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Mnemonics, Nootropics, & Other Tools to Optimize Memory: How to Use Your Brain's

Mnemonics, Nootropics, & Other Tools to Optimize Memory

By Harrison Alley, founder of lifehackersguide.com

Text copyright © 2016 Harrison Alley

All Rights Reserved

[]Table of Contents

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Table of Contents 4

About the Author 5

Introduction 6

Basic Health for Optimal Cognitive Performance 8

1. The Essential Process of Sleep 9

2. The Essential Process of Good Nutrition 13

3. Getting Your Essential Nutrients with the World’s Best Multi-Vitamin 15

4. Getting Non-Essential Nutrients 16

5. The Ultimate Nootropic Stack for Optimal Memory Performance 18

The Method of Loci for Remembering Facts 23

Mnemonics and the Major System to Remember Strings of Digits 27

Using Mnemonics for Memorizing Alpha-Numeric Codes 32

Mnemonics and Long-Term Retention 37

Mnemonics and Memorizing Verbatim Text 39

Mnemonics & Other Tools for Remembering To-Do List Items 41

Mnemonics for Remembering Life (and Wisdom from Ferris Bueller) 45

Conclusion 47

References 47

[]About the Author

Hi.

I’m a University of Southern California graduate and the portfolio manager of a small investment fund in my home state of Texas.

You can read more about my professional journey and health and fitness background on my blog here.

But for the purpose of this e-book, I’d like to give you a brief overview of my interest in and experience with mnemonics, nootropics, and other accelerated learning techniques.

I first discovered the concept of spaced repetition in high school when I was looking online for a better way to remember.

I was frustrated with the quantity of information I needed to memorize for my AP history classes and the seeming lack of good tools to ensure the recall of this information.

Low and behold, in my internet searches I discovered what seemed to be the holy grail of learning – spaced repetition.

What is spaced repetition?

The concept is simple.

Spaced repetition is the practice of reviewing discrete bits of information you have learned just before you forget them.

How do you know when you will forget them?

Scientists have discovered that the brain actually forgets according to a shockingly predictable timeline.

With the advent of computers, computer engineers have been able to capitalize on this predictable timeline with virtual notecard software that prompts you to review information just before you are scheduled to forget it.

And voila, you never forget anything again.

Of course, the reality of learning and life is more complex than simply surrendering all knowledge you want to retain to the schedule of a computer program.

And I quickly discovered this when spaced repetition failed to result in “perfect” learning.

But my pursuit of a “solution” to remembering did start me down the path of looking for every way to optimize cognitive performance.

I’ve tried various types of brain-training software, nootropics or ingestible substances that can improve mental function, and complex mnemonic techniques that can help you remember almost anything you want to remember.

In short, I’ve been fascinated with the topic of improving cognitive performance for about a decade and have tried a laundry-list of techniques to accomplish this goal.

Some have worked and some haven’t.

But I’ve tried to highlight some techniques that have worked for me in this guide.

I hope you enjoy it!

[]Introduction

What are mnemonics?

Basically:

Mnemonics are learning techniques that help you remember. (1)

Remember what?

Remember anything!

Maybe you’re thinking:

“Do we really need to remember much of anything now that we have the internet?”

I think so.

Why? 

The human brain has a unique capacity to find relationships between disparate pieces of information.

With this information, it can ultimately find creative solutions to problems through the construction of original thought.

Phew!

That was a mouthful.

How about an analogy to clarify this idea?

I like to think of information as thread and a computer as a warehouse.

A warehouse (computer) can store thread (information) very well but only a craftsman (the human mind) can weave those threads (information) into a tapestry (unique thought).   

So yeah:

In my opinion, there’s worth to keeping some information in our heads.

But I’m no Luddite.

In fact:

I’ll explore an instance where it might be best to outsource memory to machines.

In the meantime, for those who agree that storing at least some information in our minds is of use to us…

How do we keep information in our heads when sometimes our minds don’t want to remember?

The answer to this question very much depends on the type of information we are looking to retain.

But before we dive into the subject of mnemonics, let’s start with some health fundamentals that prime your brain for optimal performance.

You see,

most pieces of content address either mnemonics or memory supplements for optimal cognitive performance.

Not both!

But I want this e-book to be your one-stop shop for information on memory optimization.

So I’m going to talk about both mnemonics and health for optimal mental function.

Here’s how basic health can improve memory.

