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The Library

The Information Crunch (Retaining What You Learn)
(Continued from 1)

Do you indulge in long bubble baths or frequent soaks in the hot tub? (If not, you should!). Take your reading homework or class notes with you. Water is
said to have a calming and clarifying affect on the mental state, often inducing creativity. While your body is relaxed, the mind is free to focus on the
task at hand, be it brainstorming a term paper or analyzing scientific principles.

Is it practical for you to arrive early to class? A few quiet moments in your chair before the instructor starts lecturing often help center your attention on the subject matter.

The bottom line for finding time to study is knowing where to look for it. The key is realizing that ample time rarely exists. Fortunately, this works to
your advantage. Since the average human mind can only focus for a few minutes on any one thing, frequent breaks in absorption actually help you.


Memory works in two distinct ways: short-term and long-term. Short-term memory lasts only about ten to fifteen seconds if the information isn’t repeated. In addition, your brain can only hold about seven pieces of information in short-term memory at any one time.

Long-term memory lasts much longer, but it requires encoding. The process of encoding, or passing information from short-term to long-term memory, affects
the way in which it will be recalled. For the most part, long-term memory works by association. Whatever your mind associates with a particular piece of
information during the encoding process is what will trigger that information during recall.

When memorizing facts, use mnemonic devices. These trigger recall by association. For example, if your goal is to commit seven important historical dates to memory, envision a familiar place with each of those dates occupying a particular space in this place. Your house is an excellent choice. Associate one date with your living room, another with your bedroom and so on. If people or events accompany the hard fact, simply picture the person sitting on your couch or the event taking place in your dining room.

People have used herbal remedies for memory loss for years. Ginkgo biloba extract, one of the most common, supposedly works by correcting cerebral vascular insufficiencies, or poor flood flow to the brain. Ginkgo increases the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain and helps brain cells make use of glucose. This results in improved energy production, nerve signal transmissions and brain wave tracings. Check with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for more information about Ginkgo.

Besides mnemonic devices and dietary supplements, following are a few strategies to help make the best use of your study time:

When reading long passages of text, highlight key points. Or, take reading notes if you don’t want to deface your texts. Prior to continuing after an
extended break, review the main points you highlighted.

Always try to read course material prior to the lecture. Repeated exposure reinforces the learning in your memory, and advanced familiarity with the topic
engages application during classroom discussion.

Don’t stop at highlights and reading notes. Take class notes too. At the end of the period, review the learning in your mind. Banging out a brief summary
of each class experience in your journal helps you remember what was covered. It also practices your writing skills.

Most experts agree that the brain is like any other muscle – the more you use it, the more fit it becomes. If this is true, memory and recall can be improved. All it takes is diligence. Coupled with time capitalization techniques, you can achieve academic excellence.

Perhaps an even greater benefit is the fact that your new habits of efficiency will bleed over into other areas of your life. Before you know it, you’ll be one of the most efficient people around!

Mandy Borgmeier is currently a part-time student and freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in a variety of publications. She also creates corporate brochures, newsletters, press releases, and technical copy for large corporations and non-profit organizations. Mandy lives in Northwest Arkansas with her husband and daughter.

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