How to remember what you read


Do you sometimes find as soon as you've finished reading an article you can't remember the details? Dr. Cynthia Green, author of Total Memory Workout has advice to help you remember what you read.

How to remember what you read

Do you ever have trouble remembering something you just read? Distractions like lack of sleep or other anxieties can prevent us from paying complete attention. Here are tips from Dr. Cynthia Green:

  • Pay attention. Do whatever you can to improve your attention for that information. Remind yourself that you’re trying to remember it.
  • Remove distractions. Make the effort to diminish distractions like background music.
  • Improve your lifestyle. Look at your lifestyle habits like eating and sleeping. Make sure they promote memory health.
  • The S.I.N.G. technique. This technique helps you remember what you read:
  • “S” is for stop. Give yourself a moment to focus after reading a piece of information.
  • “I” is to identify the main point—the backbone—of what you read.
  • “N” stands for “never mind the details”. Important details will fall into place once you remember the main point.
  • “G” is for “get the gist.” If you can remember the “heart” of the story along with its “backbone,” you’ll remember the story more effectively.

Stacey: I’m Stacey Tisdale for Do you wish you had a better memory for things you just read? You can, according to Dr. Cynthia Green, psychologist and author of Total Memory Workout. Thank you so much for joining us.

Cynthia: Thanks for having me.

Stacey: Sometimes I’ll be reading something, I’ll go to tell someone about it, details are missing. Why do we have problems remembering something we just read?

Cynthia: When we read something, we often just go through it once. And if it’s something like the newspaper, we’re going to be reading one article after another after another, so we’re not really giving ourselves an opportunity to get all of that information by stopping or by rehearsing it.

Stacey: Give me some general tips for improving my memory.

Cynthia: Some general tips on how we can improve our memory for things that we read, are first of all, to pay attention; to do whatever we can to improve our attention for that information, to be aware that we want to remember this information, and to make the effort while we’re reading to really be focused. To diminish our distractions, to, you know, turn down that music in the background; to really put ourselves in a place, mentally, where we’re really focused on that information. Then, also, it’s important to look at our lifestyle day-to-day, and this is true for anything that we want to remember better. If we want to live a memory-healthy life, we have to have lifestyle habits in terms of how we sleep and how we eat that support good memory health.

Stacey: I know you say one technique that can help us remember much better, the SING technique. S-I-N-G. Tell us what that stands for, starting with the S.

Cynthia: The SING technique is a great technique for remembering stories. S, which is the first step, stands for stop. Stop yourself; when you finish reading something, such as a chapter in a book or the end of a newspaper article, stop for a second. Give yourself a second to focus on what you’ve just read.

Stacey: I.

Cynthia: The next step is to identify the main point of what you read. Everything that is a story has a main point. Stories are hierarchical. Figure out what that main point is, and focus on retaining that information.

Stacey: So what’s the N stand for?

Cynthia: N stands for never mind the details. Sometimes we get so caught in the details that we overwhelm ourselves with information to try to retain.

Stacey: Never mind the details, okay we’re through N, and what’s the G for?

Cynthia: G stands for get the gist. The gist of the story is kind of like having the heart of the story, in addition to the backbone. And if you do that, you’ll have completed the SING technique, and I promise that you’ll remember that story more affectively.

Stacey: I’m going to hold you to that! Thank you so much for joining us. I’m Stacey Tisdale for

meet theexpert
  • Dr. Cynthia R. Green

    Dr. Cynthia R. Green Psychologist, Author Cynthia R. Green, Ph.D. is a nationally recognized expert on memory fitness and brain health. She founded The Memory Enhancement Program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in 1996, and is the author of several self-help books. more about this expert »

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