Do you need a memory tune-up to enhance your memory? Whether you are an average person wanting to reduce forgetfulness, a university student studying for finals, or an academic thrill-seeker wanting to perform mental feats, this list will unlock doorways into your own memory that you’ve probably never witnessed before. We have collected all types of memory-improving methods: from the basic methods that you can learn overnight to advanced methods that may take weeks to perfect. Get ready to sharpen your mind with these 25 Foolproof Techniques to Enhance Your Memory!
Chunking is perhaps one of the oldest methods in memorization. It works by breaking down one long complicated bit of information into smaller “chunks” that are easier to remember. Take a phone number, for example. The number 7773451869 can be better memorized by separating it into three parts: 777-345-1869. We can also apply this method to memorizing patterns categorizing groups with similarities.
“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” If this sounds familiar, then alliteration is no stranger. Alliteration is the repetition of a same letter or sound at the beginning of closely connected words. This method is most prominently seen in tongue twisters, plays, and poetry. Despite its silly sounds, research suggests this method does trigger memory retention.
Try finishing this: “I do not like them Sam-I-am, I do not like…” Whether you are a Dr. Seuss fan or not, “green eggs and ham” would have immediately come to mind. Nursery rhymes and songs engage children during elementary school. And, guess what? It’s the same for adults. Whether we are memorizing a poem by Edgar Allan Poe or singing aloud with the radio to our favorite pop artist, we’ve witnessed rhyming in action. Perhaps, it is the play on words that allow us to make memorizing a few sentences fun.
Acronyms and Acrostics
What do USA, MLK, and LOL all have in common? They are all acronyms. Acronyms are simply words derived from the first letters of whatever phrase is being memorized. Each symbol in an acronym serves as a mental cue for another word. Turn this sequence into a sentence and you have an acrostic. These techniques are extremely common. For example, the acronym above depicts the colors of the rainbow in order. Whoever Roy G. Biv is, I’m sure he’d appreciate that you can memorize the colors of the rainbow without looking it up.
Repetition can be the most effective memory method, but only if you know how to use it. Our brains naturally default to specific neural pathways that allow us to recall certain information more quickly with repetition. Essentially, we convert short term memory into long term. And yes, this method also applies to muscle memory in sports. But in many cases, we simply don’t have all the time in the world to spend on repeating every single bit of information we need to know. While repetition is the most effective method for long-term memory, it is number 21 on this list because most people rely on repetition only as a mindless, monotonous, and time-consuming exercise. But if you combinine a variety of techniques below with repetition, and after conscious review, it will most certainly be a powerful tool.
Organization plays a significant role in memorization, and we’ve all come to find that diagrams help accomplish this role- tables, pie charts, line graphs, you name it. Diagrams summarize information by categories. Not only do they separate similarities and differences in a neat fashion, they also appeal to our spatial memory for convenient recall of information. This technique utilizes the concept of chunking, and it allows us to string together bits of information via detailed characteristics. In classes, you can best utilize this technique by immediately summarizing your notes into one large diagram after every lecture.
Lo and behold the idea of study groups is born! After reviewing information, you can enhance retention by teaching, and a group of students serves as the perfect audience. Teaching is an active form of repetition and more importantly, builds confidence in the recalling of information. Study buddies help by critiquing and asking questions, which leads to a better understanding of material. What’s that you say? Your friends are out partying and procrastinating instead of hitting the books? No matter; simply find an empty room and lecture to yourself. Chances are you’ll find many questions that you’ll end up answering on your own.
I use the term “blindfolded” because you won’t be able to refer to your notes when recalling information. This method can be practiced after reading an article or listening to a lecture. In the case of going to a class, make sure you take sufficient notes. Afterward, quickly review your notes. Take a few minutes to let the information absorb, and without looking at your notes, close your eyes, and try to recall everything that you went over in lecture. (Essentially you are being “blindfolded.”) Don’t give up easily either; try your hardest to remember every detail from the voice of your instructor to your writing on paper. Afterward, review your notes once more. This exercise enhances our ability to recall information through focusing and ignoring distractions. It improves our ability to pay attention, helps us to naturally categorize topics via main ideas, and better prepares us for examinations. You can also perform this technique by writing down everything you recall on a piece of paper.
Here, we approach our very first tool for memory enhancement, and I’m talking about beginning to scratch the surface of super memory. Visualization is derived from the fact that concrete images are much easier to remember than raw, abstract information. For example, when we you see the word APPLE, you don’t see the letters A-P-P-L-E in your head. Instead, you visualize an apple. Perhaps, you can see the bright red color of the skin; you can taste its sweet, juicy flavor; you can hear the crunch when you bite into it. Each of our senses contributes a unique characteristic to an image leaving it engrained in our brain. Utilize this technique by applying some sort of concrete image to anything you learn, and make it a daily habit. Trust me; you’ll end up remembering more than you think.
