Many of us have heard of mnemonic devices used to help us memorize a string of information. Mnemonics allow us to form links between the information we need to memorize with things or concepts that are more familiar or easier to remember.
One that you may have heard of is “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” commonly used to help kids learn the order of operations. The first letter of each word in that phrase corresponds to the first letter of an operation whose sequential order can now be easily remembered. (It corresponds to Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction.)
Mnemonics are really useful for remembering little pieces of information, but did you know there’s another mnemonic strategy that can allow you to memorize a huge chunk of information such as a speech or a business proposal?
It’s called the “Memory Palace” technique, and here’s how you use it!
Step 1: Choose your palace.
Your palace is going to be the place you use to associate your information with so that it becomes easy to remember and eventually ingrain into your brain. Pick a place that is familiar to you: your childhood home, a frequently visited park, your college campus. Any place that you know really well and you can easily visualize yourself walking around in.
You want your palace to be big enough to contain enough features to associate the information you need to memorize with. Try to imagine yourself walking through your palace, going from one point to another.
Step 2: Identify
Take a mental stroll around your chosen location and take note of all the landmarks, indicators, and features. For example, if your palace is your house, the first feature to take note of might be your front porch.
Try to do this in a methodical way. For example, every time you enter into a new room in your house, imagine taking note of the features from left to right. This way you have a set pattern that is easy to recall.
Step 3: Commit the palace to memory.
If you have the chance to do so, spend some time physically walking around your palace. If it’s your house, take a few moments to walk through and touch each feature and commit them to memory. It might also help to write down every feature. Remember to make sure you walk through your palace in the same order every time and look at things from the same perspective.
Ingraining your palace into your mind is key, it allows you to make the important connections in the next step to truly memorize your information.
Step 4: Associate your features with information.
Now is the time to pull out that speech, proposal, or anything you want to memorize. Go through it and divide the information into little chunks. Now, take each chunk and associate it with a feature of your palace. Go in sequential order. If you’re trying to memorize a speech, you can associate your opening statement with your front door.
Try to combine your features and information in a way that is unique and stands out. Something that will stick in your head. If you can physically go to your palace, walk around it and say each piece of information out loud at every feature.
The key here is repetition. Do this as many times as possible so that it becomes second nature for you to associate your information with your feature when you think of it.
Step 5: Practice.
Now that all your information has been associated with different features of your palace, it’s time to practice. Practice the same way you would use your information. If it’s a speech, get dressed up the way you would on speech day, stand up and visualize your palace, and start giving your speech.
The more you practice, the faster you’ll be able to recall your information so that when the time comes to use it, it is seamless and perfectly memorized.
The next time you need to memorize a lengthy speech or even just something simple like a grocery list, try using a memory palace and see how it works!