7 Mnemonic Techniques to Supercharge Your Memory

How would you rate your memory?  Like most of us, probably not so good. Ever heard of Mnemonics?

According to ancient Greek history, Simonides of Ceos gives the earliest account of Mnemonics, the memory device.  After performing a poem at a banquet in Thessaly, Simonides stepped outside; suddenly, the entire banquet hall collapsed and killed everyone inside.  With bodies disfigured and unidentifiable, Simonides assisted by recalling every guest and exactly where they were sitting.

People applying mnemonic techniques have remembered entire dictionaries, numerous decks of cards, and ridiculous sequences of Pi numbers at events like the World Memory Championships.

While technology can be helpful, it shouldn’t replace your memory.  Here’s an overview of 7 basic mnemonic techniques to help you exercise your memory muscle:

 1. Rhyme-Keys.

This is a two-step memory process.  First, the number becomes a rhyming image.  Second, attach the number-image to the item you are trying to remember (examples below).

One becomes Bun
Two = Shoe
Three = Tree
Four = Door
Five = Hive
Six = Bricks
Seven =
Eight =
Nine =
Ten =

E.g., to remember a daily schedule of 1) taking the trash out 2) returning books at a library 3) paying bills 4) doing laundry 5) picking up kids from school, you would creatively associate them: bite into a bun that’s filled with trash, put books on your feet as shoes, go to your tree to pay bills, laundry hanging off your front door, pulling your kids out of a beer hive.

2.  Loci Method (or Memory Palace)

First, think of a very familiar physical location—your house or a childhood home, your workplace, a local park or your street.  Then, imagine placing the items you want to remember in specific locations.

Once you’re done, imagine yourself walking back through to check if you can recall.  If you’re unable to, it just means you need to make that connection stronger by giving it more focus or attention.

You can even use your body—visualize beans falling out your ears to remind you to grab some from the store.  Generally, people are better at remembering images than words and numbers.

3.  Chunking + Chaining

You’ve already noticed this technique with phone numbers and credit card numbers.  Chunking is simply breaking information into smaller pieces.  The average memory can hold five to seven pieces of information at a given time.  You can apply this principle and break down subjects into 5-7 subtopics.

Medical students break down long words into pieces; for example, the “trigeminal nerve” is broken down into a triangular gem with five teeth and nervously chewing.  (The trigeminal nerve, the fifth cranial nerve, is responsible for sensations and motor functions in the face such as biting and chewing)

4.  Acrostics & Acronyms

F.O.C.U.S can be used to remember the phrase “Follow One Course Until Success. “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” is often used to remember the music treble clef lines EGBDF.

Create your own acronym and acrostics for phrases or pieces of information you are trying to remember.

 5.  Find the Unusual

To remember names and faces, identify an unusual or prominent feature on a person and tie that together with their name.  Think of “big nose Fred” of “Jack-fruit Jack.”  Saying a person’s name right back to them or using it in a conversation is also helpful.

6.  Sing A Song

There is probably a song stuck in your head right now. Music has the ability to stick. Think of a jingle or your favorite song and replace the lyrics with what you’re trying to remember.

 7.  Tell A Story

Turn boring information into a creative narrative.  And the more ridiculous the better.  Involve all your senses of touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell.  A story about your dog crying uncontrollably and picking up the phone to call your friend Reece to remind you to: get dog food, tissues, pay your phone bill, and buy Reeces Pieces.

The common thread and key for all these techniques is the amount of associations you’re able to apply.  Also, have fun and be creative.  Learning comes easier when you are in a positive state of mind.

Further Resources | Great Books on Memory & Mnemonics:

Joshua Foer recounts his journey from being a Journalist to winning the World Memory Championships in Moonwalking With Einstein.

The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas