"I just can't
Does this sound familiar? While there are times when this is true, usually
we can overcome the distractions that get in our way so we can focus on
the task we must accomplish.
just can't remember!"
This is another common message we
tell ourselves. Often the real issue is that we must get something
before we can forget it! Sometimes we sayI forgot
when what we mean is I did not pay attention or understand it.
We can concentrate,
understand and remember. Here are some strategies to use to make your
memory work for you!
means to find ways to overcome internal and external distractions that interfere
with study. To do this we must identify the distraction and apply a technique
to overcome it.
How to Cope
with Internal Distractions
distractions include daydreams and thoughts like I have to remember
to call the plumber and This is boring. Some
ways of coping with these internal distractions include the following
a note pad on your study table and write down a brief reminder
of the idea or problem. Then let it go from your mind.
the distraction, especially hunger or sleep, into a rewardonce
you master this idea, reward yourself.
counteract boredom or lack of interest, try to identify the cause and then do something about it (see next section of this handout):
of background knowledge?
of purpose for the assignment?
you cant concentrate, take a break, deal with the distraction,
and come back later.
a goal for your study time. How many pages do you want to cover?
How many problems to you need to solve? How much do you need to
with smaller goals and increase them as you find you are able
to concentrate for a longer time.
How to Eliminate
Distractions are related to the physical environment of your study
area. They are easier to deal with once you identify them.
way to combat most external distractions, whether its the TV,
the telephone, family members demanding attention, or the smell of dinner
cooking, is to get away from them.
habit of studying in the same place at the same time every day. Make
this place, whether at home or school, just for study. Pay your bills
and read your magazines somewhere elsedont mix personal
work, schoolwork, and leisure activities. This is especially important
for online classes.
a study area with good lighting, adequate ventilation and quiet surroundings.
- When it
is time to study, apply yourself totally with your full attention. If
you feel you are not getting as much as you should from your study and
you cannot get rid of the distraction, take a short break and try again.
The bottom line: you must learn to concentrate if you are to succeed
well you learn something, not how fast you learn it, is a critical
factor in understanding and remembering.
basic principles of good concentration include the following strategies:
that does not make sense to you is hard to learn. The more meaningful
you make it, the easier it is to learn.
you know about a subject, the easier it is to understand new information
about it. Connect new material to related information you already know.
interested you are in a subject, the easier it is to comprehend. Find
ways to stimulate your interest in the subject matter.
to distinguish main points from details and tell the difference between
significant details and unimportant details is a most important skill.
ideasmeans you must fit each new piece of information into the
subjects big picture, not just memorize bits of details.
is a skill. Improving your memory, like improving any other skills, is hard
able to remember something usually depends on how thoroughly you learned
it in the first place. I have a poor memory" is often a convenient
excuse to use when you havent had time to truly learn something.
only what you intend to remember. Do you forget your best friends
name or phone number? Do you forget how to drive?
you cannot and do not need to remember everything. Trying to remember
every detail you read and hear is probably impossible. Therefore, your
ability to identify important ideas and details in the study/learning
process is critical to effective recall of information.
How you put
information into memory affects how easily and efficiently you can access
many ways your memory is like an office filing system.
memory (momentary and very limited) is like a pink While You Were
Out message that you deal with and forget, for example, the phone
number to call to order a pizza.
memory (30-60 seconds with limited capacity) is like the in basket
where you sort out important from non-important information.
memory (relatively permanent and unlimited in capacity) is like large
file cabinets for storing important information
in long-term storage must first be identified through sensory and/or
short-term memory as important, then organized by some system and
filed in the cabinet so it can be found easily.
same principles apply to your memory. You must identify meaningful
or important information, organize it, and then study it (file it)
so you can retrieve it from your memory.