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Published on September 30, 2019

How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

With every advancement in technology, there has been a decline in something else. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the price we pay for convenience. To really show that, let’s take a walk down memory lane.

How many times have you forgotten certain items? Or how about that person’s name from work? How about your own cell phone number?

While these are all minor inconveniences, all these things have one thing in common: they rely on our ability to memorize things.

Now, you could argue that’s what contact lists and grocery lists are for but, that’s the point here. You’re using your phone for that rather than a powerful technique: a memory palace.

There’s nothing wrong with using technology, but it comes at a price and like many others, they’re noticing it’s hard to remember certain things — places, dates, specific items, and more.

Thankfully, this tried and true method has stood the test of time. It is immensely powerful in unlocking memories and being able to retain them with no issues.

By learning what a memory palace is and using the technique, you can change your life and remember so much.

What’s the Memory Palace?

Before showing the potential of this technique, you need to know what it is first.

Another name for this technique is the Method of Loci, though most people will call it the Memory Palace. It’s a memorization technique that was first developed in ancient Greek. Back then, paper was expensive and limited so people relied heavily on their own memories to retain and recall information.

Going further into the technique, many people see the memory palace as a metaphor for any sort of place that you can visualize. It’s essentially a place you can go to to recall vivid memories and then apply them in the real world.

Does It Really Work?

Short answer: yes. Extremely well.

One example to look to is Dominic O’Brien.[1] He was an eight-time world memory champion who used this method. Through this method, he was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence while only having seen each card once.

That’s 2,808 cards that he memorized.

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Another worth noting is the memorization of Pi.

While this is a number without end, many people memorize the numbers for fun. But that’s not the case for a man in India. On March 2015, Rajveer Meena, was able to recite 70,000 decimal places of pi.[2] That feat is overshadowed by a Japanese man who memorized 111,700 decimals.[3]

“But these are all extreme cases,” I hear you saying. Yes, they are.

But these individuals all started somewhere and that somewhere is the Memory Palace.

As I said, the memory palace is a place to house vivid memories. However, under the right circumstances, you can leverage it for a wide variety of things. One of the most common is obviously to memorize patterns.

This works because our brain is wired to associate with things that we see rather than what’s spoken.

Is Sherlock’s Mind Palace Possible?

Another modern day comparison to turn to is Sherlock Holmes’ mind palace. In the TV series “Sherlock,” we see Holmes entering this place time and again. In the show, it’s depicted as an imaginary estate that makes no spatial sense.

The act itself shows this process at work, Holmes entering this treasure trove of memories. It’s an area that he’s familiar with and keeps his memories safe.

It’s definitely something that we all can achieve, but likely not in the same way as how Holmes uses his.

What’s wrong with how Sherlock uses his?

Well, the biggest key to this method is that the place you need to visualize has to be something you are intimately familiar with. The mind palace isn’t so much of a palace as it is something that we are deeply familiar with.

Examples are your own home, office, or the route you take to work.

These are reliable visualizations that even experts use to great degree. Remember the deck of cards I mentioned earlier? Well, one way people memorize the sequence of cards is associating the number and the suit with an object in their house.

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To memorize several decks, they visualize their house or office and begin to look around the “room” and start listing off the suits based on what they see.

5 Steps to Build And Effectively Use a Memory Palace

There are many practical methods for the memory palace outside of setting world records. You can use this technique to recall long to-do lists, grocery lists, names, and more.

Here is how it is done.

1. Select Your Palace

Before even starting, you need to have a place that you are familiar with. This technique is only ever going to work for you if you can mentally see and walk around the area effortlessly. It’s why I suggested an office, or your home or a familiar route.

One other thing I’ll suggest is to define a particular route with said palace. While there’s nothing wrong with visualizing yourself in your home for example, the palace could be more effective if you visualized walking around it.

If you have a specific walkthrough in your home, it’ll be easier for you to leverage the second step to this method.

Also, if the examples I suggested don’t strike your fancy, there are other memory palaces you could create as well. Here are some suggestions:

  • A familiar street. Examples are routes you take to work, or maybe a sequence of streets that you’re familiar with.
  • Current or previous school. Visualize what the school looked like and the pathway to your classes, homeroom, hang-out spot, or the library.
  • Place of work. Think of the route from your desk to the water cooler or coffee machine. Or even to the exit.
  • Scenic views. Imagine taking a route through a local park or a path you fondly remember.

2. Identify Distinctive Features

Once you have a palace, you need to pay especially close attention to the features. For example, if you used your home as your palace, the first thing you’ll think of is likely the front door.

