Instead of using the dictionary, let yourself wonder what the word means. Let your brain try to figure it out. Give it some time. This is what you did when you were 2 years old. It must be the natural way.
There was a study done on memory that is known as the "Zeigarnik effect." A quote from the article where I discovered this:
it was shown that tasks that are interrupted are remembered by adults approximately 90% better than those that are fully completed, and that children, in general, remember only interrupted tasks.You see, when you look up a word in the dictionary, the task is completed. That is why you don't remember the meaning. Your brain is spending no more time thinking about the word or trying to figure it out. You're satisfied, it's over, done, and forgotten about.
Let's look for some other ways in language acquisition that we can apply what Zeigarnik discovered. Perhaps, if you read a story in your target language and never find out how it ends, you will be able to remember the details of the story better. You might recall certain phrases or words that were used in the story. If you are really curious about how it ends, you might end up dreaming about it which means that your brain is processing that story.
Does anyone have any other ideas or comments on the Zeigarnik effect?