[] Basic Health for Optimal Cognitive Performance

The writers at smarternootropics.com created a pyramid representation of what to prioritize first when seeking to optimize mental performance (to which I added mnemonics in the top category):

Here are practical ways to optimize health in each of these categories:

1. The Essential Process of Sleep

I think we all know that sleep is extremely important to health and memory.

Harvard scientists say that research indicates:

“Memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories.” (2)

In short:

better sleep = better memory

In the quest for better memory, how do we optimize sleep?

Countless books and articles have been written on the subject.

But I will try to give you a few practical tips that you can use to improve your sleep hygiene today.

A. Reduce blue light exposure towards the end of the day

Harvard researchers have also noted the negative effect blue light has on sleep. (3)

Basically:

Light from the blue end of the spectrum suppresses melatonin (the sleep hormone) more than any other type of light.

This is bad news for the current generation that typically uses all sorts of electronic devices with screens that emit blue light right before bed.

The good news is that there are apps and hardware that can reduce blue light exposure from electronics.

I use a computer app called F.lux that automatically adjusts the color of my screen based on the time of day so that I am exposed to less blue light at night.

F.lux is also available for Apple mobile devices.

It’s free and it’s totally awesome.

For android users like myself, you can download a similar app called Twilight and it works in just the same way.

There’s even a device for the TV that removes blue light from your screen in the evening hours. (4)

With these tools, you should be able to significantly reduce blue light exposure in the evening hours and improve the quality of your sleep.

B. Make your bedroom as dark as possible

For all the same reasons that you want to reduce blue light exposure at night, you also want to make your bedroom as dark as possible.

Why?

The brighter the light, the bigger the decrease in melatonin and the darker the dark, the bigger the increase of melatonin.

By making your days lighter and your nights darker, you can improve both the quality of your sleep and the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep.

So how do you make your room ridiculously dark?

I recommend Amazon Basic’s blackout curtains.

My wife and I actually use two layers of these blackout curtains and standard curtains to block out all the light in our bedroom and we sleep like the dead.

C. Sleep on an awesome mattress

In Ben Greenfield’s comprehensive review of the state of affairs with mattresses, he came up with more than a few troubling health concerns with your typical coil mattress:

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Coil mattresses produce electromagnetic fields that probably aren’t good for you. (5)

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Spring mattresses are homes to dust mites, mold, and mildew.

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Most mattresses contain dangerous chemicals like flame retardants.

He also covered the qualities of an ideal mattress:

#
p<>{color:#333;}. No crap-storing, EMF-producing springs, but the same biomechanical support as those old, steel-spring mattresses;

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Organic, non-toxic materials that don’t build up chemicals in you and your family’s body;

#
p<>{color:#333;}. The ability to last more than just a small handful of years before you have to throw it out and buy a new one;

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Certified organic latex, and organic cotton, but preferably not wool;

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Natural memory foam – not synthetic memory foam. (6)

As soon as I read Ben’s article about mattresses, I knew I was going to purchase the only mattress that meets all these qualities:

An [+ Essentia+]* mattress (asterisk indicates affiliate link).

These mattresses aren’t cheap (I spent almost $2,000 on mine).

But every mattress comes with a 20 year warranty and is shipped to you free of charge. 

If you’ve shopped around for foam mattresses much (or any mattresses for that matter), you’ll know that this is an extremely long warranty.

So you could buy 4 lower quality $500 mattresses over the next 20 years.

OR

You could buy one incredible mattress that supports optimal health for the next 2 decades.

Another way I justify this expense is through thinking about the quantity of time spent on my mattress compared to the quantity of time spent in another big purchase like a car.

If my wife and I sleep on that mattress every night for 8 hours or a collective 16 hours, $2000 seems very reasonable compared to the $18,000 I spent on my car when I’m only in it for about an hour a day.

Last thing:

When I ordered my Essentia mattress, they guaranteed shipment within a certain amount of time.

I called them after it didn’t ship in the allotted time and they gave me $500 worth of free products (2 pillows and organic cotton sheets).

Now that’s customer service.

2. The Essential Process of Good Nutrition

I’ve discussed nutrition in a more comprehensive way here.

But for this post, I’ll just mention a couple of action items you can do today to improve your health and therefore your memory.

A. Eat more pastured meats and less industrial meat and seed oil

The most important thing I can recommend is to start eating pastured meats with optimal omega 6:3 ratios.