Take some time to pay real close attention to it but also to ask yourself:

What’s in that first room behind that door?

Take note of everything in that room. Even what you do before hand.

When you approach the front door, do you look to the left or to the right normally?

Do you look down and enter a passcode?

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Keep in mind those tiny every day details too.

The idea behind all of this is to create memory slots. These are clues that contain a single piece of information to help you jog your memory. By paying close attention to the actions and details around the area, you can create more memory slots.

It’s this reason why I suggested memorizing a particular route through your memory palace. This creates more memory slots for yourself as more rooms open up to you.

3. Imprint Your Palace

For this to have any effectiveness, you need to have both the place and the route you take 100% imprinted in your head. For those of you who are exceptional at visualization, this shouldn’t be a huge struggle.

However for those do, consider these tips. Commit this to memory however you can using these:

  • Walk the actual route physically and repeat out loud the distinctive features when you see them.
  • List the selected features on a piece of paper and mentally walk through them.
  • Always look at the features in the exact same direction.
  • Understand visualization is a skill and takes practice. Sometimes you have to admit that your visualization isn’t good enough. Nevertheless, there are many ways to grow it.
  • When you think you have it memorized, give yourself a break and go through your memory palace a little later. One study from Purdue University found that quizzes spaced out over periods of time improved retaining information.[4] This same principal applies to the memory palace as you’ll be quizzing yourself later on the sequence of steps you memorized earlier.

Once the palace is imprinted into your mind, you can then start to leverage your palace.

4. Begin Association

Now that the palace is in your mind and you recall the memory slots, you can now start to fill those memory slots.

All you do is take a known image – otherwise known as a memory peg – and place it with an element you wish to memorize.

Where exactly do these go?

These go with the particular features that you selected in your Memory Palace.

Now here is the fun part. While most people would think to keep this all realistic, that’s not the best idea. In fact, it’s better to go with utterly ridiculous, nonsensical, and extraordinary visualizations.

And that’s not me saying this. In the article Memory Palace Science: Proof That This Memory Technique Works, the writer explains the ‘right way’ is:[5]

“Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical — after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.”

To see this in practice, let’s go with a simplistic approach. After all, while we can use this technique to memorize a lot of information, it’s better to start small.

Say you’re memorizing a grocery list. For the sake of the argument, you can use your memory palace to transform your house into an unusual “gingerbread house.”

Need to pick up some apples? Visualize your front door as a gigantic apple.

How about bacon or ground beef? Visualize the smell as you enter your home and realize it’s oozing out of the walls.

All of these things physically wouldn’t happen (except for the smell) and can serve as mental cues. They give you pause and remind you to pick up those specific items.

Effective right?

5. Visit Your New Palace

The last step is to spend some time in the place. If this technique is new to you, going through it once may not be enough for you. That’s not to say you need to do this a lot, but doing quick rehearsals and repeating the journey a few times helps a lot.

This technique demands a lot of visualization, and rehearsing in of itself is developing those skills too. The better you are at visualizing, the more relaxed you’ll be and easier it’ll be to memorize things in the future.

Final Thoughts

The more we grow older, the more important it is for us to retain memories. If we do not exercise our minds, we risk exposing ourselves to many dangers. There are so many conditions that impact older folks and a lot of it stems from our own mind.

So like your body, make a habit of developing your mind. You don’t need to go to the extreme and have a mind palace per se, but it’s a massive step forward to create and to use one.

More About Enhancing Memory

Featured photo credit: Kat Stokes via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Peak Performance Training: Dominic O’Brien
[2] Guiness Record: Most Pi places memorised
[3] The Guardian: He ate all the pi : Japanese man memorises π to 111,700 digits
[4] American Psychological Association: A powerful way to improve learning and memory
[5] Magnetic Memory Method: Memory Palace Science: Proof That This Memory Technique Works

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on January 14, 2020

15 Effortless Memorization Tricks To Remember Anything

15 Effortless Memorization Tricks To Remember Anything

The struggle is real!

With so much happening in life, it’s hard to remember the details. In particular, names, due dates, requirements and locations slip from the mind every so often. But the memorization tricks outlined in this article should ensure that you never forget stuff that matters.

I used to have a problem with remembering names and faces.

You see, I meet new people every day from around the globe and it’s just too many new names and faces for my mind to register.

But I’ll tell you this:

It’s certainly quite embarrassing to have coffee with somebody and not recognize them the next day.

The problem is that forgetting is such a passive action that you often have no control over it.

Let me explain:

When you forget something, it’s not like you’re actively trying to. It just… happens and that makes it hard to inhibit your forgetfulness.

