Mnemonic techniques – How to learn more in less time and with less effort

Georgstuby Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Many people believe that memorizing a lot of data is about intelligence. This is only partly true because mnemonic techniques and lifestyle choices are way more important than talent or genetics. In this article, you will pick up the best mnemonic techniques and life hacks to learn more in less time and with less effort. 

Memo Techniques are like little games that utilize the way our brains store information. Through those games, we can learn more in less time – and the process can be effortless and fun. Before you learn the rules of the different memory games, let us have a look at the fundamentals of how our brain stores information.

Fundamentals of learning

1. Neuroplasticity

For this article, I don’t want to dive too deep into the biology of our brains. Let’s keep it simple. Learning is about new connections between the neurons in your brain. The more and the better you practice, the stronger these connections become. Let’s explain it with a metaphor: Imagine walking through an old forest.  The most convenient way is to walk on the already established trails. However, if you want to explore new parts of the forest, you need to leave the old trails and create some new ones. This might take a little bit more time since you need to push away some plants and branches. But the more you use the new trails, the more established and easier to walk on they become. If you don’t walk on some trails for a while, they might be taken back by nature and slowly disappear. Through this, the trails in the forest can change all the time.

The ability of your brain to change is called neuroplasticity. In the past scientists thought that neuroplasticity is high when we are young and gets smaller the older we get. Nowadays it is clear that this was fundamentally wrong. Our brains can change and develop no matter how old we are. 

2. Create vivid pictures

One way to learn new things is to practice them a lot. However, it is not only about how MUCH we practice. HOW we practice has an even bigger effect on our learning success. For this, it is crucial to know that our brain connects information from our senses with emotions to store new information. In other words, it associates sensual data with emotions to easily create new neural connections. Furthermore, it doesn’t make a difference if we really experience something or just vividly imagine it. How can we improve learning new things with this knowledge? While learning new things, create vivid mental pictures. These pictures are most powerful when you :

  1. Involve multiple of your five senses. 
  2. Make those pictures big and over-exaggerated, for example through:
  3. Seeing a “multitude” of elements. For example, a million of something.
  4. Bringing action into the pictures. Our brain can remember highly emotional, crazy, weird, sexual and violent events best. 

In all mnemonic techniques, we create those mental pictures. Now let’s have a closer look at some mnemonic techniques.

Mnemonic techniques 

The peg technique

For this mnemonic technique, we use a list of objects as pegs for the things we want to learn. For each peg and piece of information, we create a mental picture. 

Here are 5 lists that you can use:

The Body List 1:

1 Head crown

2 Eyes

3 Nose

4 Mouth

5 Ears

6 Shoulders

7 Collarbone

8 Hands

9 Bellybutton

10 But

The Body List 2

1 Foot

2 Heel

3 Calves

4 Knees

5 Genitals

Object List 1

0 Basketballs

1 Sun (1 Sun)

2 Socks  (2 Socks)

3 Traffic Light (3 Colors)

4 Car (4 doors)

5 Star (5 peaks)

6 Soda (Sixpack)

7 Rainbow (7 colors)

8 Octopus (8 tentacles)

9 Cat (9 lives)

10 Fingers (10 fingers)

11 Skis (picture two skis)

12 Roses 

13 Which (13 as a bad number)

14 Gold (14 karat)

15 Money

16 Candles (16th birthday cake)

17 Magazin

18 Truck (18 wheeler)

19 Golf (19 holes, the 19th hole is the bar)

20 Fox 

Object List 2

1 Cyclops (1 eye)

2 Swan (2 looks like a swan)

3 Barstool (3 feet of a barstool)

4 Cloverleaf (4 leaves)

5 Toes 

6 Dice 

7 Flagpole (7 looks like a flagpole)

8 Octopus

9 Cat

10 Fingers

Object List 3 (rimes)

1 Bun

2 Shoe

3 Tree

4 Dor

5 Hive

6 Stiks

7 Heaven

8 Gate

9 Wine

10 Zen

Let me give you an example of Jim Kwik, where he connects super brain foods to the first body list.  Here are the ten superfoods and the body parts we want to connect them with:

1 Avocado – Head of Crown

2 Blueberries – Eyes

3 Broccoli – Nose

4 Coconut – Mouth

5 Eggs – Ears

6 Treen leafy vegetables – Shoulders

7 Wild salmon – Collarbone

8 Tumerics – Hands

9 Walnuts – Belly Button

10 Dark Chocolate – But

First, you could imagine a huge avocado that you balance on your head. Then you could picture that your eyes are replaced by blueberries, and so on.