Chris Kresser gives a fantastic overview of why this fatty acid ratio is important. (7)

But suffice it to say that an improperly balanced ratio seems to be a causal factor in many modern diseases.

What contributes to this improper balance?

Heavy consumption of processed seed and vegetable oils as well as industrial meat definitely skews this fatty acid ratio in the inflammatory direction.

However:

You can improve this ratio by eating more grass-fed, pastured meats and wild-caught fish and less industrial meat and vegetable oil.

I highly recommend buying Ted Slanker’s meat from texasgrassfedbeef.com.

He uses cutting-edge ranching practices to improve the omega 6:3 fatty acid ratio in all the meat he sells.

I’ve been a happy customer for over a year and consider it my one-stop shop for all my meat needs.

B. Substitute Breakfast with Bulletproof Coffee

The next thing I recommend is to replace your breakfast with Bulletproof coffee*. (asterisk indicates affiliate link)

I know.

It sounds weird.

But having Bulletproof coffee for breakfast is an excellent way to keep your body in fat-burning ketosis mode and your brain in high performance mode.

It’s superior in every way to a standard American breakfast like cereal.

And it has been my breakfast of choice for over 3 years.

3. Getting Your Essential Nutrients with the World’s Best Multi-Vitamin

Unfortunately, even the best nutrition can leave you with a shortfall in certain nutrients due to the poor farming practices of today leading to food with lower nutrient density.

The good news is that there’s a multi-vitamin that can fill in those gaps.

But there’s only one multi-vitamin that meets Ben Greenfield’s extensive criteria for excellence including:

*
p<>{color:#333;}. capsules (not tablets) for maximum absorption

*
p<>{color:#333;}. one morning and evening dose for optimal distribution of nutrition

*
p<>{color:#333;}. low number of capsules for ease of consumption

*
p<>{color:#333;}. no nasty fillers (or as I like to say, all killer no filler)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. no GMOs

*
p<>{color:#333;}. no banned ingredients

*
p<>{color:#333;}. B2, B6, B12, and folate in their correct form

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Minerals, curcumin, and green tea extract that are actually absorbable

*
p<>{color:#333;}. containing adaptogens

That multivitamin is Exos Multi-Vitamin Elite* (asterisk indicates affiliate link). (8)

I’m a proud user of this multi-vitamin and am incredibly impressed with Exos (and Thorne FX) and their dedication to producing high-quality supplements of incredible purity.

4. Getting Non-Essential Nutrients

If you stick with the above recommendations, your health and memory will likely improve significantly.

But if you want to continue your quest for optimal memory, there are a couple of other nutrients that could improve cognitive function and memory even more.

A. Creatine Monohydrate

You might think of creatine as a body-builder’s supplement, but it has significant beneficial effects for everyone (particularly those who don’t eat much meat).

Examine.com has an extensive article on creatine covering the numerous beneficial effects it has on the body and mind.

Its brief description calls it a performance enhancer, muscle-builder, nootropic, and pseudo-vitamin because of its widely beneficial effects. (9)

Tim Ferriss even recommends it in the 4 Hour Body as part of his anti-aging protocol.

In short,

creatine is a great bonus supplement if you’re looking for an extra boost in mental or physical performance.

This* is the brand I use (asterisk indicates affiliate link).

B. Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALCAR)

Another brain-boosting but non-essential nutrient is Acetyl L-Carnitine.

Here’s an excerpt from Examine.com’s article on ALCAR:

ALCAR is often used as a brain booster, due to its ability to increase alertness and mitochondrial capacity while providing support for the neurons.

ALCAR has been shown to be very effective at alleviating the side effects of aging, like neurological decline and chronic fatigue.” (10)

Again, ALCAR is considered non-essential.

However, its laundry list of benefits makes it a no-brainer for those looking to optimize cognitive performance.

I use Peak Nootropics brand ALCAR* because of their dedication to purity and high quality products (asterisk indicates affiliate link).

5. The Ultimate Nootropic Stack for Optimal Memory Performance

We’ve now worked our way up the pyramid of cognitive performance improvements to nootropics.

But you might be wondering:

“What are nootropics, anyway?”

Jessie over at Smart Drug Smarts gives a solid definition:

“Nootropics is an umbrella term for a class of chemicals — some naturally-occurring, some man-made — that give cognitive benefits to the human brain.” (11)

This all sounds fine and good.

