What a Memory Psychologist Can Teach Osteopaths About Confidence

Do you quickly forget what you learn? As osteopaths, it's a real confidence-knocker when you don't remember something. Here's 5 strategies you can do to start remembering what you learn.

Do you want to be a more confident osteopath?

I speak to osteopaths all the time who feel like their lacking confidence with recalling knowledge from memory.

From stressed students with important exams looming to osteopaths experiencing imposter syndrome when they start forgetting key information.

Unless you have a photographic memory or you are some sort of mutant we can’t remember everything.

But being able to recall information is an essential part of being a confident student and practitioner.

So, in this article, we’re going to be covering the work of German Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’s the Forgetting Curve and how his 5 steps will mean you’re crazy confident the next time you need to remember a key piece of information as if you studied it yesterday.

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What is The Forgetting Curve?

The Forgetting Curve shows how what we learn slips from our memory over time – unless we take action to keep it there.

Ebbinghaus wanted to understand more about why we forget things and how to prevent it.

He experimented with his own ability to remember using a list of nonsense syllables which he attempted to recall after different lengths of time.

Here’s what he found out about recalling information from memory:

  • Memories weaken over time. If we learn something new, but then make no attempt to relearn that information we remember less and less of it as time go by.
  • The biggest drop in retention happens soon after learning. This is reflected by the steep fall at the start of the Forgetting Curve.
  • It’s easier to remember things that have meaning. If we’re naturally interested in something or know it’s going to be asked during an exam, we’re more likely to remember it because it has meaning.
  • The way something is presented changes how we learn. Information is easier to remember if it’s been organised logically and presented clearly.
  • How you feel affects how well you remember. Stress and sleep play a significant part in how well we retain information. The more stressed and tired we are, the harder things are to remember which causes more stress.

5 steps to recalling knowledge with confidence

So, now we understand more about memory, let’s cover 5 strategies to prevent forgetting and boost your memory.

1. Use “Spaced Learning”

The steepest drop in memory happens straight after we absorb the information. Like when you meet a new person, they tell you their name and you forget it immediately. So it’s key to re-visit the information sooner rather than later.
The good news is that regular review sessions will help reinforce what you’re learning as each new curve is shallower than the last. Double good news, you can leave longer and longer gaps between these review sessions. That’s “spaced learning.”

So, use a physical or digital calendar and organise dates to review information so you can stretch your recall ability and strengthen the memories encoded in your brain. As a guide, try 1 day, 2 days, 7 days and finally 30 days after you originally learned it then tweak it to find your sweet spot.

2. Get into Deep Work

Many of us think that we’re ready to learn when in fact we’re not. Tick off these few simple things to learn better and faster. Limit distractions. Obvious but we’ve all fallen at this hurdle.

  • Turn off your phone.
  • Cut out email.
  • Turn off your internet all together.
  • Move into a quiet space like a library, stay in your treatment room or even go under the stairs if you have to!

It sounds boring but as Cal Newport says in his book Deep Work:

The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life…

3. Make information meaningful

We believe all information can be of some use, so there’s a strong temptation to learn it all when our primary focus should be to make things clear, relevant and purposeful. Let’s break each of those down.

In my experience, the best way to make things clear is to digitise everything. Yes, you absolutely can write your first draft of notes but then reinforce your memory by transferring that information into a word document or powerpoint.

My history teacher in school taught me the skill of bullet-pointing.

So, keep things relevant and purposeful by filtering the information and avoid recording everything.

4. Make everything practical

The more you know how something will benefit you in the long term, the more likely your memory will prioritise it.

So make the information practical.

If you’re a student, create study questions or an interactive presentation to teach your study group.

You can even turn into examiners for the day by asking each other questions and checking everyone’s answers.

Whereas if you’re an osteopath learning by yourself create a how-to guide for specific conditions that covers your approach, questions and treatment plan.

Then, meet up with an osteo friend for every month and exchange knowledge.

5. Embrace knowledge gaps

If you go to recall something and you discover a knowledge gap, don’t worry. This is most productive time to stretch your recall. Learning done at this point will be stronger than ever because of the mental challenge involved.

Now you’re equipped with everything you need to be a sage at recording and recalling knowledge.

Written by Alan Zaia M.Ost

Founder & CEO of Osteohustle. You’ll find Alan coaching osteopaths, travelling in a van or writing our weekly newsletter, The Hustle.

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The greatest osteopaths in the world never stop learning.

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By subscribing to The Hustle, you agree to our terms and conditions. We’ll never send spam.