Here is a really simple and fun challenge for you. And I assure you it’s worth your time!
Quickly jolt down 10 things to your “To-Do List” that comes to mind. Whatever it is, real or hypothetical, don’t ponder too long over the items in the list. For instance, buying toilet paper from the supermarket, exercising 15 mins today, doing a good deed for the day, remember to clear the trash, etc.
Now, remove that list, and recall the 10 things in sequence (hopefully you still remember it’s 10 items to begin with). Can you do it? Are they in sequential order according to how you list them?
If you can, then let me congratulate you on being a memory whiz! You can probably pick up a skill quickly, and put together bits and pieces of information with ease. If you cannot, however, I congratulate you too for joining the club with the rest of us (me included). Recalling what you had for breakfast this morning before reading this blog would seem like something of the distant past, isn’t it?
So what? Let’s dig deeper.
The Art of Learning
Well, learning and memory are related concepts that intertwines almost synonymously. Learning is the act of acquiring a skill or a knowledge, whilst memory is an expression of what you have acquired before. A different angle to put this into perspective is the speed of learning. Learning is the long process of understanding and acquiring a piece of information. And if it’s an instantaneous process, then that’s memory creation. So base on our challenge above, if you can do the entire process with ease then memory creation is your forte. If it is a challenge for you (pun intended), then you are at the learning phase. So the key to learning anything and everything, is to hone your memory bandwidth and speed by flexing your memory muscles consistently.
The Memory Technique
The solution? Memory Palace (a.k.a. Mind Palace or Memory Journey)
There are a myriad of memory techniques such as mnemonics acronyms, task repetition, Link Method, etc. But the most effective technique by far, invented way back during ancient Roman and Greek times is the Memory Palace, where one can store memories in a familiar mental blueprint. Four times USA Memory champion Nelson Dellis backed this technique as the number one tried and tested formula.
The Memory Palace revolves around the basis of association by pegging an idea, task or object to an already existing strong memory blueprint and recall them in a story-like fashion.
So let’s run through the steps to create your Memory Palace.
- Choose your Palace. More often than not, a strong memory for your mental blueprint could be your house, your workplace, or school, or even your neighbour that you grew up in. A place where you can vividly remember minute details without much effort. For instance, the number of rooms, fixtures and route.
- Next, mentally peg the things you wish to remember on to elements in your Palace.
- Reinforce these memories by animating them as outrageously and absurdly as possible with your imagination.
- Finally, recall them in sequence by walking through your mental map like you are the main character of a story.
Let me have a crack at it!
Little Quirky Stories for the BIG PICTURE
Say my list of things consist of the following:
- Walking my dog in the park
- Get a haircut
- Drive my car to the workshop to have my tyres fix
- Buy skim milk from the supermarket
- Pay my bills
- Read the “Business Times” after work
- Do some research for my travel plans for the year
- Check my reminder clocks for tomorrow’s activity
- Write my “To-Do List” for the week
Honestly, we can definitely build a longer list to work on, but 10 items for now should illustrate my point to a memory palace newbie.
For my mental blueprint, I will pick my own humble home. A 4-room apartment that consist of 2 toilets. So let’s start constructing my palace. And remember to exaggerate the story and be as ludicrous as possible!
Room 1 – Task #1 & #2 (Walk the dog | Haircut)
My dog (a husky) has morphed into a three headed fire-breathing cerberus. He have got a rainbow coloured Afro that desperately needs a trim. And to further add some context, rather than a hell-like environment, the room is filled with the greenest and nicest pasture that you can imagine.
Room 2 – Task #3 (Tyre repair)
An ancient looking dwarf in a blacksmith cavern setting is pounding crazily onto a monster truck tyre. Only when door of the room is open can you hear the deafening pounding noise.
Room 3 – Task #4 & #5 (Skim milk | Bills)
The room is set in a supermarket environment that is filled with really thin cylindrical bottles of milk (Skim milk – get it?). However, instead of milk labels, the bottles are labelled with bills that says “PAST DUE” in red.
Room 4 – Task #6 & #7 (Meditate | Read “Business Times”)
A monastery setting with zen music playing in the background. The meditators are ironically dressed in business suits, while watching the price action of the stock market’s index at a giant screen in front of them.
Toilet 1 – Task #8 (Research on travel plans)
7 bathtubs with the 7 wonders of the world placed in them.
Toilet 2 – Task #9 and #10 (Reminder clock | “To-Do” list)
A big classic clock with alternating “TO” and “DO” on the dial in place of the digits. When the second hand moves, it makes the sound “to-do-to-do…” instead of the usual ticking sound from a clock.
So this sums up the construction of my Memory Palace with whacky little stories on its own playing in each room. To recall items in my list, I can simply press the replay button by mentally walking through my house and opening each doors. Pretty handy yet entertaining right?
If speed to acquire a skill or knowledge is an ability that requires boosting, you can definitely learn to learn by honing your memory as a starting point. And mastering the Memory Palace, a simple yet powerful technique, will definitely enhance your learning prowess.