How to Remember What You’ve Learned

Studying Japanese
Studying Japanese

Study as if you will never learn, as if you were afraid of losing what you wish to learn.
– Confucius

I love to learn.  Unfortunately, what tends to go into my brain….slips away as my short-term memory fills with new ideas.  If I can’t remember something, how can I say that I’ve learned it, right?

So alongside my passion to learn is a frantic attempt to maintain what I have learned.  While I’ve been in Transition, the need to be able to consolidate and communicate ideas learned over the past 7 years of my career has become even more important.  I’ve been digging into learning methods and searching for ways to make learning permanent.

Five Tips To Make Learning Permanent

Here’s what I’ve found:

  1. Find ways to use what you’ve learned on the job.
    This is the most obvious approach.  Some teachers will ask you to create learning plans with checkpoints at 30, 60 or 90 days, for example, to check on whether you’ve incorporated one or two key ideas into your work habits.

    Since I’ve been in Transition, I’ve been a little more creative about how to put new ideas into my permanent memory.  In some cases, I’ve used my job hunt preparation as a learning tool.  If you need to prepare for an interview, think about how you would solve their problems using what you’ve learned.  Thinking through the ideas helps you make memories and embed the information in your permanent memory.

  2. Pretend that you will have to teach what you’ve learned.
    In The 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey recommends that you teach what you learned to at least two people to help you remember it.The process of taking the new information and teaching it to someone else will force you to fully understand the new ideas.  You could also create a Slide Show presentation that could become part of your LinkedIn portfolio in your job hunt.
  3. Write about what you’ve learned.
    This sounds like the previous tip, right?  It’s based on a similar principle: once you reword the information, it has a better chance of staying in your memory.This is my reasoning behind tweeting portions of the PMBOK.  If I come at the information using several different approaches, it is likely to become a part of my permanent memory.
  4. Create a MindMap of a Knowledge Area.
    I read this suggestion in The Power of Impossible Thinking by Yoram Wind and Jerry Cook.  Over time, you’ll probably read or learn about the same subject from several different sources and expert viewpoints.  Taking that information and putting the separate pieces into a MindMap that summarizes the major points is another way to consolidate your knowledge and give yourself a unique view of the subject.
  5. Use Memory tools.
    On-line flash card memory tools like Remembering the Kanji website or Anki have been extremely useful in learning Japanese.  They would probably be just as effective in memorizing other material.All follow a memory algorithm that was first used by the inventor of SuperMemo, one of the first memory tools available to improve the recall ability of students on any subject.

    The theory is that spaced repetition of material you’ve read or learned, will embed that information in your permanent memory.  Check out an article on the subject here. I haven’t tried to use Anki to remember the PMBOK, but I suspect that Anki or SuperMemo would be just as effective in making the 4th edition a part of my permanent memory.

Make A Plan

Without a plan to make what I learn a permanent part of my memory, I know that after a while I will forget it.  Unless you have a photographic memory, you may have the same problem.  How do you remember what you learn?  Do you use any of these approaches or something different?  Leave me a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.



  1. Joelle,

    Yes, I love to learn too. I worked on my Master’s degree for nine years. I really didn’t so much as want the degree as I just enjoyed the classes and learning.

    I have a daily checklist that includes an item “Learn.”

    Good reminders.


    P.S. Anyway you can change the website on my previous comments to “” ? I’m trying to find and fix all of these since I’ve changed my site name. Thanks again.

  2. Joelle you should check out its pretty nice like anki but more social.

  3. Thanks! I have an account on, but stopped using it when I moved to Anki. I like the social aspect and the sharing of other Japanese resources, so I check in every now and then.

  4. It seems pretty nice, but I’m trying to leverage free Japanese internet resources. Lately, there’s been so many new sites, videos, people sharing their knowledge on how to learn that it’s hard to keep up with free resources, let alone resources that you have to pay for. %)

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