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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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Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on December 9, 2019

7 Most Efficient Note Taking Methods

7 Most Efficient Note Taking Methods

Whether you are going back to college or have decided to take learning into your own hands, note-taking is a skill that is truly unique.

On the surface, it can seem like jotting down the important points or stating everything word for word. But delving into the world of note-taking begins a realization that there is more to it than that.

So if you feel like your note skills are rusty, or if you didn’t care much about note-taking, here are some strategies to help you prepare and succeed in this area.

What to Do Before Note Taking

There are all kinds of strategies and systems in place to be taking notes. Some are more formal methods for taking notes while others are strategies that have helped others in the past. But before jumping into note-taking techniques, there are some things to consider prior to learning:

Adopt a Note Taking Mindset

Even our attitude and behavior plays a factor in our ability to take notes. For example, snacks with high sugar or high salt will impact our ability to pay attention to. This also applies to coffee which – if not consumed in moderation – can impact sleep and your ability to pay attention and focus as well.

In this regard, we can see already how mood can impact our ability to take notes. If we’re not focused or easily distracted, we will have a tougher time putting together accurate notes. But that is a more extreme case.

If you’re someone who doesn’t drink coffee or has a snack before class, attitude can still play a significant role. Think back to classes that you weren’t that excited for or that you were bad at. The only reason those topics are not your strong suit can be chalked up to your attitude.

Think about it:

The topics you excelled at made you feel good and you had a vested interest in. This is no different from other pursuits in your life. Compared to things you lack interest in, it’s clear that you would make no effort to learn about something that you don’t want.

So attitude makes a difference and this logic can be applied to even topics you’re not big on. All you need to do is have a positive attitude, pay attention, and study with a classmate or two.

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Preparing Before Class

First, if you are taking a formal course, it pays to be prepared. One study by Spies and Wilkin[1] found that law students who read a legal case before getting to class displayed deeper understanding of the material compared to others.

This doesn’t apply to courses where you are assigned reading but in all manner of courses. With plenty of information made available at our fingertips, there is a lot of opportunities for us to learn about the subject before a course or a training session.

This will pay off for you as you’ll spend more time focusing on understanding the tougher aspects of a topic rather than absorbing the information as is.

7 Efficient Note Taking Techniques

In Miami University’s public database, there is a course outlining note-taking and active listening [2]. These particular methods are some of the more popular methods for taking notes.

1. The Outline Method

This method is used for simplicity and is one of the easiest methods of taking notes. Anyone can pick up this method and use it with no issues.

When using this method, the idea is to select four or five key points that are going to be covered in a specific lesson. Under those key points, you write more in-depth sub-points based on what is being discussed on those topics.

The idea with this form of note taking is so it doesn’t overwhelm you. But you’ll pay attention in a different manner. In the case of this approach, if you know what’s being discussed, you’ll focus on the important aspects of that topic rather than wonder what’s coming up next.

Use this method in cases where:

  • You want your notes to be organized from the start.
  • To see the relationships between both topics and subtopics.
  • You want to convert the points into questions to quiz yourself on later.

2. The Cornell Method

Developed in the 1950s by Cornell University, this is the most common note taking method around. In fact, the outline method is likely inspired by this method as there are similarities to it.

In this method, you are still using key points, but this method goes deeper into the organizing method. For one, the page is broken into three sections:

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  • a narrow column called the “cue”
  • a wider column for your actual notes
  • a summary at the bottom

The cue section is the section where you fill out main points, people, potential test questions and more. This section is devoted to helping you recall larger topics and ideas.

The note section is devoted to expanding and explaining those cue points. You still want to summarize them to an extent using headings. When getting into specifics, you want to indent them and use a numbering system, either roman numerals, numbers, or letters.

The summary section is the section you write up at the end summarizing all of the information in a clear sentence or two. You want both the summary and the cue to be simple seeing as your notes are where you want all of the details.

Here’s an example illustrated by Comprehension Hart:[3]

    This method is great if you:

    • Want notes to be organized even further and easier to review.
    • Want to pull out major ideas and concepts quickly.

    3. Mind Mapping Method

    Mind mapping is a method that works for subjects that have interlocking topics or complex and abstract ideas. Chemistry, history, and philosophy are examples where this method shines.

    The use of the map is to serve as a visual aid for how every topic is related to one another. It also allows you to go into detail on particular ideas or topics. An example of this at work is looking at the French Revolution.

    First, you’d start with that concept at the center and then begin branching off that led to events, and people that sparked the French Revolution.

    You can start off with broad general ideas and during the course or when you are reviewing, you can add in sub-concepts to those branches. Things like dates, support facts, concepts that you see between people and events.

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    That being said, this method doesn’t apply to  only those kinds of topics. Any kind of topic that you can break into various points can also help as well. Another example can be talking about different forms of learning and using the nodes to discuss each method and what each one is like.

    Learn more about this method here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

    This type of method for note taking is great for:

    • Visual learners who struggle with studying via notes.
    • For people who need to remember and connect relationships, and events with topics.

    4. Flow Notes Method

    Discussed in a post in College Info Geek,[4] this method is for those who want to maximize active learning in the classroom and save time in reviewing.

    The idea of flow notes is to treat yourself as a student rather than transcribing word for word. In this method, you’ll jot down topics, then start drawing arrows, make doodles, diagrams and graphs to get a general idea out there.

    This method also helps in drawing other bridges and form connections in various fields or within the subject. If some information reminds you of another piece of information or technique, make a note and jot it down.

    Take a look at this video to learn a bit more about this method:

    The only catch with this method is that while it’s great for learning at that moment, you may have a tough time reviewing them later. You may want to pair this method with another method mentioned above.

    5. The Sentence Method

    Another simple method and is a lesser version of flow notes. The idea with this is a simple note-taking. You’re jotting down everything that’s being said to the best of your ability. It’s genuine transcription at it’s finest.

    The problem with this method is that it can be tough to keep up with everything else that’s happening. If you’re writing notes by hand, you will definitely be missing key points and ideas. On a computer, you may be able to keep up, however, you may face challenges still.

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    Despite those problems, there are still advantages to this method. Compared to every other method, this provides the most details and information for review:

    • You can still be brief by covering the main points.
    • Your notes are already simplified for you to study and review them immediately.

    6. Charting Method

    Charting notes take the Cornell method and divide a sheet into three columns. Similar to the mind mapping method, this helps you in connecting relationships and facts together between topics.

    This method is a lazier method than the other ones mentioned above but works for the people who want to highlight key pieces of information on various topics and want to organize facts for easy review.

    7. Writing on Slides

    The final method is another strategy for people who can’t be bothered to take extensive notes. This method works well particularly in classes where the instructor provides slides that they’re using for their lectures.

    Whether it’s a handout or you can download them online, all you need to do is print them off and start writing away on them.

    This method is great because it removes a lot of the worry of taking general notes. Since ideas and concepts are already discussed, it’s a matter of expanding those notes already.

    What Note Taking Techniques Are the Best?

    As you may have noticed, each method is good in its own situation. Depending on what you’re learning – and your own preferences – each method has advantages.

    It’s also worth noting that every person learns and studies in a different manner. With this in mind, consider how you study and figure out the method that best compliments it.

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    Featured photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM via unsplash.com

    Reference

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