How to Remember What You Learn

Do you find it difficult to remember what you’ve learned? When we’re faced with an overload of information each and every single day, it can be easy to feel like you’ve learned something…. only to realize belatedly that you can’t remember a single thing about it.

If we learn something, then it should be able to stay in our long-term memories as something that can be connected to other concepts and utilized to work, act, and learn even more.

But when we only have the pretense of learning something, then it stays in our short-term memory, feels solid when we first receive it but turns out to be empty, and it’s conducive to better actions or better learning.

Why do we find it so difficult to remember what we’ve learned?

Because when we first learn something, we are simply taking in the information and comprehending what it is saying. It is a process of receiving packets of information that our brain then needs to organize and relate to other things that it already knows. This is the process of learning.

Once our brain has connected these new information pieces to other pieces, then we need to constantly make new connections and relate other ideas to it. The more that the knowledge is connected to other points of knowledge within it, it has a greater chance at staying our long-term memory base.

How can we do better at learning?

This is problematic for us today because although it is what we teach our kids to do, it is not something that we generally do.

How, then, can we improve at this skill of learning? Here are some methods on how to remember what you learned.

Practice reflection

Reflection is when we take in new information and consider how we came about this information (to learn about the context). When our brain recognizes that it is unfamiliar information, it tries to fill in the gaps of its understanding.

For an easy method on reflection, whenever you learn something, write down the main points or take-aways by on the piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be very organized or elegant. It’s not meant for other people to read; it is simply for your own eyes and use. The important part is the act of writing down on paper your own thoughts on what you have learned. This process helps the brain to better process the information, and to express your ideas on the knowledge in another format.

Talk about it with others

Even if it’s right after you learn about something new, talk about it with someone else. If you talk about new ideas and information with others, then it allows your brain to express the idea in your own words and you repeat the information as you think about it and tell someone else. As you explain the new knowledge to someone else, then the other person can ask you questions or bring up other points that you might not have considered before. The more connections our brain is able to make to something else, the stronger the new information remains in us and the better its chances at remaining in our long-term memory base.

The back and forth of conversation will make your brain analyze what the information means. It’s hard to explain something to someone else if you don’t understand it yourself. As you explain, you may find that there are a lot of questions or missing gaps in your understanding. This is beneficial for remember what you learn as well, since it higlights where you need more focus and time on.