9 Tips to Improve Your Working Memory

College students aren’t given enough credit. When you’re in college, you likely have a full-time course load, in addition to extracurricular activities or a part-time job. There are so many things to remember! And none of it would be possible without our working memory. Let’s look at if and how you can improve your working memory.

Working memory allows us to use information while performing tasks. It is the ability to recall past information and apply it to a new situation. Working memory helps us focus on a specific task throughout its duration without getting distracted. In other words, it helps us hold on to information when we need to use it and helps us follow directions and retain information, which impacts our overall learning ability. Our working memory helps us focus and process visual and auditory information, which has a direct impact on IQ and academic performance.

In college, you will have to depend on your working memory to help you study, answer test questions correctly, complete class assignments, and participate in class-wide discussions related to a certain topic. We depend on our working memory every day, but it is especially vital in college when your brain has to juggle multiple tasks and schedules. 

Can Working Memory be Improved?

Short answer: yes. Your working memory can be improved through consistent exercises. Mental exercises can train your brain to practice the skills you need for reasoning and problem-solving with the information it’s holding. Holding information in our working memory helps us access it quickly when we need to use it. 

Think of working memory as a folder on your laptop. You store files in a certain folder so you know they are there when you need them. When you need a certain file, you click the folder and open the file you need. When you don’t use a file for a while, you may delete it to create more space for other files. In this same way, our brains use working memory to organize and store information. 

People with an ADHD diagnosis, a traumatic brain injury, or other genetic or health factors may have a low working memory. Stress, excessive caffeine, and imbalanced hormones can also negatively impact your working memory. 

How to Improve Your Working Memory

We need our working memory for all executive functioning skills. In class, while driving, at the grocery store… we use it in everything we do! For optimal academic performance in college, and eventually in the workplace, we need to make sure we are nurturing our working memory. 

Check out our recommendations on what is best for memory improvement:

  1. Practice mindfulness. Several studies have shown that practicing mindfulness helps us eliminate distractions, improve focus and concentration, better regulate our sensory input, and quickly recall information.
  2. Play games. Simple games like Tetris, puzzles, or crossword puzzles require you to pull information quickly to solve the problem of the game.
  3. Break up tasks. Instead of running a mental list, keep track of tasks using checklists. Checklists can help you prioritize tasks and break up large pieces of information.
  4. Improve your diet. Eating a healthy diet improves your overall health and brain function. Foods like walnuts, leafy greens, green tea, blueberries, salmon, broccoli, avocados, and even dark chocolate can improve your memory!
  5. Implement routines. Creating everyday routines help us execute tasks without using so much information in our working memory. Specific routines may also help us set expectations for the day, which eliminates stress and uncertainty throughout the day.
  6. No multitasking! It is actually not possible for our brains to multitask. Our brains can only focus on one thing at a time, so trying to get our brain to focus on more than one thing at a time makes us less efficient and productive. Focus on one task at a time so your brain can stay calm and get tasks done faster.
  7. Exercise daily. As does eating healthy, exercising improves our overall health and brain function. Exercise also reduces stress, improves sleep, and boosts our mood, all of which impact our cognitive abilities.
  8. Take notes. College courses and lectures give you a lot of information at once. To make sure you are absorbing the information you need, write down notes in a notebook or a notebook app. When reading, use highlighters or underline sections with important information so you don’t have to search for it later. Also utilize sticky notes when you need to separate or organize your thoughts, such as when you plan a research paper.
  9. Recite information out loud. When studying or following instructions, recite the information aloud. Saying it out loud to yourself or repeating it to someone else helps you reinforce what needs to be done and what information your brain needs to keep in order for you to execute that thought or task effectively.  

After college, you will use your working memory to help you perform the duties outlined in your job description. Are you still searching for a career that’s right for you? Our Career Finder can help you discover the career that fits your interests best so you can start exercising your working memory skills in the right workplace.