I have always been envious of those folks who appear to have total memory recall and can Rememberconjure up detailed snippets of information with apparent ease. For me, the ability to regurgitate facts, figures and those "I should know this" items has always been a struggle to manage. This has never been more apparent in my role as a working dad.

Managing life at home and at the office keeps me fairly busy and I could not survive these challenges without possessing a good short term memory. It has been an absolute life saver and constantly proves to be an undeniably invaluable skill to posses.

However, having good short term memory recall is not something that has ever come naturally to me. In particular, one memory skill that I constantly have to work on, but has saved my bacon on a number of occasions, is being able to remember short lists of items or tasks.

How I Manage this Memory Trick

To help me in this endeavour I have associated each number from 1 through 10 with a distinct image and when I am without pen and paper or my mobile device I use these images to remember target items.

The target items in question could be a simple shopping list, a number of tasks that I have to complete or the price of the latest shiny technical gadget that may have caught my eye.

Before I am able to capture any disposable memory items on paper or in my Google Calendar, I will use imagery to hold them in my short term memory and not let them gently sail out of my celebral focus.

Here is my list with the reasons why I chose them.

  1. Walking stick - The single down stroke looks like a walking stick

  2. Swan - The way I write my number 2 reminds me of a graceful swan

  3. Alfred Hitchcock - The shape of this number is not to dissimilar to the famous director's profile, to me at least

  4. Square - For this number I use a square as it's four sides make it a simple shape to remember. The image of a square can be anything from a boxing ring, a section on a chess board, or a very boring person

  5. The Pentagon - I use this famous landmark as it has five sides and is a unique building

  6. An Earring - Not just a plain earring, but one of those elaborate ones that dangle down to the shoulder

  7. Pot of tea - My handwritten 7 looks like a capital T and I am partial to a drop of Earl Grey

  8. A large lady - It must be the type of mind that I have, but the number eight instantly makes me think of a large buxom lady

  9. A skyhook - The shape of this number reminds me of a hook used for abseiling

  10. Big Ben - The famous clock tower in the Houses of Parliament in London, England


I constantly go over these images in my head during any down time. Revising my list of ten memory keys keeps them fresh in my mind and helps to make conjuring up these images second nature whenever I need to remember things.

Ever since I have started these memory exercises I have found that being stuck in traffic or standing in line at the bank or post office seems less tedious.


Total Recall, but not like Arnie

To achieve total memory recall, it is important that not only do these image markers come naturally to you and are easy to remember, but also you should be able to integrate each image with the items that you do not want to forget. The imagery must be vivid and not just be a matter of linking two items together without any distinct meaning.

For example if I were to remember that I had to buy some bread and milk and post a letter on my way home from work, I would perhaps create the following:

I am holding a walking stick made from a long French loaf which I am using to chase away a swan stealing my milk from the doorstep. The swan has a carton of milk under its wing and cannot take off. It is too preoccupied to notice that the whole episode is being filmed for a remake of The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock who is filming incognito from inside a postbox.

A tall story

The beauty of this method of remembering things is that once I have created a vivid set of images, I can set and forget the target list items. All I have to do to recall the things I need to buy or do is to run through the story I made up to remind me of what they are.

Perhaps this gives more of an insight as to the state of my mind more than a guide to adding a helping hand to one's short term memory. Nevertheless, I have found that using this technique far more useful than trying to retain hard facts or items simply by rote.