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Trying to memorize can get you feeling stuck. It shouldn’t be that hard. Image Source

How does a person actually remember stuff?

This week’s question brought up a subject that I haven’t delved too deep into recently. I looked into this subject a while ago but haven’t done much about it recently. I get the impression it’s a subject should spend some time going over more. Without further ado:

I tried flashcards. I am still struggling to remember the information on the flashcards as I’m going through them. I go over the same flash cards hundreds of times but I can’t consistently remember them. I can get some of them but I never seem to be able to get most of them. I feel like I’m missing something involved in a recall based study strategy. Is it really as simple as repetition until the information sticks? It just doesn’t seem to work well for me. How do I actually remember the information I’m studying while using a recall based study strategy?
– Dustin

Remembering is something that happens naturally with important information.

If your life were on the line, I’m willing to bet your success rate would be near perfect. So the next time you’re studying you should do it DANGEROUSLY!!!! Okay… maybe not.

This point still stands, though. People tend to remember what they’re seriously motivated to remember.

Most students can do well with flashcards when they’re motivated. This is the first place I’d look into. It’s the most common place that students struggle.

Do you have a really good reason you want to learn the information? Is it something that stimulates you intellectually or competitively? Is there some internal urge to actually learn it or is it more of you just trying to do what you have to do? The better your motivation is, the better you’ll remember information.

Of course… maybe you’re wildly motivated and too stressed during the process. Are you worrying too much!?!? So many potential problems… how stressful… right?

These are just the first places you should be looking. Memorization happens easily when you’re motivated to remember (and not pumping stress hormones all through your body.)

Are you too stressed about this stuff? Are you not motivated? It’s hard to quantify these factors but I like to think of it this way:
If you have a problem in one of these two areas you should recognize it as a potential problem. If you feel like these might be your problem then try correcting them first. If you don’t think they’re the problem then you should dig further.

There are plenty of articles on this blog that can help with that like:

9 Reasons Your Memory Sucks

What Memory Pros Can’t Teach You About Studying

6 Memory Strategies You Need In Your Study Toolbox

Q/A: What’s The Difference Between Memorization And Studying?

Memorization can be automatic but there are manual strategies to getting important information to stick.

You’ve probably heard of these strategies at some point in your life. The ultimate goal of all of the following strategies are to link stuff you know to stuff that you don’t know. Then by finding the information you know you also find the information you want to know.

Image Source
Looking at flash cards is part of the story. Linking information is the important part. Image Source

A quick list:

  • Mnemonics
  • The Loci Method
  • Linking

These three strategies are some of the most common and powerful memorization strategies around.

These strategies are some of the easiest ways to start experimenting with your own memory.
How do you actually remember information?

You just link it to something you already know or can easily know. Memorizing information is a process of giving context to the information you’re trying to store. It’s about categorizing and organizing more than it’s about storing.

At times I’ve recommended studying like you remember absolutely everything you’re looking at. If you look at it then your brain “can” remember it. You just need to find a way to get your brain good at finding where it remembers it.

On this note: I’m going to be producing an awesome article about specific memorization strategies that should help. Keep an eye on the site for the next few weeks.

Q/A – How To Actually Remember

Have you ever sabotaged your success doing this silly little thing?

Ever procrastinate?

You only procrastinate the stuff that sucks. You don’t say, “Ahhh… I’ll read that text from my crush later.” Nope. Now… Any pause is intentional and coordinated to respond better.

Here is the problem with academics:

You probably think most academic stuff sucks – at least a little. (Especially compared to other things you could be doing.)

And the thing is:


You’re slowly hardening your association of school and being miserable.

You need to create positive associations with academics. You want your brain to be getting hyped  up and positive when you’re thinking about studying and giving into this internal oligarchical instinct to force yourself to studying – ain’t helpin’.

Chill the internal dictator for a moment…

A big secret: You need to STOP forcing yourself to study so much.

But, if you’re not forcing yourself then how are you going to see those killer straight-a’s that you’re always dreaming about?


Get your copy of my book about How To Get Happier Straight A’s.

It only costs $4.99 (and if these strategies don’t work like magic like it has for thousands of other students then you can get a full refund.)

Click Here To Buy Your Copy


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7 thoughts on “Q/A – How To Actually Remember

  • November 22, 2019 at 7:45 pm

    I came across your post accidentally nevertheless i’m pleased i’m here. Good stuff i’m reading.

  • September 29, 2019 at 5:07 am

    I seriously appreciate your help. This exta little bit of advice will undoubtedly be put in place.

  • December 9, 2016 at 9:03 pm

    I once had a teacher in high school who remembered every students name, within the first 15 minutes of class. There is something very impressive about people who can remember certain facts quickly, especially with names. That was a great first impression for my teacher, because he made everyone in the class seem very valuable.

  • December 2, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I’ve been using flashcards and the linking method with great success lately. I find different pen colors, highlighters and underlined words really help when it comes to the flashcards.

    It’s annoying how some of the things you’re expected to learn, you’re not actually learning at all, just memorizing. When are your other memorization strategies articles coming out? 🙂

  • November 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm


    Cliffhanger… You told me you’d be writing something up explaining it and I got all excited when I saw this.

    • November 1, 2016 at 12:50 pm


      Sorry I got your hopes up. I promises the article is almost ready.

  • October 31, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    I agree about memory being natural when you’re motivated. In subjects I love it seems I can study in only a couple minutes but when it’s a subject I hate it, literally, takes forever. I mean that with actual timing and how it feels.


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