But you may be concerned about the safety of these substances.

If you are, I don’t blame you.

In fact, I’m concerned about the safety of nootropics too.

Optimal health is my number one concern when it comes to supplements so I don’t take anything without trying to know and understand the risks.

That’s why I am only recommending what I take myself and what I believe is safe and beneficial for human consumption.

So let’s start with the how nootropics can improve memory:

raising levels of acetylcholine; raising levels of glutamate; or increasing oxygen flow to the brain → increased synaptic plasticity →better learning and retention and recall of memory

In short:

The three ways to improve memory from a nootropic perspective are raising levels of acetylcholine; raising levels of glutamate; or increasing oxygen flow to the brain.

I’ll address each in turn.

A. Raise levels of acetylcholine and glutamate with oxiracetam

The most powerful nootropics or brain supplements for increasing the production of acetylcholine are in the racetam family. (12)

Many racetam users anecdotally report that oxiracetam helps boost memory the most out of the racetams.

But is oxiracetam safe?

According to Examine.com’s research article,

No negative side-effects have been recorded for oral supplementation of up to 1,600mg oxiracetam daily. (12)

In short, yes oxiracetam seems to be safe.

You can purchase oxiracetam capsules here* (asterisk indicates affiliate link).

It’s definitely cheaper to buy supplements in bulk powder form instead of in a capsule.

But I’m willing to pay more for the convenience of a capsule.

Also, you may find that pramiracetam or another racetam gives you better results.

So try experimenting and see which one works best for you.

B. Increase Acetylcholine in the brain with Alpha-GPC

Since Acetylcholine is made from choline, supplementing choline is crucial when taking any of the racetams.

So what type of choline should you take?

The best choline supplement for memory-boosting purposes is either CDP-Choline or Alpha-GPC.

Why?

Unlike standard choline bitartrate, these types of choline can increase neural connections in the brain. (13)

That’s why I use Alpha-GPC capsules* from Peak Nootropics.

But is it safe?

Since choline is naturally found in many healthy foods and is a necessary nutrient, I think so.

Examine.com also notes that the No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) for choline is very high at 150mg/kg of body weight. (13)

C. Provide a glutamate pre-cursor with L-Theanine

One other way to safely increase glutamate in the brain is with a pre-cursor or glutamate building block like L-Theanine.

As for L-Theanine’s safety, a 13 week toxicity test in rats has established a No Observable Adverse Effect Limit (NOAEL) of 4,000mg/kg bodyweight (an extraordinarily high dose). (14)

L-Theanine is found in green tea and works synergistically with caffeine.

While you could try to get enough L-Theanine with green tea, it’s easier to get the significant dose required for cognitive enhancing effects through supplementation. (14)

Because L-Theanine works so well with caffeine, I recommend taking it with a caffeine supplement or taking it with coffee.

My personal practice is to stack the cognitive benefits of L-Theanine* with my cup of bulletproof coffee* every morning (asterisks indicate affiliate links).

Whatever coffee you use, makes sure it’s high quality.

If you aren’t a coffee person or would rather dose your caffeine with a high degree of accuracy, I highly recommend Smart Caffeine* by Natural Stacks (asterisk indicates affiliate link).

I’ve been using Natural Stacks for years and am amazed by their innovative ingredient combinations, dedication to purity, and open-source practices.

Putting it all together, a day when you use all these supplements might look like this:

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Have your morning coffee with some L-Theanine or take Smart Caffeine in the AM

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Take Oxiracetam and Alpha-GPC at lunch

This combination should give your brain the building blocks it needs to operate at high performance all day for optimal memory retention, recall, and construction of mnemonics.

[] The Method of Loci for Remembering Facts

We’ve taken a thorough look at different health strategies to improve mental performance.

Now let’s examine mnemonics and strategies for better memory and learning.

One of these strategies for remembering information whose order is important is called [*The Mnemonic Method of Loci *](aka memory palace).

Here’s how it works:

Step One: Choose a building you know well enough that you can picture it in your mind’s eye with ease. The ideal choice is a large building with a unique (memorable) floor plan (as opposed to an office building with identical rooms and floors) but a smaller one can work as well.

Step Two: Choose a path that you will follow mentally every time you go through your “palace.” Make sure this path passes each room in the building.

Step Three: Choose the number of memories that each room will contain. This way, you will know whether or not you are forgetting something.

