So what can you do if you need remember, or better yet memorize, something important?
According to new research published earlier this month in the scientific journal Neuron, stop studying in your office. Or in your home. Or anywhere you're familiar. Study in a place that's new to you.
While that might seem odd, since studying in an unfamiliar setting sounds distracting rather than conducive to learning, the opposite turns out to be true.
A fresh environment activates the dopamine system in your brain, and dopamine promotes associative learning, triggering feelings of reward that increase your brain's ability to absorb and retain information. (Associative learning is connecting a stimulus or action with a positive or negative outcome; think connecting the dots.)
In short, the natural buzz you get from being somewhere new--or as the researchers call it, experiencing "inconsequential novel stimulus"--helps you learn more quickly.
"From a very practical perspective," the researchers write, "the results remind us to break our routine more often and seek out novel experiences to be better learners."
Need to nail a new sales demo? Need to nail a presentation? Need to remember a variety of facts and figures to support an idea? Study and rehearse somewhere new.
Just keep in mind that "new" really does mean new.
"Strictly speaking," the researchers write, "anything is only new the first time we perceive it."
Which means you'll constantly have to find new places to study.
But since new can be "inconsequential," where you go doesn't need to have a great view. Or special ambience. Or social cachet.
To learn better and faster, where you go just has to be different.