Increase your virtual memory

Warning! Virtual memory too low!

image of virtual memory chip being slotted in a man's head

Ever feel like your brain needs a virtual memory boost?

You can increase your own virtual memory, just like you can for your computer. Yesterday, a friend of mine had a problem with her computer. It kept shutting down, for no apparent reason. It was always when she was involved in writing an important work-related document, which was doubly annoying.

She kept watch next time and, sure enough, there was a warning dialog onscreen: Virtual memory too low. I explained about virtual memory and checked the steps to fixing the problem, and printed them out for her. She followed the few steps involved and, like magic, the shutdowns came to a very satisfying halt.

What is virtual memory?

Your computer keeps things in memory when you’re working. There’s only so much memory available, so the computer assigns a small portion of your hard drive to be used as a temporary storage area for when things start to get tricky, a sort of memory overflow. At least, that’s how I understand it. I’m not a computer technician (far from it!), so my explanation may not be very accurate, but I think it’s more or less right. And the thing is (as in so many things with computers), it’s analogous to your own memory.

Virtual memory chip being slotted in a computer

Adding a virtual memory chip. If only it were this easy for brains as well as computers!

Let me put it like this: if I ask you to remember a phone number for me, you can do that, right? Might take a little effort, but you can do it. If I ask you to remember another one, you can do that too. If, for some reason, I then need to ask you to remember a few more, things start to get a bit tricky. You start to feel like your memory is ‘full’. Of course, it’s nothing like full, but that’s the feeling you get when you’re trying to cope with memorising several items all at the same time. You feel like your brain’s overworked and overloaded and you don’t have much faith in it continuing to perform at a high level.

The value of memory techniques

Using memory techniques, such as mnemonics and the the Major System, or just linking things, or using memory pegs, you can increase your memory, just like slotting a new RAM module into a laptop. Or you could look on it as increasing your virtual memory, in that you have assigned a portion of your brain to handle things in a particularly methodical way, rather than using lots of disparate areas of your brain more or less haphazardly, and hoping desperately that some of your memorisation will actually work.

If virtual memory could be slotted in like a computer ... wow!So don’t look on memory training as something for the select few. Don’t see it as an esoteric pastime reserved for those rare and gifted individuals who already have exceptional memories and want to make them even more show stopping.

Memory training is mind training for the masses. It’s one of the most effective ways anyone can use to increase their brain power. While you still have an untrained memory, you’re scrabbling round in the dirt, looking for something special, some magical way to make your brain work more efficiently. That something special is there alright. The diamonds are in the dirt beneath your feet, if only you can spot them. They are the memory techniques and the memory skills that are taught on this site.

A multitude of memory techniques

I know it’s easy to be put off by the fact that there are several different methods to aid memorisation. It almost seems like there’s a glut of methodologies to choose from, and once you step in you can feel almost choked by the multitude of methods and skills vying for your attention. You don’t need to become expert at them all! What you need to do is select one method first and stick with it. Learn it well, working on it any way that works for you.

Use mind maps to learn a new technique, if that’s what works for you, or just make notes in a notebook (or on your computer). Use a lot of repetition at this stage, and flash cards, in fact use anything at all that helps you understand the method and absorb it fully, to the point where you can use it without really thinking about it. It should become almost second nature, and you should make the effort to use the method as often as you possibly can. Seek out ways to exercise your memory, and try out your new-found skills.

Building up your memory toolbox

Now, move on … add to your memory skills by learning another method, and incorporate it into your memory work. Remember, certain memory techniques are specially good for particular things. Some are excellent for helping you memorise lists, whereas others are particularly good where numbers are concerned. Then there is the key word method, and the Journey Method, which can help you learn huge chunks of material, like a section from a text book or a script, or something special, like a best man speech, or a business presentation.

Your brain - memory techniques provide the virtual memory upgrade you need

You alread have the hardware … seems a shame to omit using the right software

Just be aware that you already have the most amazing computing hardware available anywhere, and you’re carrying it around with you twenty-four hours a day, right in your head. Don’t be shy to upgrade it. Although it’s perhaps the most amazing piece of biological hardware anywhere in the known universe, it won’t hurt to bring it up to speed once in a while. Even the finest hardware benefits from an occasional upgrade.

Introducing a new memory technique, and incorporating it into your everyday life can be one of the most rewarding things you can do. And exercising your new memory technique by learning a whole list (US presidents, US states and state capitals, countries and capitals, etc), can be just the start of learning so much more.

Boost your virtual memory

It’s not just computers that need an upgrade, or a memory boost. Increase your own virtual memory, by learning a new memory system and using it … every day.

You already have the finest hardware – you were born with it! You owe it to yourself to install the very best software you can find, and apply it to the challenges you face in your everyday life, whether it be at school, college, university, or in your career.

And it’s all here, freely available, on

Please … make use of it!


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