Want to know how to improve memory ability using mnemonics and a Memory Palace?
Without ruining your progress every step of the way?
Or are you already improving your memory perfectly?
If so, great. But you’re a very rare bird.
Because far too many of us waste hours of our lives getting it all wrong!
And it’s all because so many people miss out on a more than just a few of the most important memory improvement fundamentals.
Why are the fundamentals of using memory methods and memory techniques so important?
For one thing, it’s because when you’re learning how to improve memory ability, not knowing the basics can cause more damage than good.
Now I assume that you’re familiar with the Method of Loci. If you don’t know what this technique is, it’s one of the best ways to improve memory that humanity as ever come up with. Especially if you use it in the form of a Magnetic Memory Palace.
Why? Because the Memory Palace science is solid.
Not only that, but…
Humans Remember Locations Almost By Default!
Even people who know the simple technique of the Memory Palace still make mistakes. For one thing, they don’t draw their Memory Palaces. Like this:
But even for those who do draw their Memory Palaces…
There are 5 fatal mistakes that are typical of both beginners and advanced users of this special form of mnemonics.
So let’s talk about each of these issues in order. They’re all important and attending to them one at a time will make a huge difference in how you use Memory Palaces.
5. Not Picking a Place for the Memory
Once upon a time, a client in my Magnetic Memory coaching program said that it wasn’t necessary to “locate” his remembered words anywhere.
I’m not one to argue with people. When it comes to memorizing words, phrases, terminology or longer things they’re working on like poems and speeches, it’s important to go with what works.
For example, Kevin Richardson wanted to become the perfect learn Japanese app by turning his brain into a Magnetic Memory Palace network. He didn’t do things exactly as I suggested, but that’s why the Magnetic Memory Method is a method. It teaches you how to create our own systems.
In this previous case, my client was working on Spanish. He told me that when he wanted to remember something like that “vaca” means cow, he simply needed to see a cow vacuuming. For him, it was just a concept that floated around in the inner space of his mind.
If That Works … Great!
Yet, a few weeks later, I asked him, “say, what’s the Spanish word for cow?”
It took him about a minute to “find” it in his mind.
That’s actually not too bad, but I know it can be better. I know it can be better because people who take the time to establish a location just for “V” words are essentially creating a groove in their mind, a place that they know where to go to look for words. It’s kind of like dropping a needle on a record (you do remember records, don’t you?)
A common objection to using this method is: “great, but what if I can’t remember that the word begins with a “V”?”
To tell you the truth, I haven’t got a hard-boiled answer to this question.
Here’s the truth:
Merely by making the effort to place the letter in an alphabetically arranged “palace” in your mind (like a Memory Palace just for “V” words), your brain has paid attention to that word.
Your memory has been primed to use that word in a very specific way. You’ve magnetized that word and given it a special charge. When the time comes to find and use that word, you’re much more likely to be drawn to it.
Always Use A Location (.a.k.a. Memory Palace)
Even if you’re remembering something on the fly, stick that information somewhere.
When I used to take the train across Germany twice every week for my research, I always memorized the wagon and seat number on my ticket so I didn’t have to pull it out of my pocket every five minutes to make sure I was standing in the right spot.
Let’s say it was wagon 23, seat 92. Since 2 is “tin” in my memory and 3 is a “dam,” (the kind that holds back water), I would see a dam in the shape of a Campbell’s soup can bursting at the seams to hold back a river of trains. I’d make it like something out of a disaster movie so that the image was large, colorful and even quite noisy. For more on how to memorize numbers, here’s a post from that realm of memory improvement you should check out.
Even though I didn’t really have to, in order to strengthen the memory, I would make sure to “place” it somewhere.
What better place for a Memory Palace and Magnetic Stations than the train platform itself?
Seriously, these small details with mnemonics pay off.
Merely by taking that extra bit of effort to locate the image, even though I was mentally placing just right in front of me, the memory was so much stronger when I wanted to recall it.
Why does this work?
The answer is simple:
Because I knew where to find the mnemonic imagery I had created.
And by creating the mnemonics well and placing them correctly in my Memory Palace, I completely eliminated any anxiety that it might be lost (more on that when we get to memory ruination point number 2).
Remember The Ultimate Rule Of Real Estate
The take-away here, my Magnetic friends, is that memorization is a lot like Real Estate:
Location, Location, Location
4. Not Making the Associative, Mnemonic Image Large, Colorful and Exaggerated
For a lot of people, this memory improvement nut is tough to crack.
We shouldn’t blame ourselves either. I myself am a very imaginative person, but I’m not particularly visual in my imagination. I work better with concepts.
However, I’ve trained myself to be more visual over the years. And so can you. All it takes is practice.
And A Bit Of A Dirty Mind
But you don’t have to spend a pile of cash on such books. It’s healthy (and normal) to spend some time at the library or at a bookstore to read up on memory techniques. Tony Buzan and Dominic O’Brien have titles to look out for.
And while you’re in the library, look up paintings and photographs in books that interest you. Study them for their shapes and colors. That’s the best way to become more visual. And I’ll bet that in your city or town, there are even free entrance nights at your local art gallery so you can see real paintings up close and personal.
The point is: you can train your brain to be more visual and you can use that training in your memory work to make your associative images brighter, more colorful and more exaggerated.
