chunking technique

Boost learning with the chunking method

October 30, 2023
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Have you ever found yourself struggling to remember phone numbers or grocery lists? Or do you sometimes feel like you have too much information to remember and not enough time to process it all? 

If you answered yes to either (or both!) of these questions, you're not alone. Many people struggle with memory overload and find it difficult to retain information for the long term. 

But we have good news: there's a simple memory strategy that can help you improve your recall skills and make it easier to remember important information. It's called chunking, and in this article, we'll explore what it is, how it works, and how you can start using it today.

What is ‘chunking’ for memory recall?

Chunking is a memory technique (similar to mnemonic devices) that involves breaking down information into smaller, more manageable chunks. The idea is that by breaking down larger pieces of information into smaller, more digestible pieces, you can make it easier to remember and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed by large amounts of information. 

For example, instead of trying to remember a long string of numbers like 1234567890, you could break it down into smaller chunks like 123-456-7890. (This is obviously a simplified example, but it does a good job of illustrating the method.) Breaking things down in this way makes it easier to remember because you're not trying to remember one long string of numbers, but rather three smaller chunks.

Another way to think about chunking is like organizing a messy closet. If you have a closet that's overflowing with clothes and shoes (we’re not judging, we promise), it can be overwhelming to try to find what you need. But if you take the time to organize the closet into smaller sections, like shirts, pants, and shoes, it becomes much easier to find what you're looking for.

Daily chunking: improve your working memory for daily tasks

You might be wondering: What does chunking look like in practice? Here are two real-life examples:

Let's say you need to remember a long list of items you need from the grocery store. Instead of trying to remember the entire list at once, you could break it down into smaller categories like fruits, vegetables, and dairy. This would make it easier to remember because you're not trying to remember one long list, but rather three smaller lists.

Or when you're trying to remember directions to a new restaurant, instead of trying to remember all the turns and street names at once, you can chunk the directions based on key points or landmarks along the route. This approach simplifies the task of navigation because you're staying focused on the smaller, more easily remembered parts of your drive. 

Why bother chunking?

Studies show that using memory techniques like chunking can significantly improve memory recall and make it easier to retain information for long periods of time. 

Chunking can be especially helpful for more complex or lengthy pieces of information, like phone numbers, addresses, and other strings of numbers that can be difficult to remember, or when you’re learning new concepts or studying for exams.

How to start daily chunking

So, are you ready to start improving your memory skills with the chunking method? It's easy to get started! Here's a step-by-step guide to help you nail this powerful memory technique:

  1. Pick something simple to remember, like a grocery list. Think of three categories that you can put the list items into, like fruits, vegetables, and dairy. (Though there is no magic number of categories, the shorter, the better!) 
  2. Now it's time to chunk information! Break down your larger list by rewriting all the items you need to buy under their respective categories. For example, bananas and apples would go under "fruits," while broccoli and carrots would go under "vegetables."
  3. Repeat the chunks to yourself, using silly or memorable associations to help you remember the information. (For example, you could imagine a bunch of bananas and apples having a dance party together!) This will help you remember the information more easily.
  4. Practice recalling the information by trying to recall the items on your grocery list, by chunk, from memory. This will help reinforce the information.

As you can see, chunking doesn't have to be boring or complicated! By using everyday examples like grocery lists and adding playful associations, you can make it fun and easier to remember information. 

So why not give it a try? Who knows—you just might surprise yourself with how much you can remember!

Improve your working memory with the chunking technique today

There’s a lot to remember. And chunking is a simple yet effective memory technique that can help you improve your memory recall and store information for long periods of time.

If you'd like to exercise additional aspects of your memory, consider downloading the Elevate brain training app on iOS or Android. Elevate has award-winning memory games that are specifically designed to improve memory skills, including Sequencing, a game that’ll let you get firsthand practice at the chunking technique. 

With a little practice and patience, you'll be amazed at how much you can grow and improve your memory skills. So why not give it a try?


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