I mean, how do you stop doing something that you’re not really doing?

So, I just accepted that this is how it is and I’m going to have to live with it.

But several embarrassing encounters later, I’ve consolidated a list of memorizing tips that worked like magic for me.

I’ve used them to overcome my problem of remembering people and their names which has helped me immensely in improving communication and collaboration within and outside of my company.

Now before we dive into the memorization tricks that I wanted to discuss with you, let’s first take a look at how and why we forget.

The Science of Forgetting

In 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus put forth his theory that outlined the “Forgetting Curve”.[1] This curve shows how much information we retain after a certain amount of time has passed since initially memorizing it.

You might be a bit concerned about how valid this theory is, given that it was initially presented in the 19th century.

But in a 2015 analysis, scientists found that the Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve was completely accurate.[2]

Fascinatingly, the Forgetting Curve shows that just after a day of memorizing something, we remember about 30% of it.

Before we jump into the memorization tricks in this article, I’d first like to explain to you why you forget in the first place. Knowing the root cause of forgetfulness will help you apply the information that you gather.

When you initially learn something, your mind transfers it into the hypothetical short-term memory chamber.

Your brain doesn’t know which piece of information is important and which needs to be discarded. So, it waits for a signal that helps it recognize important pieces of information that it can then shift into the hypothetical long-term memory chamber.

One of the more obvious of such signals is repetition. As shown in the forgetting figure below, repetition can change the shape of the forgetting curve.

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    All the memorization tricks and tips in this article revolve around signaling the importance of memories to your mind so it can move that piece of information from the short-term memory chamber to the long-term one.

    15 Memorization Tricks That Work

    Enough of science; let’s get into the business end of this article. Here are 15 memorization tricks that work:

    1. Say it 3 Times

    This is one of the simplest learning methods that I’ve been using and it seems to yield some great results.

    Make a habit of saying something 3 times as soon as you hear it. This will help you retain that information longer in your brain. In my case, when someone would tell me their name, I’d say it thrice under my breath. This signaled to my brain that this piece of information is important and I’d like to remember it.

    2. Link it to an Established Long-Term Memory

    What if you already have something in your long-term memory that you can link your new piece of information to?

    Imagine this:

    There’s a piece of information that resides deep in your hypothetical long-term memory chamber. Once you claim a new memory, you stick it to the old one.

    What do you think will happen?

    Of course, the new memory will retain better because of the strong memory that you linked it to.

    For instance, people set their 4-digit pin codes for their birthdates (or their spouse’s) all the time. It’s easier to remember because they have an already established link in their mind that’s probably never going to break.

    3. Type Away

    Writing something down is a common memorizing trick that works for many.

    The problem?

    You almost never have a pen and paper close at hand when you need it.

    So here, I decided to go a bit unconventional and use technology to my advantage.

    I started typing notes on my phone that I’d revisit before sleeping.

    A lot of times, I wouldn’t even have to revisit my notes because the mere act of typing them would help me retain that memory.

    But if typing it out doesn’t help, rereading it at night surely will.

    4. Spaced Repetition

    As mentioned above, further research on the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve showed that it’s best to revise a piece of information after a certain amount of time as it helps your mind retain it better.

    Now, what a lot of people do is that they try to repeat or revise a memory as soon as they attain it.

    But research shows that it’s useless to adopt that strategy. The goal isn’t to avoid forgetting that memory; it’s to forget it so you can relearn and solidify its roots in your brain.

    The same research suggested 4 repetitions; around 20 mins, 50 mins, 9 hours and 5 days after memorizing something.[3]

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    But it might not be practical to revisit a memory in that fashion. So, as we recommend in our article on Spaced Repetition, just revise an important memory 24-36 hours after initially learning it and you should see 90% above retention rates.

    5. Grasp the Concept

    Back in college, rote learning never seemed to work for me.

    No matter how many times I’d repeat a phrase and try to learn it by heart, I’d have completely forgotten it by the next day.

    So I tried to memorize the concept, not the words.

    This worked great for me back then and still works well when I’m trying to understand the mechanics of a company or a business.

    6. Interleaved Practice

    If you mix it up, you’ll see better results in memorization.

    Most people, when they’re trying to memorize or learn something, keep working at it until it’s all done or perfect.

    It doesn’t make much sense if you leave a memorization task in the middle right? Wrong!

    Research shows that if you learn two different things at once, you’ll learn them better. This is called interleaved practice.

    Now that are 2 reasons why interleaved practice shows spectacular resuLts:

    Similar memories get mixed up in the brain

    Interleaved practice makes it harder to recall a memory. And the harder the practice session, the better your results!

