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 Greek history, Simonides of Ceos is the earliest example of Mnemonics in use.  After performing at a banquet, Simonides stepped outside; suddenly, the theatre collapses and kills everyone inside.  Simonides helps account for the deceased, recalling every guest and where they were seated.

Mnemonic techniques have enabled people to remember entire dictionaries, numerous decks of cards, and endless sequences of Pi at events like the World Memory Championships.

Here’s an overview of 7 basic mnemonic techniques to improve your memory:

1.  Rhyme-Keys

This is a two-step memory process.  First, the number becomes an rhyming item/image.  Second, attach the number-image to the item you are trying to remember.  The more creative and vivid you make the association, the easier it will be to remember.

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

Give it a try.  Let’s take this list of 1) taking the trash out; 2) returning books at a library; 3) paying bills; 4) doing laundry; 5) picking up kids from school.

Now, creatively associate them:  1) spread some trash on your burger bun; 2) put books on your feet as shoes; 3) your friend Bill is stuck in a tree; 4) someone leaves soiled laundry at your door; 5) your kids are stuck in a bee hive.

Once you remember the ten rhyming items, you now have ten anchors to re-use and remember any list.  At first, it will seem more effort than worthwhile.  But the more you practice, the quicker you’ll become.  And the time it takes you to add imagery will be worth the boost to your memory.

2.  Loci Method (or Memory Palace)

First, think of a physical location you are familiar with—your house, workplace, a school building, or a local park.  Then, imagine placing items to remember in specific locations.

Then, imagine yourself walking back through the physical location to check your recall.  You may need to make an association stronger by giving it a litte more mental time.  You can also use parts of your body—visualize something falling out your ears to remember grocery items.

3.  Chunking + Chaining

We already use this technique with phone and credit card numbers.  Chunking is just breaking information into small pieces.  And it can be applied to information other than numbers.  The idea is premised on the fact that the average memory only holds five to seven pieces of information at a given time.

Medical students break down long words into pieces and add imagery (method one technique above) to help memorize.  For example, the “trigeminal nerve” is broken down into a triangular gem with five teeth and nervously chewing.  (The trigeminal nerve is the fifth cranial nerve and responsible for motor functions in the face such as 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 used to remember the treble clef lines EGBDF.

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

 5.  Identify the Unusual

To remember names and faces, identify an unusual or prominent feature on a person and tie that together with their name.

Think: “big nose Fred” or “Jack-fruit Jack” to remember better.

Much of memory is simply the act of directing your focus better.  Identifying something unusual is a tool to help you do just that.

6.  Sing A Song

There is probably a song stuck in your head right now.  The way lyrics are synced with musical beats make the words naturally stick.  Take advantage of this and turn boring information into a song.

There’s a hugely popular YouTube video of a biology student who’s turned important information into a catchy song.

 7.  Tell A Story

Similar to a song, you can turn boring information into a creative story.  And the more ridiculous the better.

It’s important to involve all your senses of touch, taste, sound, sight, and smell—with all techniques.

Give it a try: think of your dog crying uncontrollably and calling 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