You’ll also build a large pool of images from the world of art that you can reference. For example, who can forget Dali’s melting clock in “The Persistence of Memory,” or the lone survivors in Bruegel’s “The Triumph of Death“?
You can use these monumental images in your Memory Palace efforts. So look at some art books and give this method a try.
And for bonus points, take an extra long look at paintings that touch on the theme of memory, like this one from Raimondo Madrazo:
3. Not Incorporating Action Into Your Associative, Magnetic Imagery
Action is crucial. It’s not only a means of exaggerating your images, but motion captures the eye – including the mind’s eye. We tend to remember the details of exactly how something happened very well, and so we need to take advantage of this mental blessing.
If you struggle with this kind of creativity, watch this:
Sometimes readers of this memory improvement blog complain about the fact that I advocate using cartoon violence in memorization work.
As always, my answer is: use whatever works for you. If sunshine and daisies waving in the wind on your front deck remind you that “dactylomegaly” means an abnormal largeness of fingers and toes, then by all means use it.
However, many people will probably find that enormous daisies with huge muscles bearing hammers are pounding on your toes and making them swell into a state of “abnormal largeness” is much more memorable.
Either way, it’s a mistake not to incorporate action into your memory work.
Plus, you need to incorporate emotion. For more help with that, check out this podcast called “Laugh and Cry Your Way To Memory Improvement.”
2. Not Revisiting and Rehearsing Your Memory Palace Network
Think about memorizing vocabulary or terminology or facts like playing music. Maybe you can “get” the song merely by looking at the sheet music once, but chances are that you’ll need to play it a dozen or more times to become proficient and possible dozens more to “master” it. It all depends on your level of proficiency with your instrument.
In this case, your mind is the instrument, your memorization techniques are the music stand and the material you want to memorize is the music.
Is This Rote Learning?
The reason it isn’t rote learning is because the only time you are going to look at the “sheet music” on your music stand is to “test” that you’ve gotten the memorized material right.
When you haven’t tested your mnemonic imagery and Memory Palaces well, you will struggle.
But when you take a moment to refine the images and the action, and if necessary, work on the location of the Magnetic Imagery in your Memory Palace as well, everything is easier.
This is all part of mastering what you’ve memorized and developing perfect recall. It’s also the reason I ask my readers and clients to use the Magnetic Memory Method worksheets in the Memory Kit or Excel files of their own making.
Because these tools help us chart out the Memory Palace locations of our Magnetic Imagery and the actions we use to memorize information.
This process of keeping track of your Magnetic Imagery is also tied to the principle of location.
Merely by having a “hard copy” somewhere, even if you don’t look at it, the mind feels a sense of safety and security.
We all hate losing things, so when we allow ourselves to keep a record, even if we never actually refer to it other than for the purposes of testing once in awhile (once or twice a month is recommended for 2-3 months per word), we know it’s there. It has a place and being able to conceive of that place in terms of a location has psychological benefits.
I use this musical metaphor because I play bass, and I can tell you that my fellow band members expect me to have the music down pat the first or second time I see it before we get into serious rehearsal and then performance without the safety net of sheet music.
Sure, it’s still nice to have the sheet music back home. I don’t know about you, but I’m not too proud to own a security blanket when it comes to something as precious as the material I’ve memorized. But I also want to be able to play directly from memory.
If you’re interested in music mnemonics, check out this replay of a Magnetic Memory Method Livestream I held on my YouTube channel:
Just stick to real music though and keep clear of the fantasy that binaural beats improve memory.
1. Not Being Relaxed
Relaxation is a key component to memorization that no one else I’ve read in the realm of memory improvement talks about.
Maybe it’s a just a given, but in my experience talking with thousands of readers and clients, there is so much stress around memorization and memory in general, that people often feel apprehensive when they sit down to work on their memories. So many of us love to claim that we have bad memories, and so when it comes time to memorize something, we’re already in a defensive position.
Stress + Memory Improvement Is Not Ideal.
In Fact, It Just Won’t Do!
I talk a lot about the benefits of relaxation for reducing memory loss caused by stress. and give a few methods you can use before starting a memorization session. These include a particular kind of breathing and progressive muscle relaxation exercises.
Don’t skip relaxation. Everything goes faster and smoother when you’re relaxed. Your imagination, which naturally knows how to provide you with the perfect images, needs nothing more than a relaxed body to work with.
So the next time you want to memorize, remove all distractions. Close the door, light a candle, meditate a little, do some pendulum breathing and do some progressive muscle relaxation. You’ll be so glad you did.
Oh, and learn how to improve memory and concentration Buddha-style. You’ll be glad you did.
Knowing How To Improve Memory Starts With Avoiding Mistakes First
That’s all for this article on how to improve memory by avoiding these mistakes. If you’d like to hear an audio version of this post, check out 5 Ways to Ruin a Perfectly Good Memory Palace. Feel free to share this entire article to your friends and social networks and let them know to get in touch with me at any time with your questions and ideas.
And for the best results along your memory improvement journey, do this:
Avoid the 3 Biggest Memory Improvement Mistakes Even Memory Champions Make. Teach someone what you’ve learned about memorization. It’s the best way to deepen the memory improvement techniques for yourself and make the world a better place in the process.