    7. Use Storytelling

    Without a doubt, storytelling is one of the most powerful skills that one can master.

    And the reason is simple:

    Stories captivate us like nothing else.

    Look at all the forms of entertainment that we have nowadays and you’ll see storytelling in each one of them; movies, songs, music videos, video games, vlogs… the list goes on.

    The reason is simple:

    Our brain is obsessed with stories.

    So the next time you’re trying to memorize something, try creating a story in your head that would help you remember it.

    8. Record Your Audio

    Here’s another fantastic memorizing trick that puts technology to great use.

    When you’re trying to memorize something, just audio record yourself on the phone and listen to it on repeat.

    You don’t need to do this for long. In fact, about 15-20 minutes of listening to yourself should be more than enough.

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    This is especially useful for auditory learners.

    9. Create Parts

    What if I tell you to memorize this number in 20 seconds:

    583957304

    I’m sure that sounds like a daunting task.

    But what about:

    583-957-304

    This looks easier although both numbers are essentially the same.

    The only difference in both numbers is that the second one has two dashes. Now, the dashes themselves aren’t significant. What’s significant is the fact that the dashes break the number into 3 parts.

    When you break the number, it becomes easier to remember. Your brain can then focus on individual parts and consolidate them in the end.

    In fact, this memorization technique is pretty much a setup to trick your mind into thinking the task is easier than it actually is.

    So, the next time you’re learning something extensive, create parts out of it and focus on each part individually.

    10. Focus on Keywords

    I like to use this method in conjunction with “Grasping the Concept”.

    You see, there are just some things that require word-for-word learning.

    And if you’re not good at it, then learning keywords becomes your last option.

    It’s likely that you’ve used this technique if you buy the groceries. All you do is memorize keywords like “6 eggs” but never “buy half a dozen eggs” because the rest of all the words contribute nothing (or very little) to the message.

    11. Say it out Aloud

    Here’s another learning trick for auditory learners:

    Say your words out aloud.

    I’m a firm believer that the more senses you stimulate while learning, the better you’ll learn.

    This means that reading alone (using your visual sense only) is not nearly as effective as speaking your words while you read them because it stimulates your sense of hearing as well.

    Ideally, you’d want to use this technique with writing or typing.

    12. Retain While You Sleep

    Did you know that sleeping could help improve your memory?

    Well, researchers from Matthew P. Walker and Robert Stickgold sure think so. In their research, “Sleep, Memory and Plasticity”, they maintain that sleep has a major role in “memory consolidation” and “memory reconsolidation”.[4].

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    Another research published in Current Opinion in Neurology shows that,[5]

    “Sleep is important for optimal learning.”

    By that logic, memorizing just before you go to sleep is a nice way of strengthening that memory. While you sleep, your brain should work on that memory’s consolidation and reconsolidation.

    Also, it’s important to get a good amount of sleep in for improving memory in general.

    13. Challenge Yourself

    Most people think that memorizing is all about reading and speaking.

    And that’s partly why they aren’t particularly good at it.

    Most of the time, we’re trying to memorize something all day but when the right time comes, our memory fails to support us.

    A good way to eliminate that problem is to test yourself in the middle of the day.

    Challenge yourself in the middle of the day to recall what you’re trying to learn. It doesn’t necessarily need to be in a learning environment. In fact, you could try recalling while you’re in the elevator, having lunch or walking to your office.

    14. Mnemonics

    Mnemonics have been for ages to learn a list of words in order.

    And the only reason why they’ve stood the test of time is that they work.

    In this method, you list out the first letter of each word and then try creating a sentence/phrase out of them that can be memorized.

    A common example is the “Roy G. Biv” mnemonic that’s used to memorize the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet).

    Although recent research on effective learning techniques ranked mnemonics as a low utility learning method, the only reason for that was that mnemonics don’t have a wide variety of applications in general learning.[6]

    However, they work like magic if you’re trying to learn a foreign language or increase vocabulary.

    15. Use a To-Do List App

    The last memorizing trick on our list is to use a To-Do List app.

    A lot of these apps come with the added functionality of displaying your notes on the home screen of your phone.

    A lot of others come with a sticky notification of that note that appears 24/7 on your phone.

    By typing what you want to memorize in that note, you can then read it again every time you use your phone.

    And if you’re anything like the common man, this memorization trick should give you the opportunity to review your memory multiple times in the day.

    If you tend to forget easily, start trying these memorizing tricks. They’ve changed my life and will change yours too!

    More to Boost Your Memory

    Featured photo credit: Sincerely Media via unsplash.com

    Reference

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