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My Short Term Memory Trick

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 11 41

I have always been envious of those folks who appear to have total memory recall and can

conjure 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.



Jan 30, 2011 12:09am
Great article, good tips. Age will do this to you take it from me, I now write notes for the important things I must remember.
Congratulations on your feature spot.
Jan 30, 2011 1:28am
Thanks dreamaker, I usually have my trusty Blackberry or Ipod with me, but there are times that I have been caught short. It's allways good to have a back up that keeps the mind active.


Jan 30, 2011 7:49am
Well written details and explanations - I heard of the method and it seems to me rather complicated but after reading your article I will try it for sure. Thanks.
Jan 30, 2011 8:23am
Many thanks for the comment, the key to it is using images that are meaningful and that you can relate to. I also need to keep practicing so the images stay fresh in my mind.

Thanks and good luck with your $2000 per month goal.

Jan 30, 2011 5:23pm
This technique is really helpful. The brain loves new stories and funny images. It's sticks more easily. No wonder very young kids and children has good memory for there is a constant wave of new learning. Shopping lists are common things and the brains takes them for granted. No wonder it won't stick.

Nice article!
Jan 30, 2011 7:25pm
Thanks klinejo, I've gotten into big trouble in the past with the good lady of the house for not remembering things. This was one of the reasons that I had to come up with a way of improving my memory

Jan 30, 2011 6:15pm
Great article, you will go far here. Congrats on feature, it is a good one to be sure!!
Jan 30, 2011 7:28pm
Lynsuz, thanks for the kind words. I wasn't sure what it takes to get a featured article. I just hope I can recreate it again.

Jan 30, 2011 10:03pm
After reading the comments I can't remember what your trick was?
Jan 30, 2011 10:13pm
Think of a large swan, poking you in the eye with a walking stick, just after you have abseiled down Big Ben to have a nice cup of Earl Grey with Alfred Hitchcock's extremely tall daughter who works for the FBI selling earrings at the Pentagon.

Tell me which number reference I missed out and I'll rate 3 articles of your choice!
Jan 31, 2011 9:01am
Great article and excellent choice as a feature! We'll all remember this article, even when we can't remember anything else! LOL
Jan 31, 2011 1:19pm
Although I can't keep track of all you wrote (I use lists too dreammaker, it's a technique I've heard about before, and it's a nice share for a feature!
Jan 31, 2011 5:21pm
Hi footloose, thanks for the comment. I use a set of images that are meaningful so that it's not too much of an effort to remember them
Jan 31, 2011 2:08pm
Why is Big Ben = 10 when clocks have 12 numbers on them?
Jan 31, 2011 5:24pm
Good question. Big Ben is rhyming slang for Number 10. I could have used 10 Downing street. The reason that these images mean something to me is because I am originally from London.

Jan 31, 2011 5:02pm
Thanks Deborah-Diane, I'm glad that you enjoyed the read

Feb 11, 2011 10:35pm
I write notes to remind me of other notes! Great article
Feb 12, 2011 5:50am
Hi Sookie, thanks for the comment, it's much appreciated
Feb 12, 2011 8:28pm
Great tip on remembering things! I have a hard time keeping it up, that's my problem. I got it from Kevin Trudeau's book, but a classic method. Thanks for the great article!
Feb 13, 2011 6:17am
Thanks, I have not heard of Mr Trudeau or his work. I appreciate the comment.
Feb 15, 2011 8:28pm
A very useful article with some great ideas. Thank you.
Feb 16, 2011 12:06am
My pleasure, I hope you enjoyed the read
Feb 17, 2011 6:07pm
You didn't reference #4 - the square. Am I right? Loved your article! Congratulations on front page! What fun!
Feb 17, 2011 9:27pm
Hi Venetia, you are indeed correct. I owe you 3 virtual high fives!

Feb 17, 2011 11:20pm
Back at you!
Feb 18, 2011 3:20am
Very informative post. You made some good points. I especially found it useful where you stated the value of technology.
Feb 22, 2011 7:19am
nice share.
Feb 23, 2011 4:40pm
Thanks, my pleasure
Feb 22, 2011 10:31am
Never thought of this idea. Great article
Feb 23, 2011 4:41pm
Cheers, thanks for the comment.
Feb 22, 2011 10:07pm
i saw your post on hubpages. its same to hubpages post.
Feb 23, 2011 9:07am
Great read! I find this article very interesting. I too have had my share of short term memory. My iphone sure comes in handy lol.
Feb 23, 2011 4:40pm
Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the article.
Mar 1, 2011 1:12am
I forgot was I was gonna say...
Mar 7, 2011 4:18pm
Keep practicing your memory tips!
Mar 8, 2011 11:44pm
Great article! Very interesting short term memory trick. Since I can use the help, I will be giving it a try. Thanks for sharing.
Mar 9, 2011 12:02pm
Cool article. Congrats on the feature.
Mar 9, 2011 6:43pm
Thanks guys, I appreciate the comments
Mar 10, 2011 12:42pm
cool article bro, keep it up. :)

i still search some idea to write in here. :P
Mar 15, 2011 11:45am
I use this method but it helps for me if the number rhymes with the word I'm associating it with. For example: 1 = sun, 2 = shoe, 3 = tree, 4 = door, 5 = dive, 6 = stick, 7 = heaven, 8 - bait, 9 = dime, 10 = fin

So if I have to remember to pick up groceries on the way home from work and I had a list of 5 items - Pickles, Ground Beef, Salsa, Chips, & Bread.

I would imagine the Sun eating a pickle as I am watching the sun I notice that I just stepped in a big pile of ground beef and it's all over my shoe, My attention moves toward a tree nearby that is growing jars of Salsa... it's a Salsa tree! I see a pool of chips nearby and dive in only to hurt my leg and leave the scene in need of a walking stick made of bread.

Great article, hope my 2 cents adds some value!

Mar 30, 2011 10:19am
Nice one PapaGZ. Any method that allows you to generate vivid images easily is all good by me.

What happens if you need to use numbers over 10?

Cheers and thanks for the comment

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