An Effective Memory Hack for Studying, Learning, and Retaining Information

By on August 16, 2021

Studying psychology is meta. When the time comes to commit everything you’ve learned to memory, this is a chance to put everything you know about the way the brain works to the test. Can you find a successful memory hack to store and recall large amounts of information?

The sheet technique

During my own studies, I answered this question by devising a method that I call “The Sheet Technique.” This proved highly effective for me, and it’s something I have since shared with others with great success.

Here’s how the memory hack works.

The Memory Hack Explained

The essential aim of the Sheet Technique memory hack, is to put all the information you want to learn onto a single page of A4 paper (or smaller). During my studies, this meant that a single sheet of paper would represent one subject/exam (cognitive psychology, criminal psychology, neuroscience, research methods, etc.).

Since then, I’ve successfully used this memory hack in countless other situations.

Placing all the information you need to know on a single pace makes it extremely easy to revise. You simply carry that one page around with you! You can have it next to your place while you’re eating, you can pin a copy to your mirror, or you can glance at it just before bed.

Put all the information you want to learn onto a single page of A4 paper.

But here’s the thing: it’s not just the sheet itself that is important. Rather, it’s also the process of condensing all that information such that it can fit onto a single page. This is where the magic of the memory hack really comes into play!

Memory Compression

In order to store more information in the working memory, we know that we can use a technique called “chunking.”

The working memory is memory you use to store and manipulate information you are working with, such as carrying numbers over while doing mental math. This is limited to 7 +/- 2 units, or digits. In other words, you should only be able to remember up to nine numbers at once when running to get a pen so you can write down a phone number.

You are essentially compressing that information and then extracting it as needed!

The way that memory masters get around this, is by grouping digits together into single units. Instead of remembering: 3,2,7,8,9,1 they instead remember: 327,891. That’s now using up just two “blocks” rather than six! This simple memory hack allows some experts to commit entire decks of cards to memory and more.

They also use other hacks: such as the method of loci (picturing triggers in a location), or creating bizarre visualizations. Derren Brown’s book “Tricks of the Mind” has some really cool suggestions.

What I love about this, is that you are effectively compressing that information and then extracting it as you need it! It’s just like using a zip folder.

Superlearning

A similar approach works for the long-term memory when you use mnemonics. It’s much easier to remember “The SAID principle” than it is to remember “specific adaptations to imposed demands.” SAID is only one unit of information, specific adaptations to imposed demands is five.

Mnemonic Memory Hacks

Other mnemonics rely on songs, rhymes, or inherently memorable images and these then act as shortcuts to portions of our long-term memory. These work due to the way the human brain is wired: we remember narratives and emotionally charged events because they have likely survival value.

Rhymes and songs work as a memory hack because the brain is wired to identify patterns and predict the next in the sequence. Rhymes also reduce the number of possible answers.

See also: The Digital Polymath – Absorbing the Web With Accelerated Learning Techniques

So, this is what you do when you create your single sheet: you use illustrations, mnemonics, key facts, and other shorthand techniques to cram as much information as possible onto that one sheet. As long as you can remember what each of your triggers and mnemonics represents, then you can compress an entire semester’s worth of information onto a single page.

Essentially, you can combine multiple strategies into this one memory hack.

Writing

You can, of course, also get strategic by excluding anything you already find very easy to remember.

If there are a couple of facts you can’t compress, you’re find to include those, too.

Why This Memory Hack Works

Now, you only have a SINGLE sheet that you need to memorize in order to prepare for a given exam, interview, or whatever else.

You can carry this around with you all day and revise throughout your day. This makes it much easier to utilize a spaced-learning strategy, resulting in greater retention.

See also: What is Spaced Learning – Learn Anything Faster

This also means you can bring your sheet with you to the exam and refresh your memory right before the exam. Again, this could be effective thanks to short-term plasticity. You can effectively prime your brain for learning.

Of course, you can also use different strategies to make the sheet itself as memorable as possible. Using illustrations and a smart layout, you can practically commit that page to memory using your visual memory (with a little effort).

And, best of all, the very process of creating the sheet will help you to commit more information to memory, organize your thoughts, and greatly enhance recall.

If you need to learn anything fast, give this memory hack a go! And be sure to let me know how you get on with the Sheet Technique.

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

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