it over an over isn’t only boring but unhelpful (too much keeps it in short-term memory) and will not give you space to learn more. The secret is the timings of when you study, and when you recall and giving your mind the physical time to create the chemical bonds. The feeling is that you are recalling it just before you have forgotten it. This is how you do it.
Study for just 20 minutes, forming your images and image links as you go. Immediately at the end of the 20 minutes recall all the information. Then take a break for 5 minutes. At the end of the 5 minutes, recall the information once more. You can now continue studying for another 20 minutes. Repeat with this block of information – recall immediately. Then after 5 minute break recall ALL the information so far.
Do this as many times as you like for new sections of information - it helps if before you sit down to study you decide what one section is, find your own balance. Leave half an hour at the end of your study period for rest. Do something else completely different, don’t study or read. A manual hobby perhaps, listening to music etc.. You will find that the information in your head wants to be thought about. Try not to, as doing so will keep some of the information in the short-term memory.
After half an hour recall as much information as possible. Walk around your virtual town. You will get a feeling if you miss anything. At this point you can very quickly read over your text to make sure you got everything – don’t reread it in detail, perhaps just headings, as it will put the information back into short term. If you missed anything, use power memory to boost techniques to get it firmly established. An hour later Recall the information one more time.
Next day recall again. Do not look anything up even to remind yourself before you recall it. If you can’t remember something then come back to it. It is the act of recall which builds the bonds, and a struggled for memory will be made all the more firm.
If at any point you want a quick review, don’t decode the information, keep it in picture format. Say waiting for a bus or the kettle to boil - it is amazing how quickly you can flip through the images. This is a useful technique to practice just before falling asleep at night as your subconscious will continue to process the information.
Recall the information weekly for 3 more weeks, and then monthly after that. As more information is tied into the original you will find that you will find recall is easier. If you are studying a book, each time you recall any information you should make sure that you also recall the basic structure that hasn’t yet had further information attached to it. This will enable you to place newly learned information as part of a pattern for the whole rather than in isolation. Build into your study pattern this time for the recall, as it makes revision much easier, if not completely unrequired as the information becomes familiar