You ever feel like that? You have a test in school but once the papers have been handed out, you can no longer remember anything about the subject no matter how hard you studied? Or, you’re in a meeting, your boss asks you a question about the monthly statistics but you can’t even recall the key facts, even though you monitor these things all day long?
I do. As if my mind erases everything I know after a short period of time. I can’t memorize a thing. I constantly check, double-check, triple-check things just to be sure.
And to be honest, I think it’s the Internet’s fault.
Since we now have the whole information of the world in the palm of our hands, we no longer rely on our brains to remember stuff. We have tools, apps, notes and other digital solutions that are designed to store information for us and take the burden off our shoulders. And while this seems all great and all, we might be getting stupider.
At first, I thought that I’m the only one who can’t remember important things (like when was my mother’s birthday?). But when I dig deeper I found that there are other people complaining from inability to remember the name of the person we were introduced to seconds ago.
People around the world are struggling. There are a lot of folks in forums who search for answers to questions like these: I have a very bad short term memory. I can’t memorize anything. My memory is awful. What can I do about it?1
Then I thought, why not create a post that will help people remember things?
So I did.
Below you’ll find a simpler explanation of the best memorization techniques which will help you remember where you left your damn keys, learn a new language, remember grocery lists, score higher in tests, memorize speeches, look smart in the office… In other words, become a memory athlete who can answer questions without constantly using Google.
Top 3 Memorization Techniques Explained Simply
Memorization Technique #1: The Loci Method
This is the long and boring definition of the Loci Method:
In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject ‘walks’ through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items.”2
But to be honest, I wasn’t able to understand this technique by reading the above definition.
That’s why I crafted a simpler one:
Imagine a place you’re familiar with and take it into pieces – make it into separate parts (loci). Then, associate each loci with a single item from the list of things you want to remember. Once you associate the areas with the things you want to remember, to recall the information, you simply take a mental journey through this place. As if you’re walking through this district in real life.
Still sounds confusing?
Let me give you an example:
Say you have to give a speech. You’re invited to do a TED talk. Congrats!
While it sounds super exciting, you’re probably extremely nervous about speaking in front of a bunch of strangers. A lot of things can go wrong. But the worst of all is forgetting your notes. Fortunately, we have techniques like the Loci Method to help you become the next online sensation.
To use it you need to do the following:
Let say your speech is going to be about Digital Minimalism: How To Lower Digital Use In Your Daily Life. And the 4 key points in your talk will be:
- No screens in bed
- Limit social media to 30 minutes daily
- Check email only once a day
- Limit all streaming to one day
To remember the above by using the Loci Method you need to do the following 3 things:
- First, pick a location you’re familiar with and separate it into different parts: For example, you might pick your apartment and the different rooms in your house will be your loci(s): your bedroom, your bathroom, your kitchen, and your living room.
- The second step is critical. We need to associate the things we want to remember with the actual rooms. The idea here is to visualize each loci with each item. In our case, we can associate the first lesson: No screens in bed, with our bedroom. Limit social media to 30 min daily with our bedroom. Schedule all emails once a day with our living room. And finally, Limit all streaming to one day with our kitchen.
- The third step is to create a story in your head that will help you later recall the information. Simply associating things with rooms won’t work. You need something stronger. You need a compelling story. Something similar to the following: Imagine yourself waking up. Before kissing your spouse you reach for your phone to check social media. You place your hand on top of the plastic screen but instead of unlocking it, you feel a burn. Your phone is boiling red. You start rubbing your eyes. “Probably it’s just a dream,” you wonder. At this moment, the screen flashes and the following text appears: No screens in bed. Then, you go to the bathroom. You desperately want to read the news. Maybe there are other folks who woke up with lava hot phones next to them, who knows? You need to check! You grab your tablet eager to see what’s going on but the screen crashes with a notice: “Limit social media to 30 min daily.” At this moment, you’re scared. You wonder, “What the heck is going on!” You rush to the living room to check your emails but your laptop transforms into a giant envelope and says, “Check email only once a day!” Tired of all the bullshit you surrender and you decide to watch a show on Netflix but instead of seeing the standard home page when you turn on the TV, a pop-up appears stating: “Streaming is allowed only on Sunday!“
As you probably noticed, the story is crazy. Fictional. But that’s the whole point.
The idea here is to paint a vivid picture in your head about the things you want to remember. Our brain adores information that is engaging and colorful. The more absurd your associations are, the easier you will remember them.3
Memorization Technique #2: The Roman Room
Roman Room Trick memorization method is quite popular amongst the participants in the World Memory Championships.4 Created by the ancient Greeks, the Roman Room technique is a powerful tool that will allow you to hack your brain to remember almost anything.
In essence, this method is based on associating well-known elements in a particular room with the things we want to remember.