Palming is nothing more than a practice exercise that enhances visualization. The goal is to improve natural eyesight movement through relaxation of the brain, and thereby increasing visual memory. Sit with good posture, keep your back and neck in line, place the palms of your hands over the eyes as shown above, and relax. The specific hand placement is important. There are many variations, but each yield the same concept. You can practice by inventing your own images and visualizing them flowing in your mind. Or better yet, take objects around you, “palm” them into your mind, envision them in different areas, then open your eyes, and visualize them in different locations in your surrounding.
Visual Association in Vocabulary
Our brains store information based on past experiences, and we tend to automatically relate new information to these past events in order to remember them. This is association. However, you can also apply visual association to learn new vocabulary. Take the word ‘risorius,’ for example. The risorius is a facial muscle that helps make us smile. By breaking down parts of the word, you can create an association. In this case, “Risorius” sounds like “Why–So-serious?” famously spoken by the Joker from the Batman series. And what better way to memorize the function of the risorius, than to picture that wide crimson grin from the Joker, himself. Having this image implanted in your mind whenever the word risorius pops up will guarantee that you never forget it.
Link, Chain, or Story Method
Once you’ve learned how to convert ideas to objects and pictures in your brain, you can now begin “linking” them together. This method is best used for memorizing long lists. Say you want to remember the presidents in order beginning with Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison. With a bit of word manipulation, your story may go like this. A man washes a ton (Washington) of clothes in a river. Suddenly, the river goes dry as he finds that the water has been blocked by two huge dams (Adams) that grew out of the ground. The man asks his “deaf son” (Jefferson) to take the clothes back home, but he can’t hear him. So the dad gets mad at his son (Madison). The fundamental key here is to create a silly story with the images that coincide with the items on your list. Why? Because our brains want to be entertained. The wackier the story line, the easier the story will be to remember.
This revolutionary method of memorization was popularized by creator Tony Buzan in the 1960’s. Mind maps are made to utilize both sides of the brain in order to create organized associations with a certain spatial orientation and color. All in all, it’s a method that improves recall, creativity, and problem solving. A map always begins in the center of a page with an idea represented by a vivid picture. Branches of information then radiate outward from this idea in order to establish mental connections to that specific central idea. It takes practice and time to make efficient maps, yet once one is made, it will likely stick in your memory for a long period of time.
The Peg System
Peg systems are predetermined lists that are best used for memorizing items in a particular order. Each system attaches an image to a basic or commonly known sequence – such as the alphabet or a set of numbers (as you’ll soon find out). The trick here is to use the same image for each “peg.” That way, you retain the order of items simply by attaching it to an image. With appropriate preparation and utilization, you will come to find that this system can store almost infinite amounts of information when mastered. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry you will catch on soon enough.
The Alphabet Peg System
The alphabet peg system applies pictures to a sequence that almost everyone knows- the alphabet. The letters can represent animals, or you can make up your own images. Regardless, this method will get you to remember a series of information in exact order. So, unless you’ve never made it pass pre-kindergarten, this method works. As an example, we’ll remember a list of the following errands: walk the dog, mail a letter, and buy a hammer. Using the alphabet, ‘Ape’ represents the letter A. ‘Bean’ represents the letter B. ‘Sea’ represents the letter C, and so on. Now, attach the image to the pegs. Perhaps, you visualize an ape walking your dog, a jumping bean trying to escape a sealed envelope, and finally, attempting to ride your boat over a “sea” completely filled with hammers. Remember, keep the story lines silly! This way, you never forget your list.
The Number Rhyme Method
Memorizing numbers can be a bit of a challenge. This method transforms numbers into vivid, concrete images. And as you should know by now, concrete images are far easier to memorize than abstract symbols. This method serves the same purpose for memorizing ordered sets of information. But instead of the alphabet, you use numbers that are translated via their rhyming counterparts. For example, 1 = bun, 2 = shoe, 3 = sea, and so on. This method works the same as the alphabet peg. As you’ll soon find out, this system is limited by the amount of numbers that rhyme with objects, yet it’s a great method to memorize bits of information.
The Number Shape Method
The number shape can be applicable to higher numbers that we couldn’t reach using the number rhyme method. This method is easy to remember because you can physically picture each number looking like its paired object. Here, numbers are translated based on their appearance or shape. A tall, straight pencil represents 1, the curved neck of a Swan represents 2, the triple prongs of a pitchfork represent 3, and so on.
