Superior Techniques & Tools to Hack Your Memory
“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing — that’s why we recommend it daily” ~ Zig Ziglar
It’s 1999 and my dad just bought the new Nokia 3210.
This phone is now a dinosaur, but back then that baby was so slick.
But that’s not the point now.
The point is, in late 90’s everyone seemed to have one super-power. Memory.
It seemed to me, that even though people had phones, which everyone was able to remember and recall at least 30 phone numbers.
Not only just phone numbers, but it seemed that everybody knew when your birthday was and so did you know for everyone else.
There was no Facebook back then, no reminders, people just knew.
So what’s the deal here?
How is it that our memory got that bad?
The 2 Reasons Your Memory is Suffering
Technology made it easy for us; it gave us a perfect excuse to abuse our memory (no rhyme intended – I am not that slick).
Today we have a flood of irrelevant information coming to our brain every single day, and our attention span is reduced to such a low level, that even a goldfish can beat us at the memory contest.
No wonder why we are struggling with the fact to memorize the name of the person we’ve been talking for the last 1 hour.
Not only that, sometimes we can barely remember our name.
We need to command intake and storage of information. We need to make memory improvement our priority.
We do that by deciding what do we want to focus on.
We allowed technology to do that.
The truth is, it’s not too late. We can still fix it, not only that; we can use technology to help us with memory improvement.
The first thing that needs to happen is the shift in your perception. You need to learn how to command it and use it for our benefit.
The World is overcrowded with information, and it doesn’t support you the slightest or your goals for that matter.
Just ask yourself: how does knowing what Kardashians are up to helps me or gives me any value whatsoever?
Golden Rule For Memory Improvement: Intention
Intention makes all the difference. Because if you know what you are looking for, you will be highly focused.
Memory follows focus; everyone knows that. Well, at least, everyone should.
What this means is that if you haven’t committed upfront to remembering something, it probably won’t be remembered.
That’s why in social interactions we cannot remember people’s name, is because our intention doesn’t lie there. Rather we are focused on what we will say and how will we leave the positive first impression.
On the other hand, try to remember a date you were on with someone fascinating. It seemed that you managed to soak up everything they said.
Name of the first pet, third cousins name or how many Pokemon cards did they manage to collect as kids (this was a thing, right? Don’t leave me hanging here.)
The difference is in intention. You were present, focused and you cared. That’s why you remembered, even the most random things about that person.
Multitasking is a lie. Your attention is your most scarce resource. Focus on the moment and what’s in front of you, and you will see how will this play out for you.
The intent is highly dependent on your goals. If you know what you are looking for, you will be able to focus on finding it and turning it into long-term memory.
Let me show you what happens if you are not sure what you are looking for.
You know this feeling.
You go on Facebook to check something, next thing you know …3 hours later you are on Reddit reading how many spots does a giraffe have or laughing at the latest Trump (Drumpf*) meme.
When it comes to memory improvement there are two things you should have in mind:
- Techniques you can use to make it easy for your brain to store information more efficiently.
- Tools (Technology) you can use to make the first process much easier.
Your brain and technology work well together. It’s just about finding the perfect balance and adapting it to your personality.
I will show you how I do it; you can then try it for yourself. If not, play around and see what fits you. It’s not like you have to get it right, it’s a journey. You will become better the more you practice it.
Below you will find several techniques that I found most useful.
Remember not to limit yourself; the Internet is a beautiful thing if you know what you are looking for. One might say if you have intent.
So let’s dive in with three techniques that you can use on the daily basis to store important and complex information, all the way to solving your problems and remembering people’s names.
1. Mind Palace
What is it:
Mind Palace is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information.
Especially for long-term storage of important and complex information. For instance like learning an entire skill.
The idea is to imagine information through various associations and store them within your Mind Palace.
How does it work:
There is one starting point. Defining what place you will use for your Mind Palace. You have two options:
- Existing place you are familiar with (like a childhood home or a school)
- Designing your place (you don’t have to be expert in drawing)
I would recommend that you use something that you know quite well.
Once you decide on a specific place. Next, this is to design a blueprint or to put it simply the outline of your Mind Palace.
My example: I used my high school for my Mind Palace, and I drew two floors (each had 19 rooms) and listed down how would I go from one room to another and so on.
Once you have the visual outline, start exploring it so you can memorize every detail of it. This means that you sit back, close your eyes and imagine yourself in your Mind Palace.
These are a couple of guiding questions you should know:
- How does it look like?
- How many rooms does it have?
- How can I walk from one to another?
- What objects do I have in each room?
- Where are those items placed?
At this point, you should be quite familiar with your Mind Palace, and the next thing is to learn how to use it.
The way you store information is simple. Your job is to create interesting associations or symbols for things you want to remember.
Once you do, you should place them in a specific room or link it to a specific object in that room.
Associations / Symbols should be simple, clear and memorable. If they are weird or sexual, it will make it easier for your brain to remember.
Example: If you wanted to remember that you need to buy an airline ticket, you could picture 3 flight attendants in your room with banners that say, Baby, please don’t forget.
Trust me, you won’t forget that.