The technique goes like this:
Imagine your bedroom for a moment. Visualize yourself standing there. Now, start numbering the corners and the walls in that room starting from your left shoulder. The corner on your left will be 1. Then, the wall that follows if we move clockwise will be 2. The far left corner will be 3. The wall directly in front of you will be 4. The next corner 5. The wall on your right 6. The corner slightly behind you will be 7. The doorway will be 8. Finally, we should also number the floor (9) and the ceiling (10).5
You now have 10 completely different elements in that single room. 10 different slots to fill with the information you want to learn. But in order for this method to work properly, and to help you recall data faster, you need to make these locations distinctive from one another.
By associating each number with an object standing near?
For example, if there is a clock on the wall in front of us, we’ll associate it with the number 4. Then, we’ll also attach the word we want to remember to the actual clock. In the end, both the clock and the actual number 4 will bring in our minds a specific thing we want to remember.
Using the TED talk example, we can use this technique to recall the sub-items related to the first lesson in our talk. Or in other words, the hot phone mentioned above will remind you about the title of the first lesson while the walls and the corners in that particular room will help you remember the actual information inside that lesson – e.g. why using your phone in your bed is bad, how it can ruin your relationship, and what you can do about it. To do so, simply relate keywords to the walls and corners. For example, you can assign “blue light” to number 1 if there is a bedside lamp, 2 with REM sleep and the associated item will be a clock, etc.
This technique can be extended to your entire apartment and it fits perfectly with the first method.
But there is more.
If you want to level up your memorization game, you can create your own imaginary house in your head that contains the things you want to remember from a book, a movie, or the set of steps you need to take in order to assemble the engine of your car. Sit down and create a custom Roman Room and tailor the objects inside to fit the things you want to learn.
There is no limitation here. You can have an unlimited number of rooms. Therefore, retain long valuable lessons for a long period of time.6
Memorization Technique #3: Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is by far my favorite tactic to memorize things and brainstorm ideas. I often find myself drawing imaginary lines in my head and grouping similar items together. This technique helps me in various ways and it’s actually the method I use to organize the key facts from the books I read. It’s super simple, easy to implement, and there are also a lot of online apps that can help you create cool-looking mind maps.
The idea of mind mapping is really simple: To visually organize the key components of a big idea and present how they communicate with each other.
To create a mind map you can follow these steps:
On top of an empty spreadsheet, write down the main idea, task, project. Basically, the thing you’re going to observe. Usually, a single word is enough to describe the concept of your mind map. Below, hierarchically, describe the relationships between the different components of that idea and how they are related to the core.
A lot of folks suggest also using different colors and adding images to your mind map. While I prefer keeping things simpler, these suggestions do help to recall information faster.
Let’s connect everything together so you can understand how you can create your own mind map. Again, we can use the TED talk example from above:
- Title (general idea): The title of my mind map will be Digital Minimalism.
- Topics: I will have 4 major topics emerging from the central idea.
- Subtopics: Each topic will have a couple of subtopics depending on the complexity of the lesson. I can also use different colors for different subtopics. For instance, since I have a lot of red items in my bedroom, I can draw red lines for the first key lesson. This color cue will help me visualize my bedroom faster. Thus, recall the information quicker.
While there are a lot of online tools and various ways to create your mind map, as mentioned, grabbing only a pen and paper is the best way to do it.
Don’t Clutter Your Mind With Nunsense
The memorization techniques above can help you become a mental guru, yes, but don’t fool yourself. You don’t have to memorize everything!
In fact, you should strive to keep as little information as possible in your head. There’s a lot going on around us and trying to remember all the nuances of our daily lives will only lead to burnout.
I know, this might sound a bit contradictory with what I want to teach you in this post but the truth is that the majority of the things that occur in our daily lives are unworthy for us to keep.
I surely don’t want to remember all the 13,879 ads that we presented from various sites. Nor I want to clutter my brain with my spendings through the day. I have an app for that.
Albert Einstein said it best a long time ago: “Never memorize something that you can look up.”
Cluttering your mind with phone numbers and small daily tasks is unnecessary if you ask me. You have a phone and probably even a backup of that phone, why would you ever need to know a phone number by heart?
Some Closing Thoughts
While you don’t need to stuff your brain with facts, there are certain things you want to remember. Some of these things might be: lessons from books, notes from famous talks, past experiences, etc. All these can be really helpful when you’re facing a critical situation and an important decision needs to be made.
If you struggle to remember where I left your keys, make sure you spend some time studying and practicing the above-mentioned memorization techniques.
A strong memory can improve the health and vitality of your brain. It will help you organize your thoughts and essentially, help you live a better life.
- A lot of folks are complaining that their minds are playing tricks on them in online forums. Check these two links: LINK; LINK.
- From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Method of loci.
- The following two videos helped me understand the Loci Method: LINK; LINK.
- Yes, there really is such a thing! Here’s a link to the site: LINK.
- I’ve used the following sources to understand this method: LINK; LINK.
- The last part is something I read in the following article: The Roman Room System.