When you’re learning how to memorize fast, you need to brace yourself for impact.
Tons of people give advice in this area who have no idea what they’re talking about.
For one thing, they’ve never been to a memory competition, let alone completed a degree.
And if they do have learning credentials, chances are they haven’t used memory techniques.
Of course, there are some good ideas out there, and I’ll share them with you on this page.
But you want more.
You want to know not only what memory experts say. You want the lived experiences of people who actually know how to memorize things fast.
And that’s what you’re going to get, so let’s dive in.
Want to know what this post will cover?
- The Best Way To Memorize: Beyond The Myths
- How to Memorize Quickly: The 5 Steps You Need To Complete This Week
- How to Memorize Quicker: Becoming A “Speed Demon” of Memory
- How to Memorize Like a Memory Athlete
- Remove The Obstacles Between You And Your Need For Speed
- How To Memorize Something Quickly
The Best Way To Memorize: Beyond The Myths
The first thing you need to do is to let go of the notion that there is a “best” way to memorize.
When I was in graduate school and first asked, “How can I memorize things quickly?” I already knew this. I was intimately aware of the simple fact that you want effective processes.
This fact has a few consequences (good ones, I promise, if you keep reading everything on this page):
- You might need to sacrifice efficiency for a short while in the beginning
- You might feel yourself stretched and challenged
- You might find be confused by conflicting ideas you find online
- You might have initial results and then quickly plateau
In each of these cases, there are solutions.
The Shocking Truth About The “Best” You Need To Hear…
First, the “best” memory techniques are always the ones you’re actually going to use. That means you might have to try a few on for size. This means doing some research and making a plan of action for how long you’re going to stick with each memory training. (I suggest 90 days minimum per memory improvement book or course.)
When that challenge starts to kick in, it means you’re growing. Having a plan will help you keep going – and avoid all the clashing recommendations available on the internet. For example, some people will tell you to discover your “learning style.”
A Fact About Your “Learning Style” That Is Probably Slowing Your Down
In reality, we all have multiple learning styles. The trick is to find out what your learning preferences are and then work to improve these and patch in those you’re avoiding.
If you prefer audio, then your goal is supplement reading. If you prefer reading, then you want to make space for verbal and physical learning styles so you can learn and remember with greater speed. (More on how to do this below.)
In sum, taking action is your best bet, and making sure you have a path to consistent action is best.
How to Memorize Quickly: The 5 Steps You Need To Complete This Week
- Create proper Memory Palaces. I can’t stress this enough: If you want to memorize rapidly, you need to master the fundamentals. Luckily, How to Build A Memory Palace is a core (and free) training that has you covered.
- Learn the tools of association for numbers, symbols, and words. These mnemonic devices include:
- Learn the fundamentals of Recall Rehearsal.
(This is how you use the Memory Palace technique to get the info into long term memory.)
- Practice the techniques consistently.
- Repeat by continuing to study the techniques for more knowledge of how they work.
Again, you want to spend approximately 90 days with every memory training you encounter. By focusing on and really understanding how each training works, you’ll develop laser fast memory skills much sooner.
But if you keep bopping around the internet looking for the next “shiny new memory technique,” you’re delaying the development of learning and remembering quickly.
For a free summary course that brings all of this together, check this out:
How to Memorize Quicker: Becoming A “Speed Demon” of Memory
Assuming you’ve mastered the fundamentals, now it’s time to talk about getting even faster.
For that, you want to create and complete memory missions.
Mission One: Create Your First Memory Palace Network
To do this, create 26 Memory Palaces, one for each letter of the alphabet. If you speak a language which has fewer or more letters, I still suggest you have at least 26.
Because this will train your brain to rapidly make associations between spatial memory and semantic memory content based on words.
For example, when you see a word like “electron,” you instantly want a Memory Palace related to ‘E’ popping into your mind. In my case, I have several, everything from my brother’s house to a concert hall where I once saw a band with a drummer named Ernie.
Mission Two: Create Magnetic Imagery
To get really fast, you want to fill your Memory Palaces quickly. For that, you need to have at least one image per letter of the alphabet, ideally 2-5 (or more).
For example, to rapidly place “electron” in an “E” Memory Palace, I can use “Elvis.” But I can also use an elephant, Einstein or Eric Stolz who appeared in Pulp Fiction.
