How to sharpen a lousy memory and retain everything you read?
Picture this, a teenage boy comes to a grocery store on his bike, parks his bike outside the store, walks in, buys what he needs, and then walks back home completely forgetting about his bike.
Not only that, but it also doesn’t occur to him that he left his bike outside the grocery store until the next day.
Now imagine this, the same boy memorizes a 1944 digit number on TV in front of a large audience and repeats it correctly. He then continues to memorize and recall 7 decks of cards, a 1200 digit binary number and makes a new Guinness world record by memorizing 100 colors shown in random sequence and recalling them without a single mistake.
How did he manage to do that? How did he convert his lousy memory to a memory machine?
Memory has always been my problem. Ever since I was in school I had trouble memorizing ‘stuff’ for exams. Now in middle age, my memory is becoming more of a problem. I struggle with remembering people’s names. While writing I struggle with remembering words. The right words always seem to be on the tip of my tongue but elude me and I give up in frustration. I invariably forget scenes and the storyline from the movies that I have watched on TV, sometimes multiple times.
One of my all-time desire is to improve my memory so that I am able to remember whatever I read so that I am able to recall it when I need it. If I can retain only a fraction of the information I consume, I will be ecstatic.
I wanted to learn how memory worked.
If I can retain only a fraction of the information I consume, I will be ecstatic. My quest led me to Nishant Kasibhatla, the boy in the above story.
Nishant Kasibhatia spent his life learning to sharpen his memory. He has come up with a formula which goes like this:
The first thing we need for developing good memory is input.
Luckily Input is easy. We are all very good at it. But there lies our problem.
We go to seminars, we read books, we watch videos, we follow blogs, we listen to podcasts. It is input… input… input…and more input. But it happens to us so many times that we read a book and a few days later we forget what was in it.
By jumping from one book to another, one article to another, one podcast to another, we are only encouraging shallow learning.
The shallow learning is when we can’t even recall what our take away points were. The purpose of reading is to learn and the purpose of learning is to benefit us in some form.
What’s the point of reading something if we can’t implement it and benefit from it.
Learning without implementation is pure intellectual entertainment, nothing else.
Here are 3 things we can do to improve our input.
1. Remove distractions. When we are learning something, we need to make sure that our full attention is towards that learning. If we pick up the phone or take a peek at the emails or go to the internet we kill the momentum of learning.
2. Do Single-tasking. When we are multitasking our brain is dealing with mutiple things at the same time. It then makes the executive decision what to keep in the long time memory and what to discard. Most of the time it discards everything becuase it think it must not be important enough since you are not paying full attention to it.
3. Make sure the quality of input is really really high. Our brain has inbuilt filter to discard the poor quality information. If you don’t believe try remembering rubbish movies you have seen and rubbish books or articles you have read. Your brain has instantly thrown in the rubbish bin.
The quality of input determines the quality of retention. It also determines the quality of recall.
Add to INPUT some REFLECTION and our retention increases many folds.
We all rush to learn new things. Lerning new things is fine, but the problem is we don’t take time to reflect which is extremely important for retention.
When learning something new we need to pause for a while and ask ourselves, what is my takeaway from this. How can I use this information in my life? How can this information benefit my work, my family, my life?
When we pause, reflect, and ask these questions the learning solidifies.
Now add the third ingredient IMPLEMENTATION to the mix and the magic happens.
Unfortunately, many people (myself included), in our haste, miss this step.
What do we do? We go out, learn something new, get excited, feel good, get inspired, and then go on to learn something new.
When we continue to learn without implementation, we get the illusion of competence. We feel we are competent but it is not competence at all.
What we need to do is, stop, write down what are the few things we can take action on, schedule it in our calendar, and take some action.
Even a lousy action is better than no action because it is the implementation that internalise the learning.
Now comes the most important ingredient, SHARING.
The best way to learn something is to teach it. Teaching is a way to OUTPUT. Sharing can also happen when you explain things to others or write an article about it or make notes and share them with a buddy. When you do that you are helping your brain to pay more attention. This is when you are on the path to master the topic.
No one becomes the master of something just by INPUT. They all became master by taking in better quality INPUT and doing more OUTPUT than INPUT.
For true mastery, you need to focus more on the OUTPUT than on the INPUT.Nishant Kasibhatia
It all depends upon how much time you spend on learning something and how much time you spend on reflecting, implementing, and sharing. Nishant recommends, if you are spending x amount of time on INPUT, you should spend double the amount of time on OUTPUT.
REFLECTION, IMPLEMENTATION, AND SHARING are all ways of output.
In today’s fast-paced information age, maximizing our memory power is not an option but a necessity. We use our memory all the time and the way we use it affects what we achieve in our lives.
No matter what your profession or occupation, mastering information, and memory management skills will prove essential, and will help you to increase your productivity and profitability.
PS: I am not in any way associated or affiliated with him. I found him quite accidentally while researching for a way to improve my memory and retention ability.
I intend to write more articles on the topic in the comings days. Stay tuned.