Loci Method

The Loci Method is similar to the lists above, but you create this list for yourself. “Loci” is Latin and means „place“. When you create your Loci-List(s) you mentally walk through a place such as your flat and choose certain parts of the flat or objects that become the points on the list. Let me use my flat in Berlin as an example: 

1 The junkie on the doorsteps

2 Front door

3 Letter Box

4 Hallway Window

5 Bell 

6 Door of the flat

7 Wardrobe

8 Bike

9 Keys

10 Couch

11 …

This list goes on until 22. Like this, I can memorize a lot of things, for example, certain points for a longer presentation. If you want to use this method, mentally walk through your place and write down the distinct places or objects. Then you can apply the same process as with the Peg Method. 

Another well-known mnemonic technique is building a chain of associations. Here you link the elements without a pre-made list of objects. I personally find the mnemonic techniques that utilize pre-made lists of objects to be more strong, since you then also clearly know which number a certain piece of information has. For example, you know that in the first body list „nose“ is number three and with this, you also know that „broccoli“ is the third superfood. 

Life Hacks for boosted memory

After introducing the mnemonic techniques, let’s have a look at the life hacks that boost your memory.

First, let me give you 6 tips to boost your learning efficiency :

  1. Before I start to memorize, I take a couple of minutes to become present and to get into a high emotional state. I like to meditate on what I am grateful for in this moment. This increases my mental capacity.
  1. When I use those lists to memorize, it is very helpful to write them down – together with the things I want to learn. Handwriting works best because through it you utilize your muscle memory. I have been doing this for years to prepare for exams. I have to come up with the list and then I review it 3 more times – with a few days in between. This is called „spaced repetition“. After some days the information is deeply anchored in my long-term memory.
  1. When I end a learning session, I once again close my eyes and give myself some self-hypnosis suggestions, for example, „I am able to fully recall all of this every time I wish.”
  1. Scents and music can be powerful anchors to bring you into learning mode. Essential oils work great for this. When it comes to music, there is a special playlist on Spotify. According to some scientists, baroque music is great for focus.
  1. Start and Stop in a planned way. Every time you do a short break and come back to learn more, your brain creates new connections. The Pomodoro Method works great for this. In the breaks, I love to do some easy exercises such as push-ups or squats.
  1. Jim Kwik says „When your body moves, your brain grooves“. Learning while moving your body can boost your learning efficiency. I love to learn while going on walks. For this, I either write the things I want to learn down, or I create a voice memo. Then I can listen to it while walking. Through this I integrate another sensual channel into the learning process.

Besides learning techniques your lifestyle and the way you see yourself has a tremendous effect on your brain performance:

  1. High-quality sleep.
  2. A good diet.
  3. Breathing.
  4. Regular exercise.
  5. Being in balance/low stress.
  6. A positive and clean environment. 
  7. Your beliefs.
  8. Your Identity. 

About each of these six points, thousands of books have been written and it is not possible to go in-depth for each of them. What is important to understand is that all of those areas of your life are connected and influence each other. Depending on where you are at in your life it can make sense to start modifying different points than for other people. Focusing on better sleep makes sense for almost everybody of us since it has a ripple effect on what food we crave, how stress affects us, how much energy we have, and so on. This is why I created the following mind map, in which I condensed the most important things you need to know about sleep. You can download it here in full resolution.

If you want to go deeper on the other levels, I invite you to reach out to me and we can speak 1 to 1.

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