“The advantage of a bad memory is that one enjoys several times the same good things for the first time.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche
A common complaint we hear is how people wish they could improve their memory.
What if I were to tell you a person of normal intellect can train their memory to perform feats such as rehearsing a 45 minute speech purely from memory?
How is this possible? We will teach you.
The Method of loci
I want you to visualize a place you regularly visit. Close your eyes if you need to. Imagine you are walking to the building you work in. Can you recall what the building looks like? Are there stairs leading to it? Can you navigate from the parking to your office in your mind?
Now that you have the landscape in your memory defined, begin placing individuals you have regularly encountered on the way to your office. Can you recall conversations? Memories? Smells? Sounds?
If you have watched BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, you have seen Sherlock regularly recall information from his “mind palace.” Mind palace, memory palace, and memory journey are all terms used to describe the method of loci.
Basically, it is a memory enhancement technique that uses your spatial memory by placing information you are familiar with to quickly and efficiently recall information.
We do this all of the time to remember certain things. If we were sitting in math class and I were to say remember, “please excuse my dead aunt sally,” how many would instantly recall the meaning of PEMDAS?
PEMDAS is an approach for solving equations, a reminder on how to break down math problems.
P = Parenthesis
E = Exponents
M = Multiplication
D = Division
A = Addition
S = Subtraction
Why can we recall this information so easily?
Why is remember “please excuse my dear aunt sally” so much easier to remember than, “parenthesis…. etc?”
There are ways, tricks, and methods to improving memory and it is easier than you think.
Can you describe your desk at work to me? Where your phone, monitor, computer, and mouse are located on the desk? Chances are, you can do this almost instantly.
The art of the mind palace places objects that remind us of certain things, events, flows, or anything else in a strategic way.
Building your own mind palace
This technique follows a three step process that is easy to use, remember, and build. In order to use this method, you need to build at least one mind palace.
Here is the method:
- Decide on a palace — this can be your home, work, or any other building you are familiar with. I have known some people that find it easier to design and blueprint their own mind palace’s. Whatever method best suits you, I recommend.
- Create the route — this is one of the most important parts. Here’s why: when we walk to our offices each morning, there is a certain route we take. We encounter the same objects on a daily basis. I tend to park in the same parking place every day. I know I will encounter the water fountain, the stairs, the entryway, more stairs, another door, I then walk passed the same desks before reaching my office. When remember something such as a speech: it is important to place vivid, visual, outlandish “props” on your journey to your office. Why? You don’t need to think about the route. However, if you place visual reminders along the path you are going to “walk” in your mind palace anyway, visuals serve as reminders of what to say during a speech, how to transition, and allow you to quickly and powerfully recall information. Hopefully, it is starting to make sense how this all works.
- Memorize the route — now that you have decided on a palace, created the route, you need to memorize the route. Don’t worry about the props at this stage, you insert those later. The important thing is you are able to close your eyes, focus, and walk the same route in your mind over and over again, remembering key “landmarks” along the way.
Using what you have built: Memorizing
- Have a goal in mind. In other words, know what you are trying to memorize. Often, a list helps begin the process until you have trained yourself to use the mind palace. If you are memorizing a speech, identify key bullet points that you wish to memorize.
- Let’s say the first thing on your list is a party on Saturday night. Visualize you are getting out of your car at work (or wherever your mind palace is), immediately you are ambushed by a flash mob of people dancing in bright, neon clothing holding signs that say, “Saturday!” Chances are, you are going to remember that one. Why? Suffice it to say, the more outlandish we make the prop, the easier it is to remember. The first step on our journey is a reminder to party on Saturday.
- Go through the rest of your items. One-by-one, place, stage, and create visuals that help you remember your list. Often, I never need to look at the list again. When I was beginning, I often wrote down the “prop” on my list to better remember what I was building.
- Practice. Start with 5 or 6 things to memorize. Close you eyes and visualize the route. Visualize parking your car, as soon as you step out of your car what happens? You probably remembered the flash mob of neon-dressed people holding signs saying, “Saturday!” Hopefully, you placed your own prop and remembered it.
- Test your self. Try to recall the route throughout the day. Test it the next day. Testing should take a solid week. Create multiple lists, grow, and expand from here. Build your memory palace.
Share with your friends!
There is a fascinating TED talk about memory training here
Video clip of Sherlock Holme’s mind palace here (warning, slightly graphic)
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