How to Memorize Using Brief Recall

Memory is the foundation of learning. You can memorize more quickly with greater recall and longer retention by practicing systematic recall. Get-It-Done Guy teaches you how.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #266

How to Memorize Using Brief Recall

In this brave new world we have information at our fingertips like never before in history: Wikipedia, Google, blogs, and other exceptionally convenient sources of mis-information, propaganda, and un-fact-checked opinion stated as fact. Some people have speculated that we are in a new age where we never need to remember anything again. The internet helps us increase memory, since we can access it any time. They say we just need to remember how to find facts we need. Those people know nothing about how the human brain works, and they’re just wrong.

Learning how to memorize is extremely important, because what you know and remember forms the building blocks for your future creativity, innovative thinking, and problem solving. Yes, if you need to know who Edgar Allen Poe is, you can look him up. But if his poems are in your memory, you can be working on an unrelated problem and your unconscious mind will suddenly make a connection and find the answer in one of Poe’s poems. How cool is that?

The only question about how to memorize is how you get stuff into your memory efficiently, so you still have time to play Plants vs. Zombies before you go to bed. Hmm…Wait! I recall a stanza of Poe’s “The Raven” that discusses memory:

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow, vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore;

You might think “The Raven” is about what to do when a bird gets trapped in your home and won’t leave. Or about lost Lenore, who ended up at Target instead of Home Depot when her GPS got miscalibrated. Or symbolism. Ravens are black. What else is black? Yes, the crunchy cookie crust of an Oreo Ice Cream cake.

I rest my case.

No, the key words in Poe are distinctly I remember. With these three words, he gives the secret to memorization: distinct patterns of memorizing and recall.

Reinforcement is How to Memorize

Just like TV detectives call for reinforcements, your memory needs reinforcements, too. When you memorize something, the memory starts off weak—you haven’t memorized it yet—and then gets stronger and stronger. But then after a while it starts to fade. If you review the material just as it starts to fade, however, it will re-strengthen the memory. Only this time, the memory is stronger and will last longer. Then it will start to fade. But if you review the material just as it starts to fade, it will get even stronger and last even longer. And so on.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.