The idea is to start small and simple and practice it. In time, you will become proficient, and it will be easier to create associations.
Use your Mind Palace for things that matter to you. There are no rules.
I’ve used it from learning my grocery list all the way to learning Neuropsychology and storing the entire book in 38 rooms of my Mind Palace.
If you think you won’t have enough space to store information, don’t worry. Just build another palace, you can have an entire city if you wish.
But just give it a go.
2. Mind Screen
What is it:
Mind Screen is something I developed and used every day (okay, I’m done with the bragging moment).
The idea is quite simple. Think of this as your private theater screen where you can project whatever you want to memorize, without limitations.
How does it work:
Picture yourself in an empty movie theater. You can design it in any way you want. Mine is usually white (ergo the picture).
I usually stand in front of the screen. This screen is yours, and you can project on it whatever you need to memorize.
The idea is that you can manipulate the screen, just like in the futuristic movies. You can expand items, make them bigger or smaller. Move them from one side to another. Add items to them.
How I usually memorize important things about people or a project.
If they tell me, they come from California. I add like a pop up next to them, which says: “California.”
We continue the conversation, and they tell me they studied Law school. I make another pop up: “Law School”, and so on. You get the idea.
Same thing with important information about a specific project. I just imagine the core idea of the project on the screen.
Someone says we got a deadline; I just put the date next to the project. I just hear ‘Pop.’
The important thing here is to play around with it, and see how it fits you.
I’ve found a way to link my Mind Palace and Mind Screen, so even though I am at the moment and need to work fast, I project items on the screen and, later on, move them to my palace.
3. Mind Map
What is it:
A mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information.
A mind map is often created around a single concept, drawn as an image in the center of a blank page, to which associated representations of ideas such as images, words, and parts of words are added.
Major ideas are connected directly to the central concept, and other ideas branch out from those.
How does it work:
This is quite a popular mnemonic device.
The idea is to have one core idea, and you start to organize other ideas around it, like branches (take a look at the picture).
Try to make it vivid, with colors, drawings or symbols that mean something to you or that represent the specific idea. Once you need to recall certain information, you just follow the branch until you find what information you are looking for.
This is something that requires practice (especially for us that don’t know how to draw properly) or you can use a variety of software (most of them are free for basic use).
Mind Map is a very systematic approach to organizing information and can be used in different ways and together with other mnemonic devices.
Okay, those are several techniques you can experiment with. Let me know how it went.
Tools (technology) in this case, it’s the matter of preference, but here is a division that might be useful:
1. Written form:
• Digital (Any software for storage, like Evernote – which I use)
• Paper (Journal – which is my preference as well, sometimes it triggers creative juices)
How to use these?
It won’t make sense if I instruct you to last detail how you should take notes because that is something you should adapt to your personality and type of a learner you are.
Have in mind something really important, and that is a whatever note you take you are taking it because it should be tied to a certain action you are trying to take.
If you have a problem you are trying to solve, note it. If you have something you are trying to learn, make notes about that.
Don’t hoard notes. I used to do this, three months later I had 60+ notes out of which five are important, rest were junk.
Then I just lost a lot of time going through them and cleared out ones that weren’t relevant (don’t fool yourself here with that famous sentence: “I might need this someday”).
A couple of tips:
- Make simple and clear notes (write them in a way so you can understand what you meant, later when you come back)
- Structure your note properly
- Make use of bold, underline & italic (for digital) or markers for journal
Make a weekly ritual that you go back, take a look at your notes and declutter.
Taking notes is important, but if you take them and don’t make a habit out of actually using them, they won’t matter.
Take a look at my use of notebooks and notes:
PS: I have a journal as well (Dear diary, today she didn’t laugh at my jokes…does she still love me?)
On the other hand, some people prefer audio version of notes. I use them sometimes when I am on the go, and unable to stop and record something. Or when I am about to fall asleep, and I am too lazy to get up and write something.
Usually, at this point, I am half asleep, so my audio recording sounds like gibberish.
2. Audio Form:
- Smartphone App (most phones have built-in apps for this – like Voice Memos)
- Digital Voice Recorder (if you like these, you can buy a fancy digital recorder)
How to use these?
These are quite a good choice, especially for things you are trying to explain in details or as I said, you are on the go, and a billion-dollar idea came to your mind, so you need to store it somewhere.
For things that are important, be sure to transfer them later into written notes (why, because skimming until you find something that’s relevant to you, instead of listening to audio is a bit easier).
Anyway, taking notes without reviewing them and decluttering what is no longer needed, is pointless.
So establish a routine, that once a week you go through your notes and see what is important and what no longer serves its purpose.
Putting it all Together.
It is not going to be a long boring summary. It will just be boring.
The idea is rather simple.
Find different techniques and tools you can use to improve your memory, but don’t think of it as a serious matter. Rather as an experiment and a game. Play around and see what fits you. To me, these worked and still do, but maybe soon they won’t.
Remember that memory isn’t something you develop once and you’re done.
It’s a process that lasts for a lifetime. As your memory declines, you have to put more effort to make sure that it is still working like a charm.
But trust me, even if your memory is fine, improving it will bring you amazing results. You will be astonished.