Step Four: Convert the information you wish to remember into images. For instance, if I want to remember that Thomas Jefferson bought Louisiana from Napoleon, I might imagine in a tiny Frenchman with one hand in his shirt and the other hand desperately trying to wrench a Louisiana State University football player out of the arms of a giant walking two-dollar bill which has the face of Jefferson on it. The image is absurd and that is the point. Our brains remember the absurd.

(Nerd fact: This process is known as elaborative encoding. (15))

Step Five: Imagine each of these images in a room in your palace. You can imagine multiple images per room, just remember step three.

If you do not need to remember the information in your memory palace very long, feel free to never review it or fill it with other memories.

If you want more memories stored in this fashion, simply make a new memory palace.

But maybe you’re wondering if this actually works.

If so, I don’t blame you.

It sounds crazy.

But I actually used this method to memorize the order of a deck of cards in under 8 minutes.

Don’t believe me?

You can check out a method of loci card deck memorization contest hosted by Tim Ferriss and Ed Cooke, Grand Master of Memory on Tim’s blog. (16)

Mnemonics help some people to remember the colors of the rainbow and others to memorize the order of a deck of cards.

But do they have any practical value?

I think so.

After having my mind blown by memorizing a deck of cards in eight minutes, I began to wonder about mnemonics’ practical application.

Putting these tricks to the test, I dominated a French history exam at University of Southern California with a few hours of mnemonic practice as opposed to my usual several of hours of studying days in advance.

I know what you’re probably thinking:

“A history exam is hardly a practical, real-life application.”

True.

But I have used these strategies to memorize my own credit card numbers, difficult to recall passwords, and other information that is important in “real life.”

And I have a suspicion that anyone can use mnemonics and other memory hacks to conquer all sorts of memory difficulties given a creative solution and enough practice.

More importantly, mnemonics taught me a great life lesson:

You can accomplish seemingly impossible tasks (like memorizing the order of a deck of cards) when you use what seem to be unrelated natural strengths (like remembering ridiculous stories) to do so.

These natural strengths don’t just apply to me.

They apply to nearly everyone!

Very few remember boring sequences of information well.

But almost everyone excels at remembering objects in 3-dimensional space.

Similarly, most people remember images and stories more easily than bullet point facts.

The method of Loci takes advantage of both of those qualities of the brain enabling you to remember “boring” sequences of information as long as you convert them into striking images in (mental) 3D space.

In fact, this is the basis of memory techniques:

Converting the boring and uninteresting into a vivid image in the mind’s eye.

Let’s take a look at another mnemonic method that takes advantage of the brain’s natural strengths to remember numbers.

  • * Mnemonics and the Major System to Remember Strings of Digits

As you may have gathered, the wanna-be savants of memory-hackers have invented creative uses for mnemonics like the memory palace to remember just about anything.

Some “experts” have even used mnemonics to memorize vast amounts of pi.

We can learn from these pi masters through their method known as the “major system” and apply the tactics to whatever digits need remembering.

Here’s how it works:

The Major System is a mnemonic technique in which the memory hacker memorizes a consonant sound that he associates with numbers 0-9:

1from The 4 Hour Chef

[*Step 1: *]Use the consonants you’ve associated with the numbers to create words (using whatever vowels you like between them).

[*Step 2: *]Translate these words into images (try to use words with unmistakable mental images and concrete meaning like “cat” instead of “emotion”).

[*Step 3: *]Convert these images into a ridiculous or otherwise memorable story in your mind’s eye.

Want to make this process even faster?

You can memorize a pre-selected set of images for numbers 0 – 9 so that hearing or seeing a digit string requires only one step: converting the images assigned to those numbers into a story in your mind’s eye.

What images should you use?

Any that you like as long as they meet the major system requirements.

These are the images I personally use: 0 = ice, 1 = tee, 2 = knee, 3 = me, 4 = ray, 5 = luau, 6 = shoe, 7 = key, 8 = V (birds in a flying V formation), and 9 = bee.

Here’s a story with images that should help you remember these images for the major system:

An iCe cube

sat on a golf Tee

balancing precariously on a man’s kNee

and that man was actually Me.

A sun Ray of light blinded me as I thought why this ice cube tee sat on my knee.

Then I thought, “Of course!” I’m playing a party game at a Luau.

“This party game must also explain the SHoe on my head,” I thought.

But I realized it didn’t quite explain the Key in between my toes.