The more you think about the alphabet and train yourself to come up with associations based on the alphabet, the faster you will become.
Pro tip: Many of us develop a “double alphabet.” For example, I gave the example of Elvis for “electron” and that is because in addition to having images for every letter, I’ve done some work to develop images for two-letter combinations.
A = Apple
Ab = Abacus
Ac = Accountant
Ad = Addiction
In each case, the words are generic, but they actually point to specific multi-sensory images. The apple is a Mac Computer, the abacus is a toy I had as a kid, I imagine my accountant, and Addiction is a song by Skinny Puppy.
I know this is a lot of front-loaded effort, but if you really want to memorize fast, the setup is everything. We call this the Principle of Preparation in the Magnetic Memory Method Family.
Mission Three: Build Your 00-99 PAO
We’ve talked about memorizing words by creating systems of association based on the alphabet.
But what about numbers?
For that, you’ll want a Major System or the Dominic System to help you have associations for every number, ideally in pairs from at least 00-99. I’ve shared my associations on the Pegword Method page.
Pro tip: It’s also worth the time to prepare a system for associating symbols. For example, you can use Pacman facing east for an open parenthesis and facing west for a closed one. You can use a star for an asterisk and Cookie Monsters googly eyes for the percent mark, etc.
Mission Four: Study the Tradition
No matter how fast you get, two things will remain true:
- You can still get faster
- Someone else will always be faster no matter how fast you get
Personally, I never turn my speed into a competition. However, I modestly strive to learn as much as possible. That’s why I continually study the ancient memory techniques and read all the new books that I can.
In other words, true “speed demons” of memory always assume that they don’t know what they don’t know. Then they plan to fill those gaps.
Some truly EPIC memory speed secrets are hidden in old books like:
- Rhetorica Ad Herennium (author unknown)
- Aristotle’s On Memory
- Aquinas’ Summa Theologica
- Bruno’s On The Shadows Of The Ideas
- Dickson’s The Hermetic Art of Memory
And this is just scratching the surface! You can even pick up tips from people Simonides of Ceos from whom no written texts survive.
The more you study, the more little tips and tricks you’ll discover that will shave seconds off your speeds.
Mission Five: Extracurricular Activities
Most of us apply memory techniques to learning languages and professional matters like passing the bar or getting a raise at work.
But to truly amp up your speed, I suggest taking on a few supplementary memory exercises, such as:
- Memorizing playing cards. (MMM student example – YouTube)
- Memorize 100 digits of pi (MMM student example – YouTube)
- Memorize long-form poetry (Example from me – YouTube)
How to Memorize Like a Memory Athlete
Nelson Dellis told us a long time ago how to win the USA Memory Championship. One of the best takeaways is that you need to actually practice competition.
John Graham, who has also won the USA competition, stresses the need to take on additional challenges as you train. The suggestions he gives are like the equivalent of putting on a concrete backpack and performing pushups – they will make you faster!
Alex Mullen shocked the world by memorizing cards in pairs using a variation on the Major System. If you want speed, make sure to listen to his tips.
Braden Adams is a very interesting upcoming figure you’re going to want to pay attention to – and he has great ideas about a memory technique called the “Shadow.”
And don’t let age stand between you and success. James Gerwing retired from his profession and then became Canada’s 2019 Memory Champion. He has truly proven that you never have to slow down.
Remove The Obstacles Between You And Your Need For Speed
We’ve gone through the technical factors needed to memorize quickly and then speed up. I’ve also given you resources from some of the fastest memory athletes on the planet.
Now it’s time to focus on refinement.
You see, mental processing speed isn’t just about technique. It’s also about lifestyle.
For that reason, you want to improve your:
- Physical movement
- Mental strength
- Creative Imagination with multi-sensory visualization
Let’s go through each:
Optimizing Sleep for Speed Memory Gains
You already know all about having a bedtime ritual and getting enough hours.
But what about keeping a journal beside your bed to capture your dreams? And why on earth do that?
Well, on top of removing all devices from your bedroom and making sure you spend enough time in darkness, you can train your brain to make mental imagery faster by writing down your dreams.
To get started, start writing down the following each night: I will remember my dreams. Then, the following morning, write down what you can remember with a special focus on all of the sensations you experienced.
