How would you like to be able to memorize a long list of items without having to type it into your phone or write it down?
It’s easier than you think.
I’d like to share a technique that has been used for centuries. It will allow you to memorize a list of 20 different items so quickly and thoroughly that you’ll be able to remember the list in any order…backwards, forwards, or even in random order. And you’ll remember it for as long as you need to.
Plus, you’ll have fun doing it.
Association is the Key to Memory
This technique was originally devised in ancient Rome and Greece and was called, “the method of loci.” Loci is the plural of the Latin word “locus” which means “location” or “place.” Practitioners of this method would begin by taking note of some specific items in a familiar place (objects in their home, for example). Then they would associate these familiar items with the list of things they wanted to memorize.
This process of linking the unfamiliar with the familiar is a tremendous aid in recall memory.
But rather than using items in your home, I’ll offer a different type of list that you’ll find easy to remember.
Step One: The “Peg List”
The list below is called a “peg list.” It is a series of images that is associated with the numbers 1 through 20.
I learned this in an audio program called Mega Memory.* I was given a complimentary review copy of the program years ago when I managed a radio station. This “peg list” was the most helpful part of the entire program.
Memorize this list using the description offered:
- Tree — a tree trunk is straight up and down like like the number 1.
- Light Switch — there are 2 settings on a light switch, on & off.
- Stool — a stool has 3 legs.
- Car — a car has 4 wheels.
- Glove — 5 finger holes.
- Gun — a 6-shooter.
- Dice — 7 is a lucky number in the dice game Craps. “7 come 11.”
- Skate — skate a figure 8.
- Cat — a cat has 9 lives.
- Bowling ball — it is used to knock down 10 pins.
- Goal post — a football goal post looks like the number 11.
- Eggs — eggs come in a carton of 12.
- Witch — think “unlucky 13.” Or Friday the 13th.
- Ring — think “14 carat gold.”
- Paycheck — most of us get a paycheck on the 15th of the month.
- Candy — think “Sweet 16.” If you’d like, imagine your favorite candy.
- Magazine — think of the teen magazine named, “Seventeen.”
- Voting booth — you earn the right to vote when you turn 18.
- Golf club — golfers use the term “the 19th hole” to refer to the club house after playing a round.
- Cigarettes — not terribly PC these days, but cigarettes come in a pack of 20.
I bet after a single reading of this list you can remember most of the images already. Most are easy, although I sometimes have problems with Paycheck and Golf Club. Feel free to use any image of your own to associate with any of these numbers. Just pick one that you can easily associate with the number.
Once you can name the image for each number, move on to step two.
Step Two: Associate Each Item to Remember with Each Image on the Peg List
Here’s where it starts to get fun!
Let’s say you need to purchase a bunch of office supplies. Take each office supply and link it (or “peg it”) to the corresponding image on your Peg List. The more vivid and action-oriented the association, the easier it will be to remember.
Let me illustrate with a few possible items to show you how it works. Then you can apply the principle to the rest. Take out a piece of paper and number it 1 to 20. Write these supplies down for the first five:
- An HP 60 combo pack (all colors) of toner cartridges
- Post-It notes
- Printer paper
- Trash bags
Now, let’s link each of our office supplies with the images on our Peg List and create new, vivid scenarios in our minds. The more outlandish or even impossible the scenario, the easier it’ll be remembered.
- Tree + Pencils: Imagine whittling the tree down to create pencils. Or imagine that instead of apples on the tree, you see pencils growing on the branches. Better still, imagine all of them are on fire.
- Light switch + HP 60 combo pack: Imagine you flip the switch and see your grandmother holding a birthday cake with candles that read “60” and multicolored filling is oozing from the cake and dripping onto the floor.
- Stool + Post-It Notes: Imagine the stool is covered in graffiti and you’re trying to hide the graffiti with Post-It notes, but the notes keep blowing off the stool so you scramble to hold them in place while you continue to add more.
- Car + Printer paper: You open the car door and wads of paper comes tumbling out. Or the windshield wipers are on and each time the wipers come up they shoot a sheet of paper up into the air until it’s raining printer paper.
- Gloves + Trash bags: You try to tie a trash bag but the gloves on your hands make it impossible to do so and trash keeps spilling out onto the floor. Or imagine seeing a tiny piece of plastic sticking out of a hole in one of the fingers of the glove and when you pull on it and a trash bag comes out.
It doesn’t matter what the images are. Just make each of them pulse with energy.
Now, turn to the list you created on paper. Peg the rest of the items using your own vivid images. Once complete, set the paper aside.
What was item #14 on your list? What was #9? How about #17?
How did you do? Were you able to remember all 20? Chances are very good that you remembered most if not all of them.
Keep practicing and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be able to remember long lists whenever you need to.
Test the Technique on Your Family Tonight
If you have little kids at home, try this on them tonight. Pretend it’s a magic trick, if you like, because it will amaze them. If you don’t have little kids, try it with your spouse.
Ask them to quiz you on the list of 20 items they wrote down.
“OK, Dad, what was number 14?”
“Oh, that’s a vacuum cleaner.”
“That’s right! How about number 8?”
“Easy. That’s a dog collar.”
“Dad! How did you do that?!?”
They’ll beg you to show them how to do your new trick. I’d suggest saying, “A magician never tells his secrets” before telling them anyway. Eventually.
Because this becomes the perfect chance to teach your kids something that could really help them in their schoolwork.
Questions: How did you do in your test of this technique? Did you try it with your kids? Share your experiences in the comments below.* Mega Memory was created by a man named Kevin Trudeau. Trudeau is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for criminal contempt for not paying fines levied against him by the Federal Trade Commission for making extravagant claims in advertising various products. To my knowledge, none of the offenses were related to Mega Memory. Nevertheless, I share this with you in the spirit of full-disclosure.