memory techniques that work


Four Memory Techniques That Work

Today we are bombarded with information which explains the growing reliance on smart phones and computer generated calendars to remind us of what we need to do each day. Which may have you wondering what this reliance on technology might be doing to your brain.

Your brain is not technically a muscle, but a thinking organ; so the ‘use it or lose it‘ principle which is commonly associated with muscles will also apply, simply because the brain has the ability to degenerate with lack of use, just like the rest of your muscles.

From a productivity perspective, relying on your memory alone is not a good method for getting everything done or remembering a multitude of details.

So it really is about balance. If your job is loaded with so many events and details that you need to rely on technology to keep you on task, then using the apps and devices that work for you are a must have! You can save the memory techniques for remembering personal things, like shopping lists and passwords.

There are a number of simple memory techniques that can be fun to use and helpful with maintaining or improving memory. Here are four memory techniques that work for me, I hope you find them useful too.

1. The Method of Loci (low-sigh)

This is also known as: The Round the Room Technique

  1. For this technique you need to think of a location that you know very well – like your living room.
  2. You then assign a number to each item in the room, in the order of how you would see the items as you walk into the room e.g. 1. Doorway, 2. TV, 3. Lounge Suite, 4. Coffee Table, etc. (5 -10 items is an ideal list size).
  3. Then take the list of items that you want to remember and assign them to one of the locations in the room.
  4. The ‘key’ is to imagine each item on the list visually as you attach it to the location – the more visually stimulating, bizarre, funny, and active the visualisation the more likely the memory will hold.
  5. Go around the room a couple of times once you have allocated everything, and check that you haven’t missed any locations and items on your list.

How to Use The Method of Loci

You can use this memory technique to remember short grocery lists, here is an example:

For small lists of groceries I use the outside of my home. The anchor items are used in the order I see them when I drive up my driveway. When creating images of the items to be anchored it is important to remember that the more outrageous the visualisation the better our memories will work.

When I get to the Supermarket, I just have to think about driving up my driveway and my anchored list comes back to me.

Here is an example of the anchor locations – a list of items to remember – and the crazy images you can visualise to help remember them.

  1. Front gates –  Bread – Huge shafts of wheat are springing up all over the gate and loaves of bread are shooting into the air.
  2. Letterbox –  Milk – a cow’s head is stuck in the letterbox and milk is pouring across the driveway, I can hear the sound of mooing.
  3. Driveway –  Cat food – the driveway is full dozens of cats – every breed imaginable, they are drinking the milk.
  4. Trees lining the driveway –  Pasta – the trees leaves are giant spirals of pasta which are sprouting, expanding, popping off the trees like fireworks and falling to the ground.
  5. Front steps –  Snacks for lunches – I visualise the range of snacks I need all fighting and bursting to get out of the front door (like banana’s fighting off bags of vege chips) as they stampede towards the driveway.

2. First-Letter Technique

You simply take the first letter of each item you want to remember and create a sentence with them.

These techniques are also known as Mnemonics – which is not an easy word to remember. Funnily enough we can use the first letter technique to help us remember how to spell it: “Memory Needs Every Method Of Nurturing Its Capacity”

Here’s one for remember the order of the Planets: “My Very Excited Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies” – Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

3. Acronym Mnemonics

Acronym Mnemonics is similar to the First-Letter Technique, however, you take the first letter to create of your list of items and create an easy to remember Mnemonic (pronounced new-monic).

Colours of the Rainbow – Roy G.Biv

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.


Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related.

SWOT Analysis

SWOT is a common business tool for planning and assessing – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

4. Narrative Technique

This memory technique involves the creation of stories with vivid images to link groups of words together. That is why storytelling is used by the most effective speakers and presenters wanting to share their message.

Another similar technique is to create songs for long strings of unrelated words. Like the ABC song english speakers use to teach children the alphabet. This technique has also been used for remembering more challenging lists like the periodic table. Adding music to learning makes memorising long lists and important facts much easier.

For more information on all things memory

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything’ by Joshua Foer

Memory Techniques that work

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