For example, the other night I dreamed that Tony Buzan and I were in a university of memory training. There was some kind of nuclear emergency and showed me how to work the fire hoses to release a special liquid that would protect all the students. I wrote this down and took a moment to:
- Feel the hose in my hands (Kinesthetic association)
- Hear the sound of Tony’s voice (Auditory memory)
- See the building and the people in it (Visual association)
- Experience the emotions (Emotional association)
- Explore the concepts (Conceptual association)
- Imagine the tastes and smells (gustatory and olfactory association)
- Spatial descriptions (association of heigh, size, depth, distance)
As you journal your dreams, thinking through all of these sensations and levels of association will transfer into your skills with using mnemonic devices.
Optimizing Your Diet For Faster Memory
Diet is highly personal and best conducted with a professional. Generally, though, you want to cut out all foods that create brain fog. You also want to explore natural memory supplements instead of plunking down hard cash on potentially poisonous supplements.
But you can also optimize your diet for faster memory by practicing your tools while eating. So instead of just shoving broccoli into your mouth, count how many pieces of it you have on your plate. Then use your number system to memorize that number. And think of all the Memory Palaces and images for B and BR you can come up with during the meal.
Every ounce of practice means that every ounce of food can help you learn and remember at greater speeds in the future.
Optimizing Physical Movement For Accelerating Your Mental Processing
Not only can you turn your gym and favorite walks into Memory Palaces. You can also spend the time practicing your speed of mental association.
For example, as you walk your neighborhood, name the items you see and associate. Don’t just see a tree – think “tree” and then think of Trevor, trippin’ out, trucks, trick or treat, and everything you can muster.
Combine this simple association exercise with neurobics and you’ll be amazed by how fast you can get.
Optimizing Your Mental Strength
All these activities might sound like a ton of effort just to memorize faster.
No pain, no gain, right?
Well… what if you could speed up your memory without pain?
You can, and to get there, you’ll want the mental strength tools that help you get past the mental noise that’s holding you back.
One quick tip is to spend some of your time visualizing the goals you have for memorizing faster – and then be radically honest about whether you actually have the skills needed.
If you do, great! If not, then forge a plan for how you’re going to get those skills. Make sure you’ve mastered the fundamentals and followed all the other tips on this page. You now have a structured path and if you need help, ask questions. There’s a place to post them below. And if you need more, try these brain exercises.
Optimize Your Creative Imagination For Maximum Velocity
I’ve saved the most powerful tip for last:
You don’t have to be creative.
In fact, real success from memory techniques means removing creativity from the equation. As the processes and examples above have shown, lightning-fast memory comes through association.
And those associations are not invented. They are discovered through practices that make it fast and easy to access information that is already in your memory.
When I see a pillow in the shape of the letter G, I don’t practice creating new words. No!
I think instead of Grover Cleveland, the 22nd president of the United States (here’s how to memorize the rest of the presidents). I don’t invent the mental image of him and his moustache – I practice accessing it faster.
Likewise, I think of Grover from Sesame Street, giants from various stories I’ve read, the character “Gas” from David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ and as many more associations as I can muster.
And the speed of it comes from consistent, unrelenting practice. Not just any kind of practice, but multidimensional practice.
That means making sure I hit all of the following mental experiences:
- Kinesthetic (the feeling of what it’s like to be Grover Cleveland physically)
- Auditory (the sound of signing a new piece of legislation)
- Visual (the look of the clothes from the 1800s and early 1900s)
- Emotional (the feelings of having the hardest job in the world)
- Concepts (the many legal and constitutional ideas I would have to weigh)
- Olfactory (the smells of my favorite foods in the White House kitchen)
- Gustatory (how the same taste)
- Space (walking the White House gardens)
It’s not just that practicing all of these “Magnetic Modes” will make you faster. You also want to practice them so that you use them faster in real-time.
How To Memorize Something Quickly
In conclusion, let me make this power tip loud and clear:
Memorizing “something” sounds awfully vague.
Instead of memorizing unclear and vaguely defined things, spend some time and get really clear on your learning goals and desired outcomes.
Have a vision and a plan. And ask yourself:
What does it matter how fast you go if you’re traveling in the wrong direction?
Far too many people want faster memory for undefined reasons that have no structure or roadmap to support them.
Frankly, it’s worth repeating the cliche that failing to plan is planning to fail. But now you don’t have to worry about such sad results.
You know exactly what it takes to remember as much as you want at a clip so fast it will make your head spin – in a good way, of course!