Sunday, April 15, 2012

1 unbelievably fun tip for memorizing anything (Hack Your Brain #2)

Social media professionals have to juggle unbelievable amounts of information and relationships. How can this be done?

Memory. Aside from using tools, such as Radian6, a strong memory makes all the difference for social media specialists looking to make friends online. 

Unfortunately, many people are intimidated by the idea of relying upon their minds, rather than committing their thoughts to paper. They don’t know how to do it, aside from the usual tips to break down items into abbreviated lists and so on.

Abbreviations work. But you can do much, MUCH better.

If you’re like me, memorizing things can be tricky. That is, until I heard of the Memory Palace technique. People use this simple trick to quickly memorize unbelievable amounts of information. An eight-time world memory champion, Dominic O’Brien, was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence looking at each card only once using this tip.

Intrigued? So was I. Practicing this technique has forever changed how I approach memorization.

I’ll explain how it works.

How your memory works

Your brain is an amazingly powerful organ. And it can remember things far beyond what you might think is the expiration date. How often have you tasted a dish and been transported back to your childhood, or seen a beautiful sight that stays for years? Clearly, it is possible to store info for long periods, without apparently trying very hard and this is all the more true if those thoughts are highly emotional.

The other thing that matters a lot to your remembering information is that your Hippocampus, a visual center in the brain, is intimately tied to your memorizing abilities.
Activate your Hippocampus and chances are that you will be more likely to remember once fleeting thoughts. Make your thoughts highly emotional and you can bank on not forgetting as easily as you once might have.

How can we take advantage of our neurological wiring? We build a palace. 

Build a place in your mind that you already know well

The Memory Palace is highly effective as a memorization tool largely because it activates the Hippocampus. 

Here’s how to do it. In your mind, visualize a place that you already know intimately. The place you visually might be a home you lived in for years, or a path you walk every day through your workplace. The place really doesn’t matter so much as your knowledge of it. If it is a place that you feel strong about, all the better. Your visualized place is your palace.

Now, associate your items for memorizing with the place you have visualized

Create relationships between different areas in your palace with the items you want to memorize. For example, if you want to remember a pencil, you might consider visualizing a pencil as you enter your palace. As you walk through your palace in your mind’s eye, you see other objects you need – a tomato, a crocodile, tickets to an NBA game.

You know what? Let’s keep these items in mind as we go to the next step – a pencil, a tomato, a crocodile, and tickets to an NBA game.

Make your thoughts as emotional and strange as possible (a practical example)

We have already nailed an important part of memory by building memory palaces. Now lets really make those thoughts stick.

The Romans, who came up with the Memory Palace technique, suggested making the thoughts we memorize as gory as possible. They said that the more weird and emotional the image, the better.

Here is how I would do it.

As I walk into my childhood home through the garage, I see the pencil. It is a HUGE pencil, with the circumference of a log. Better escape into the next room, the pencil is rolling after me and might crush my toes! RUN!

Whew, made it. … Uh, the floor is covered in squashed tomatoes … who is going to have to clean up this mess? Ugh!

(Luckily there is a cartoon crocodile in the living room, his teeth dripping with blood and guts. I say luckily, because he has begun sweeping up the tomatoes.)

Better go in the kitchen, this is a little weird. And I don’t like the way the tomatoes are squelching underfoot.

Woah! … It’s Derrick Rose, my favorite player for the Chicago Bulls, and he’s sitting at the kitchen table. Why is he here? … He’s handing over those NBA tickets for my family that I wanted! What a great day.

See what I mean? You might be able to memorize my list more easily than before I made it so bizarre. The more bizarre, emotional and disgusting, the better.

On a side note, there is a major reason I used a childhood theme for my recent Burt and Ernie teach Twitter techniques post. Memories of childhood shows and experiences can be a powerful way of helping others remember our social media content. Of course such content has to be memorable for the right reasons, otherwise it can more easily remain in the mind for the wrong reasons!

How to begin applying the Memory Palace to your work

Now it’s time to practice this technique yourself. While you’re at home, write down a grocery list and commit the items to memory by building a crazy Memory Palace. Leave the list at home; do not look at the list while shopping.

After you get back, check how many items you remembered. If you forgot any items, really think about why that might be. Was your association between the items and the place you constructed strong enough? Were the razor blades you needed not scary enough?

Don’t get discouraged if you were not 100% successful the first time. The more you practice the Memory Palace technique, the easier it will be to remember items. On the other hand, you might find yourself getting perfect scores from the beginning. The key to success is really activating your brain’s emotional and visual center.

Once you have become good at memorizing lists of up to 30 items, you can graduate to relying on this technique at work. Once you can do this reliably with memorizing physical objects, you might try using Memory Palaces to recall abstract concepts linked strongly to physical objects in your mind’s eye. 

For example, if you want to memorize “honor”, you might find remembering a knight in shining armor useful to memorizing that concept. The more you learn how your mind works, the more you can fine tune this process. Eventually you would always want to use the same objects to recall specific concepts.

Well, what do you think? Have you ever used the Memory Palace, and what sort of results have you gotten? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Happy memorizing!


  1. For The Holy Qur'aan, this trick may not work.

    Please refer

  2. Make sure to look up the memory palace technique on Wikipedia too for even more ideas! :)

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