By the time you finish this article, you’ll be able to memorize all sorts of things quickly and effortlessly. Memory is a funny thing. It’s so powerful if you have the right technique. Like trying to get into a brazil nut, almost impossible with your hands but with the right tools, it’s easy. This article will show you the method you need to memorize something fast.
You’ve no doubt heard of the memory palace technique, using mnemonic devices or brain training games and they all work well. However, to memorize things fast, you need a simple way to get the information into your long-term memory.
You don’t need to build a memory palace for this, just a little visualization.
Visualize this Little Story
You open a book, and a ping pong ball flies out of the pages and hits you in the face, breaking your glasses; the glass falls to the floor and cuts your shoe in half. You kick the half-shoe, hitting a huge bodybuilder lifting weights. He chases you, so you run as fast as you can.
You just remembered this list of things I need to buy in a sporting goods store.
- Ping pong balls
- Sport glasses
- New Sneakers
- A Treadmill
I know it seems ridiculous, but look away from the screen for a moment and try to recall the items, using the story – start with opening the book.
How did you do? I’m guessing much better than usual. This was just a short list of five things, but memory experts will tell you that our memories start to fail at only four items.
Ron White, two-time USA memory champion, says, “When it comes to memorizing more than four things in a list, just using your natural memory isn’t very effective.”
We all know this. We all forget things every day. But, there’s a quick and easy solution that makes recalling things effortless. It’s called the Story Technique.
Use the Story Technique to Memorize Something Fast
The story technique is the best memory method if you want to memorize something fast. It doesn’t require you to know any special tips or tricks and doesn’t need any preparation. You can use it to memorize almost anything too. It’s a self-improvement idea everyone should know.
These are the three steps to memorizing anything with the story method:
- Turn whatever you want to memorize into a picture
- Connect each thing with action
- Connect the first thing to your starting point
1. Turn Everything into a Picture
The mind and especially the memory work much better with visuals than with ideas, words, or facts. For example, it’s easy to remember a scene from a movie, but remembering words on a page is much more challenging.
So when we want to memorize something quickly, we first turn it into a picture. But, of course, some things are easier to turn into pictures than others. For example, the word “elephant” turns into a picture instantaneously, but the word “imagination” is a little more tricky.
Here are the ways to make anything into a picture
- Natural Association
- Break it up
Some words will naturally give you an image, “imagination,” for example, may give you an image of a child imagining; go with that. Whatever your natural association gives you for an image is the image you should use. But if you don’t have an image pop into your head, try a sound-alike.
Imagination doesn’t sound like anything else, so it’s better to break it apart (below). But using the sound-alike technique makes many words quickly turn into pictures. A handy way to use this is with people’s names.
If someone tells you their name is Brad, don’t try to remember the name, Brad. Instead, turn it into a picture of Brad Pitt and connect it using the story method below. It sounds like (or exactly the same as Brad Pitt’s name.)
Imagination can be broken into “image” and “nation” These two words may give you a clearer picture in your head. It makes me think of a photograph of the country. So I’d go with that.
2. Connect Them With Action
Using action, we can link each item together to make a story. Of course, we want to exaggerate the actions as much as possible, making them big, bold, and wild; these will stick out in our minds easier.
- Use action to connect items.
- Make the actions wild or unusual.
Let’s use a short shopping list as an example. These items are quickly turned into pictures because we know what they look like.
We don’t want to use peeling the orange as our first action. It doesn’t connect with the next item, “beef,” and it’s too boring and “normal.”
Throwing the orange at a cow is much better. It links them together and is unusual enough to stick out in your mind. In your mind’s eye, see yourself throwing the orange at the cow. (The cow isn’t real. It won’t mind.)
When the cow gets hit, he stumbles backward onto a bar of soap which sends him tumbling behind a giant loaf of bread. See how each item is linked to the next in order?
He bites a hole into the bread and uses an egg grenade launcher to fire back at you through the hole.
- I throw an orange at a cow
- It stumbles backward onto a bar of soap
- It slips and falls behind a giant loaf of bread
- It bites a hold in the bread and fires eggs through it
It’s a stupid story, but that’s precisely what we need. The crazier you make it, the better.
3. Connect the first item to your starting point
The last thing you need to do is link the story you have to something related to the information. This example is a shopping list, so I will link it to the supermarket. I might link it to the customer’s face if it was information about a customer. If it was about a particular class, I might connect it to the teacher, classroom, etc.
Our first item is “oranges,” and I want to connect it to the supermarket. When I arrive at the market, the first thing I’ll do is go to the entrance. So in my mind’s eye, I’ll see a massive pile of oranges in the doorway, so many oranges that I can’t get in.
I pick up an orange and throw it at the cow….and so the story continues.
Next, I can forget about the story. When I get to the supermarket and walk through the entrance, being there reminds me of the oranges and the shopping list.
How to Memorize Other Things
The story method is an excellent trick if you need to memorize something fast, but it’s not the best memory technique out there, and you won’t be able to use it for everything.
A Person’s Name
Find something unique about the person you want to remember; it might be a mole on his nose or a wacky tie he’s wearing. The more it sticks out, the better. This will be your starting point.
Next, we need to convert his name into a picture. A quick way to do this is to use the image of a celebrity you know with that name. So if his name is Tom, you might imagine Tom Cruise.
Now use action to connect the starting point with the name. So I might imagine Tom Cruise using his mole as a bongo.
Later in the day, when I see the same person and his mole, I won’t be able to help but see Tom Cruise drumming away on it, and the name Tom will come to me instantly.
Turning a phone number into a story can be tricky. You might not be able to turn numbers into a picture instantly, so you need to use another memory technique for remembering long strings of numbers.
Before memorizing numbers easily, you need to turn them into a picture. We must already have assigned an image to each number to accomplish this. Using the Major System (or Dominic System) is the easiest way to do this. The Tree List from Mega memory is another way.
Dates are another thing that is difficult to memorize using this method. They contain numbers, so they have the same problem discussed above. You also need a picture for each day of the week and month of the year.
More Things to Memorize
There are all sorts of things that people wish they could have memorized. If you have a solid reading habit, there’s so much information coming at you it can be unsettling. With memory improvement and learning some memory tricks, you might even become a memory champion too.
- Bible verses and scripture
- Foreign language vocabulary
- Binary digits
- Cramming for exams
- A deck of cards
- Remember what you read
There are more advanced memory techniques to achieve the ability to memorize anything.
More Advanced Techniques
Once you’ve mastered the story method, there are plenty of more advanced techniques to learn. You might not ever get a truly photographic memory but you can improve your working memory so much that people will think have.
- The Major System
- Mega Memory
- Method of Loci
- Memory Palace
- Spaced Repetition
Also, check out these two books from the memory masters Domonic O’Brien and Harry Lorayne.
- How to Develop a Brilliant Memory Toolkit – Domonic O’Brien
- The Memory Book – Harry Lorayne
- Moonwalking with Einstein
Originally from the U.K, Greg has lived in Asia for over 15 years. Fluent in a handful of languages, he ran a management consultancy before creating Face Dragons. He spends his time now traveling around Asia, writing, taking photos, and drinking coffee.