Thankfully, some birds flew overhead in a flying V giving me some much needed shade at the hot luau.

Unfortunately, the shade was followed by a Bee sting on the face.

So what’s up with the silly story?

Well now you should be able to recall those mnemonic images more easily than if I just asked you to remember them independent of the story.

Don’t believe me?

Try remembering this story tomorrow.

You’ll be surprised at how well you remember the story and the mnemonic vocabulary.

And now you can use this mnemonic vocabulary to memorize any digit string!

Let’s try an example with the digits 4913217.

A sun ray shines on a bee resting on a golf tee next to me while I take a knee next to another golf tee with a key on top of it.

Again, it’s not the most exciting story.

But you’ll be amazed at how much better you remember that “story” than a digit string that simply goes in one ear and out the other.

[] Using Mnemonics for Memorizing Alpha-Numeric Codes

Now you can memorize pi to a thousand digits.

But what about alpha-numeric strings like passwords or license plate numbers?

You guessed it!

You’ll need another set of mnemonic vocabulary terms for each letter of the alphabet.

Of course:

you can always create your own terms.

But if you don’t want to go through that head-ache, use mine!

My wife even drew some original illustrations that should help you remember these easily.

Ready for the story with mnemonic images for each letter of the alphabet?

Here goes:

An apple[* ]set sail in a [*b]oat to meet his friend the cat[* ]and the [*d]og.

They needed a lift so they hopped on an elephant[* ]who took them as far as the giant [*f]eather (and no further).

The apple, the cat, and the dog walked past the feather and through the gate[* ]to the fat [*h]amster who ruled the land from his icy igloo.

The king’s joker decided to escape the tyrant hamster and join the apple, the cat, and the dog in their journey.

When the king’s kangaroo[* *]saw the Joker escape, he too escaped to join the merry band of friends.

The next stop on their journey was to visit the leprechaun. He offered all his guests milk[* ]and one large [*n]oodle[* *]to slake their thirst and hunger.

Then they met the octopus who came up from his ocean lair to meet these friends. He saw how hungry they were and gave them all a peanut[* *]for their journey.

quail looked down from his lofty perch and thought, “This group looks fun. I’ll join them!” So the quail, the kangaroo, the joker, the dog, the cat, and the apple went to their friend, the rat’s house next on their journey.

The rat was balancing on a tall stick[* ]so he could reach his dinner [*t]able[* ]under the shade of an [*u]mbrella. A vulture flew overhead, hoping to eat leftover scraps from the table stacked with delicious waffles.

The group of friends sat at the table, exhausted from their long journey and excited to eat some of the rat’s waffles.

They even had dinner entertainment as they listened to the xylophone played by their friend, the yellow zebra.

Now look away from the story and see if you can remember the images for each letter of the alphabet.

Impressive, right?

Now might be a good time to give yourself a pat on the back for having such a wonderful memory.

And now you’re ready to memorize strings with digits and letters!

So watch out, hackers.

With these tools you can create absurdly long alpha-numeric strings for passwords to all your favorite web services that are harder to hack than “password.”

AND

you’ll actually be able to remember them.

Last thing:

If you want a trick to remember whether letters are capital or lowercase, use a descriptive quality for each image in your mind’s eye to denote this characteristic.

For instance:

You could use the quality of being on fire to denote a capital letter.

So the mental image of a xylophone on fire would represent a capital X.

By now you probably understand the gist of most memory tricks and mnemonics.

But the key to making these tools useful is practice.

Practice will enable you to memorize more quickly.

And memorizing quickly will make these methods more and more useful.

[][] Mnemonics and Long-Term Retention

Maybe now you have created elaborate memory palaces filled passwords, credit card numbers, and absurd amounts of pi.

But can mnemonics alone enable you retain all this information forever?

Apparently not without Piotr Wozniak’s software, SuperMemo.

Here’s a description of this virtual note-card program along with a cool graphic that helps illustrate its purpose:

“SuperMemo is a program that keeps track of discrete bits of information you’ve learned and want to retain.

For example, say you’re studying Spanish.

Your chance of recalling a given word when you need it declines over time according to a predictable pattern.

SuperMemo tracks this so-called forgetting curve and reminds you to rehearse your knowledge when your chance of recalling it has dropped to, say, 90 percent.

When you first learn a new vocabulary word, your chance of recalling it will drop quickly.

But after SuperMemo reminds you of the word, the rate of forgetting levels out.