Now, that we know that numbers can be converted into images, the same can be done for mathematical symbols. This method is similar to the ‘number-shape’ method. A nurse with a red cross on her hat represents the plus symbol. A sleek submarine represents the subtraction symbol. A pocket-watch represents the multiplication or ‘times’ symbol. And, the object being sliced in half represents the fraction or division symbol. Again, you can look up images to other symbols, or make up your own. You are the inventor. Create a story that combine both symbols and numbers together in order to memorize math formulas.
The Phonetic Number System or the Major System
You’ve seen that there are a few techniques to memorize numbers. Yet, the phonetic number system is by far the most effective for memorizing huge amounts of information. Instead of translating numbers using rhyme or shape, this method transforms numbers based on sound. You can even go to say this is like learning another way to read and write. In this case, numbers are written as consonants while you insert your own vowels. For example, “Tie” or “Doe” represents 1; “TiN” or “DeN” represents 12; “TooNaMi” or “DyNaMo” represents 123. There are many possibilities. Initially, the system may appear difficult to use, but in the long run it is highly effective and there are no limitations to the length of numbers. It is this system that can literally allow you to effortlessly memorize 100 digits of pi almost overnight.
The Name to Face Method
This technique allows even the average Joe to remember the names of over 50 people after just meeting them once. In most cases, we remember someone’s face, but have trouble recalling the name that goes with it. To fix this problem, an association must be made for each name. For example, Karen can be represented by a bright orange “carrot.” The next step is to find a distinctive feature on the person; make sure it’s noticeable. It could be large eyebrows, long ears, or big lips, and link the association to the body part. That’s all there is to it! The next time you run into that person you’ll naturally focus on their facial feature, imagine the object that you linked, and almost magically, remember the name!
The Dominic System or P-A-O method
This system was invented by memory master Dominic O’Brien, and it calls on our natural ability to remember famous people or actions. Similar to the major system, each number represents a letter: 1=A, 2=B, 3=C, 4=D, 5=E, 6=S, 7=G, 8=H, 9=N, 0=O. But instead of forming words, each letter stands for the initials of a famous person. So, the number 54 would equal E.D. or “Ellen Degeneres.” You can take it a step further and give your Person an Action and Object (aka the P-A-O method). With diligent practice, the PAO method can provide vivid images for even 3 digit numbers. And again, the applications to memorizing numbers are endless!
Actively Paying Attention
Contrary to how most people study, developing a memory does not have to be a slow practice. In order to use our memory to maximum capacity, we need to be conscious of every bit of information necessary. Have you ever forgotten a stranger’s name right after you shook his or her hand? Have you ever forgotten someone’s directions right when they finished telling you? Have you ever forgotten that one fundamental tip that your professor just went over in lecture? These are common instances of a lack of paying attention. Remember, something cannot be committed to memory if you don’t know what it is to begin with!
The Roman Palace
This method goes by many names, but it has managed to turn the ordinary memory of ordinary people into extraordinary memory machines. It takes advantage of an ability we’ve utilized even since we were toddlers- our special orientation and natural intuition to memorize location. Take your home for example. I’m sure you can recall every single room without even getting up and walking around. Well, not only can you recall the rooms, you can remember the colors of the furniture, the presence or absence of windows, and even the location of closets. If you have a list of things to remember, just attach those images to areas within your home, and presto! It’s now lodged into your memory for quite sometime. Now, when you recall those items, imagine that you are walking around your home visualizing what’s in each room. Don’t keep yourself limited either; you can use your office at work, your local gym, or even a nearby supermarket. And I cannot stress enough: keep the visuals wacky, so that you don’t forget them!
Journey Method or Method of Loci
Who says that you can only use the Roman Palace method in buildings? The entire world is your playground! The method of loci simply acts as a mental journey that utilizes entire neighborhoods, suburbs, cities, metropolises, you name it! This time, you not only attach information to rooms, but also to landmarks along your journey. This concept can even be extended to absolutely any location system, from full scale countries to even areas of your own body. And yes, you can even make up your own landscapes. If you’ve ever questioned how people can recall thousands of digits or 15 decks of playing cards all in order, then wonder no more. Those feats are possible using the method of loci.
Practice is by far the most important rule of memory enhancement. You may learn a few methods over night, but if you do not practice, any boost you see will be lost. Historically, it was not uncommon for people to have extraordinary memories, reciting entire books, epic poems, and other extreme pieces of content from memory because they had no choice but to memorize the information.
So, take a few minutes of your day to turn off your electronic devices. Make the effort to memorize something out of the blue, whether it be a poem, a string of numbers, or a science article. You’ll find yourself reaching a new level of retention and speed to the point where you are creating even your own personalized systems! And, you can start by remembering this: Great memories are not born, they are learned.