Taking professional development courses as an adult can be a challenge. You’re no longer a full-time student with little to worry about besides getting to that 8 a.m. class after a late-night cram session.
Now, you have a demanding career, maybe a family and many other commitments. Add to that your continuing education coursework and studying for exams, and you’re likely feeling stretched. We can’t make your coursework or exams any easier, but we can give you four tips to improve your memory.
- Get enough sleep
When you can’t find enough hours during the day to study, you might believe staying up half the night to prepare for your exam is your only option. Resist that feeling. You need sleep to make memories stick, and not getting enough affects your ability to focus and make good decisions. If you can take some time off work to study during the day, do it. If you can’t, try to cut back on non-work commitments so you can study earlier in the evening or on weekends.
- Work out
We know what you’re thinking. If you don’t have enough time to sleep while you’re getting ready for a big exam, how will you have enough time to work out? But regular exercise has been shown to improve memory and thinking skills. You might not have time for a daily, hour-long run, but try to stay as active as you reasonably can.
- Use mnemonics
You remember these memory tricks from when you were a kid, right? Your remembered how to find North, East, South and West by telling yourself to “never eat shredded wheat.” Guess what? Mnemonic devices work just as well for adults as they do for kids.
Try making up silly sentences or rhymes to help you remember tricky acronyms and concepts. When you have a lot of information to memorize, use mnemonic devices to break up the information into smaller chunks.
- Keep stress under control
Stop us if you’ve had this nightmare: You show up for your exam after weeks of studying. You’re completely prepared. Your exam starts and… nothing! You’ve drawn a blank and can’t remember a thing.
High levels of stress actually can impair your memory and make you forget some (or much) of what you worked so hard to learn. For some people, meditating can be a great way to reduce stress. Others might prefer taking some time off to hang out with friends or to read a good book. Find what works for you and keep that stress under control.