How to Use a Memory Palace for Studying: 7 Simple Tips

| Memory, Podcast

use a memory palace for studying feature imageNothing could be easier than using a Memory Palace for studying.

The problem is that you have to learn how to use one correctly first.

But is that really a problem?

After all, you have to learn how to tie your shoes and floss your teeth, don’t you?

The cool thing is, once you can walk with those shoes on, you can run.

The same thing goes with the Memory Palace technique.

If you’re willing to learn the foundational skills first, you’ll be able to apply the technique to memorizing anything.

And I do mean anything. I have yet to see a topic or information type for which the Memory Palace technique cannot provide tremendous learning advantages.


Let’s dive in!

Using a Memory Palace for Studying: 7 Tips to Memorizing Anything Fast

As we go through these tips, please understand that not all of them are in order.

But the first one most definitely is.

And if you’re reading this, you already understand that it’s a must.

One: Use Memory Palaces Correctly

I see so many people treating the Memory Palace technique as if it’s a “set and forget” treasure house.

There’s a few good reasons people get this impression. For one thing, that’s basically how St. Augustine described the technique.

As he wrote in his Confessions:

And I come to the fields and spacious palaces of my memory, where are the treasures of innumerable images, brought into it from things of all sorts perceived by the senses.

The problem with Augustine’s description is simple:

He makes it seem as if you just file information away as if Memory Palaces are the medieval equivalent of a hard drive.

No, no and a thousand times no. 

In order to make the technique work, you want at the very least to add the elements of active recall.

Briefly, you need to do these three things within your Memory Palaces:

  • Make sure all of your mnemonic imagery is personalized and use as much variety as possible.
  • Don’t cheat when reviewing. Push your mind a little to call back the information.
  • Use the Recall Rehearsal patterns that are central to the Magnetic Memory Method

This final point is so essential. You cannot just encode information and expect memories to form.

Rather, you need to recall the information as if you’re “reading” it from the walls of your Memory Palaces, ideally using the different patterns the Memory Palace allows for, including backwards. 

And if you think backwards is a stretch that doesn’t apply to you, Matteo Ricci would surely beg to differ.

a woman is reading from the walls

Make sure you’re using Recall Rehearsal based on your Memory Palaces. It is literally like “reading” from the walls of your mind, with associations instead of words.

Two: Take Care When Assigning Your Memory Palaces 

Unfortunately, many people follow the advice of people who don’t actually use Memory Palaces for studying.

Look, the memory competitors are impressive. I’ve interviewed many of them on my podcast, including Tony Buzan who created the initial memory competitions.

The problem is that the vast majority of memory competitors have short term goals. Those who have taken on larger learning projects for things like medical school and language learning include Alex Mullen, Nelson Dellis and Joshua Foer. They all put a lot of care into how they select and use locations for their Memory Palace efforts. And you should too.

So what are some quick tips to follow? From what I’ve seen, here’s what matters most:

  • Simple and small journeys work best, even if you wind up needing a lot of Memory Palaces.
  • Start at the “dead end” instead of at the door. That way you’re leading yourself to an exit and can add more loci later if needed.
  • Don’t worry about “connecting” one Memory Palace to another. This usually wastes time and can be avoided by using Memory Palaces correctly.
  • Only worry about reusing Memory Palaces after you can successfully use at least 10-20 with predictable positive results.
  • Consider using the alphabetical method so you can link Memory Palaces with Bridging Figures. This technique is not always helpful, but you’ll be glad you’ve got it when you need it.

Three: Organize the Information Before You Start Encoding It

The Memory Palace technique is generally quite easy for most people who take it seriously.

But what isn’t always so easy is figuring out what main points you need to memorize.

I suggest you get started small and use the technique I share in how to memorize a textbook.

This process will help you start recognizing what counts as a main point faster. And the more you practice how you’re going to place those points in your Memory Palaces gives you the personalization experience that active recall requires in order for you to master these techniques for memory and studying.

It’s really important not to overlook the organization step. As another great memory master from the past named Thomas Aquinas put it so clearly in his Summa Theologica: “the mind favors organization.”

organized food in containers

Just as we organize food on a shelf, we can organize information in a Memory Palace. It takes a moment to work out a well-formed Memory Palace, but it’s worth it.

Four: Get Past the Need For Mnemonic Examples A.S.A.P.

I’m sometimes criticized for not giving people enough mnemonic examples in my books and courses.

First of all, this is not true. If anything, I’ve given way too many. There are well over 300 in The Victorious Mind alone.

Secondly, the legendary Harry Loryane says the same thing in Ageless Memory. He’s probably the world’s leading memory expert, so if you can’t take my word for it, you can take his. Even Tony Buzan said Lorayne was the best of the best.

The question is… why is this essential?

As pointed out in the Rhetorica ad Herennium, even students back in 90 B.C.E. were weakened by receiving too many mnemonic examples.

