By Michael Masterman,
Author of The Cheat's Guide to Instant Genius
If you want to become more intelligent you'll need to improve your memory skills.
The good news is that these skills are among the easiest to develop, with help from a few simple techniques and a bit of practice. Like everything else in this course, the more time you put into improving your memory, the better it will become.
There are entire books written specifically on the subject of improving memory, packed with methods and systems designed to make you a memory master. Our goal, however, is to help you make better use of your memory by providing you with some basic techniques that you can learn and begin to employ immediately.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of acronyms, which is a way of making words from the first letters of other words.
Words such as 'Scuba' (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) and 'NATO' (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) have become 'words' in their own right, even though they started life as acronyms. Acronyms can be easier to remember than a whole list of words and will prompt us to recall the information by providing the first key letter of each word from the list.
If, for example, your partner has asked you to pick up some groceries on your way home from work, one easy way to remember (unless you've written it down!) what you need is to put it into an acronym. Suppose the list was bread, milk, an onion and some butter, you could rearrange the words so that their first letters spell out BOMB (bread, onion, milk, butter). That turns the whole thing into one short, easy to remember word from which the particular items can easily be extracted.
Acronyms can also be made to work the other way round. Anyone who has ever taken music lessons will probably be familiar with the saying 'Every good boy deserves favor', which is one way of remembering the names and the ascending order of the lines in the treble clef (EGBDF). This form of 'inverted' acronym works particularly well when the item to be remembered doesn't actually make a word in the real sense, such as EGBDF.
You can also use this idea to remember lists of things, such as the order of the planets, the names of the bones in the human body, etc. Simply select the first letter of each word from the original list and use that letter to make a new word. In this way you can create your own memorable sayings that will help you call the list to mind whenever you need to.
For example, the order of the planets from the sun is:
Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto.
By taking the first letter of each word and using it to make a new word, we could devise something like this:
Most Vicars Eat Mainly Jam Sandwiches Until Nine Pm.
It doesn't really matter what words you use to create your memorable saying, as long as it helps you remember the information in your original list.
Numbers and 'Acro-numbers'
So many numbers to remember! PIN numbers, alarm codes, home telephone and cell phone numbers; the list seems to get longer every day. So it helps if you can find a system that makes remembering these numbers easier.
For smaller groups of numbers we can use a similar system to that used in the inverted acronym formula above. Say, for example, if your PIN number was 3346. To remember it every time, all you need to do is substitute a word for each letter.
The trick is to use a three-letter word for the number 3, a four-letter word for the number 4 and a six-letter word for the number 6. Here's an example of what you might do:
3 = cat
3 = got
4 = your
6 = tongue
So, whenever you need to recall your PIN number, simply repeat the saying 'cat got your tongue' and you'll have the numbers in your head instantly!
It's also one of the great things about the human brain that it thrives on repetition. Just by using these systems as memory devices you'll increase your brain's capacity to remember things. And sooner or later you'll find yourself able to recall the number you're after without having to resort to a memory device of any kind.
You might be thinking that this method is a bit contrived and that we chose the numbers based on the actual saying. Even if that were true, it doesn't matter. Most banks nowadays will allow you to change your PIN number, usually straight from the ATM machine. So if you wanted to you could 'cheat' (not that we did!) and pick a number that suits one of your favorite expressions, such as 'getting in the Zone' (7234). This is a simple but effective way of making sure you never forget those important numbers ever again.
The Body Parts Technique
This is an effective method to remember lists of up to about ten different items. It works by associating each item with a separate part of your body, and then using your visualization skills to turn the list into a memorable narrative.
For best results try to use body parts that range from your head to your toe, including any 'parts' that make it easy for you to remember your 'story'. Here's an example of one way to apply this technique.
While driving home from work in your car, your partner telephones and you put the call through on your hands-free speaker. The message is simple: pick up some bread, wine, grapes, flowers, sugar, orange juice and aspirin. You can't write the items down because you're driving. So instead you use the body parts technique to remember the list until you get to the shop.
* Imagine your hair curled up like a bunch of grapes.
* You can smell roses but the scent is too strong and you're getting a headache.
* You raise your hand to drink a glass of wine which turns out to be orange juice.
* Your stomach rumbles and you'd really like a sandwich.
* You walk along a beach and feel the pure white grains of sand running through your toes.
The only limit to how far you can go with this technique is your imagination. You can use any body parts you like as long as you remember to make the words from your list memorable and sensually oriented (i.e. using as many senses as possible).
The Word Association Technique
Word association is one of the oldest and best ways to remember anything. This is because associating one word with another is exactly how the memory mechanism works in the first place.
When you think of a word, your mind immediately throws up associations with that word that have been gathered and stored in your memory over the years. For example, the word 'horse' might make you think of cowboys, the Wild West, racing, jockeys, a polo match, Black Beauty, and so on. The word 'cloud' might suggest a thunderstorm, television weather forecasts, rain or overcast skies.
So if your brain is capable of finding lots of different associations for each of these words on its own, then it will also be able to find associations between two or more different words. You might imagine a horse running through a pasture in the rain, or a horse galloping across the clouds in some fantastic adventure. The more imaginative you make the association the easier it will be for you to remember the words.
The next step is to try the same process with a larger group of words, creating associations between them just as you did with the horse and the cloud. Any list of words will do, up to a maximum of about 10 words long. Write the words down, and then immediately write the first thing that comes to your mind. If the first word is 'shoe' and you think of 'leather', then write that down straight away.
Do the same for all ten words, and then use the association principle to build a picture or story that helps you remember all of the words quickly and easily.
Edited by: Lawyer Asad