This is because the only true way to make mnemonics that stick is to come up with your own.

The sooner you start doing that, the sooner you’ll be able to apply them and remember what you study and read.

Five: Practice Encoding At Calm Hours (P.E.A.C.H.)

So many people try to “squeeze” their learning in.

Yes, cramming can work once in a while. But it ultimately interferes with effective chunking using the best possible memory hacks.

Here’s who to practice encoding at calm hours:

  • Don’t reach for a phone or turn on a computer first thing in the morning. Use the time to meditate and then study.
  • Sit with your book or flashcards in a quiet area.
  • Bring the best possible Memory Palace to mind.
  • Use your training with mnemonic images to bring the best possible associations to mind.
  • Place these in the Memory Palace in the way that makes most sense to you.
  • Test in intervals throughout the day, ideally in a Memory Journal.
  • Use Recall Rehearsal while testing.

Moreover, it’s helpful to know your goal. Literally say it out loud: “I am studying history and using my history Memory Palace.”

Then, prepare everything you need the night before. That way, when you show up in the morning, you can dive right in.

If you have multiple topics to study, instead of feeling overwhelmed or getting stuck in decision anxiety, here’s a little tip:

Check in with your body. See if you intuitively have a felt preference. Then go with that.

Or you can do an exercise I learned in The Wise Advocate. Ask which study topic makes you feel more expansive and go with that (as opposed to feeling limited or constrained).

Decision metrics like these can help you loosen up and just get moving. You can also add the relaxation and breathing exercises discussed in The Victorious Mind.

a relaxed woman wears a white dress

It is critical to be relaxed when using memory techniques for studying, especially the Memory Palace. Make sure to spend at least 10-15 minutes each day stretching, breathing and meditating, ideally in nature.

Six: Treat Your Memory Practice like a Profession

To be honest, the idea of memory techniques for students really doesn’t make that much sense.

I suggest learners think of themselves as entrepreneurs, or at least investors.

Yes, you’re learning and people who learn are called students. But often we use that image of the student to expect less of ourselves.

If you treat the time you’re spending using memory techniques as an investment, you’ll immediately get a much higher return on that investment.

As always, you don’t have to take my word for it. The mental metaphors we choose have been well-proven in Nir Eyal’s research.

Keep in mind too that the Memory Palace is itself a metaphor for what is better called “location-based mnemonics.”

Seven: Test Yourself Frequently

If you do all of the above, you’ll have gotten a very high percentage of your learning material into long term memory.

This outcome means that you won’t have to waste time “looking” into your Memory Palaces as St. Augustine’s description seems to suggest.

The information will just leap to mind.

But to get to this experience of topic mastery even faster, self-testing is essential.

There are a few ways to self-test:

  • Use the practice questions in your textbooks.
  • Seek out practice exams from program secretaries or online.
  • Make your own practice exams (coming up with your own questions is also a great way to improve your focus when reading).
  • Meet with study partners to quiz each other.
  • Visit your teacher for suggestions and to get tips on self-testing.
meeting someone for suggestions

Students rarely take the opportunity to meet with their teachers. But that’s what they are there for, so make sure to take advantage of their expertise.

If you find that recalling information is difficult, this is when your Memory Palace efforts will come in handy.

The steps are simple:

  • Mentally ask which Memory Palace the information was most likely encoded into.
  • Ask what your mnemonic images were doing in that Memory Palace.
  • Don’t fear pushing yourself a bit, but also let yourself relax. Don’t get in a panic.
  • If the information doesn’t come, move on to the next question or take a quick break.
  • When the information arrives, celebrate and write it down.
  • Later, think about how you can improve your use of the techniques so that particular information doesn’t slip your mind in the future.

Generally, however, if you’ve used Recall Rehearsal thoroughly and self-test thoroughly, you shouldn’t have issues on exam day.

Memory and Studying Simply Could Not Be Easier

Sure, it can seem like using a Memory Palace involves a lot of moving parts in the beginning.

But once you’ve learned the technique, it really is like tying your shoes.

The main difference is that we had parents to help us learn how to deal with how to navigate those shoelaces.

But as we grow, we’re more and more on our own when it comes to learning something new.

That’s perfect for the Memory Palace technique, however. It is a technique that works best when used in private study.

Yet, you’re never alone thanks to using proper, mnemonic images. You’ll always have cool friends, family and cultural references to hang out with in your Memory Palaces.

So dive in, enjoy and if you need more help, sign up now for my FREE Memory Improvement Kit. 

Free Memory Improvement Course

It will help you take today’s tips further with four free videos and worksheets. It’ll also inspire you to take action when you see just how many wonderful successes other Magnetic Memory Method students have enjoyed.

So what do you say?

Are you ready to start studying with the Memory Palace technique in a much better way?

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