The program tracks this new decline and waits longer to quiz you the next time.” (17)

Although Wozniak bases SuperMemo on complex neuroscientific principles, its essence is simple:

It quizzes you the least on information you know the best, and quizzes you the most on information you have a harder time remembering.

This concept known as spaced repetition becomes useful only when its user wants to retain information for a very long time.

Though Wozniak pioneered the software application of this neuroscientific concept with his app, SuperMemo, I recommend using a simpler program called Anki. (Also, the desktop version of Anki is free).

Through my experimentation with spaced repetition for the past 7 years, I have a few recommendations:

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Stick with mnemonics if you need to cram. Used spaced repetition if you want to remember indefinitely (like vocabulary words for a language you’re learning).

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Memorize what you want to retain before you store it in a spaced repetition system (unless the information you are attempting to recall is in a simple format like a foreign vocabulary word).

#
p<>{color:#333;}. Construct the Q&A format of your note card carefully to ensure that it actually tests the knowledge you are trying to recall.

Regardless of what you want to remember with spaced repetition, use it cautiously only with material you think will be worth remembering for a significant portion of time.

Otherwise, you’ll find yourself carefully constructing note cards of information that you could have memorized much more easily with mnemonics.

[] Mnemonics and Memorizing Verbatim Text

SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the movie, Book of Eli, Denzel Washington’s character recites the entire Bible from memory.

This movie brought to my attention the difficulty of memorizing exact text and the need for a hack in this area.

Mnemonics, mental imagery, elaborative encoding, and other memory tricks don’t seem to help much with memorizing exact text.

But I did find another tool that does help.

I don’t know if the method has a formal name but I call it, “The First Letter Method” and have heard of many people using it.

Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Find your text online.

Step 2: Paste it into the tool at the bottom of this page.

Step 3: Hit convert and print the result. Now you have the first letter of each word of your text.

Step 4: Read the first phrase of the original text a few times.

Step 5: Now read the first letter version until you only need the first letter of each word to recall the text.

Step 6: Continue steps four and five for each phrase or sentence of the text.

Step 7: Eventually you should have the entire text “memorized” with the aid of looking at the first letter cheat sheet.

Step 8: Recite the text with the aid of the first letters before bed and right when you wake up in the morning for a week, always pushing yourself to use your first letter cheat sheet as little as possible.

Step 9: As you use the cheat sheet less and less, try to transition to only using the first letter of the first word of each sentence and so on and so forth. The key is to make gradual progress in your memorization.

After a week of this sort of review with the first letter cheat sheet, I could recite a ~ 500-word portion of text without my cheat sheet in less than an hour of practice.

This method is also nearly passive in terms of effort.

Of course you might be able zero in on a passage and memorize it in a few hours or less if you desired.

But this method establishes discipline that, if in place, can enable you to memorize massive quantities of whatever text you want to know.

Furthermore, my experience suggests verbatim text typically fades from the mind more quickly if the one memorizing learns it more quickly.

Likewise, when I attempt the memorization process over a longer period of time, the text I’m trying to memorize doesn’t fade from memory as quickly.

  • * Mnemonics & Other Tools for Remembering To-Do List Items

From credit card numbers to verbatim text, we’ve covered mnemonics and supplements to help you remember many different types of information.

But I think we could all benefit from remembering personal to-do list items better.

For some people, the best way to do this might be to outsource it to machines.

Google Keep, a note-taking application available on all devices, enables both time and location-based reminders.

Here’s the kicker:

Location-based Google Keep reminders require you to allow your phone to track your location all the time.

Maybe you’re paranoid and don’t like this idea.

Or maybe you’re like me and you don’t want that sort of drain on your phone battery.

Regardless:

If you don’t want to use the location-based (or time-based) push notifications available in Google Keep and other digital note-taking applications, you can always try remembering things the old-fashioned way.

How?

By writing down or imagining in vivid detail your daily to-do list.

I know, I know.

This isn’t a mnemonic like Roy G. Biv for the colors of the rainbow or “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.”

It might even sound too simple or not even like a real hack.

But this strategy has definitely helped me reduce lapses in prospective memory.

Why does it work?

Writing a list or imagining it in vivid detail require increased focus, a proven method for bolstering prospective memory. (18)

So the next time you have a lot on your plate and need to knock out your to-do list, just wake up a half hour earlier,

find a quiet place with pen and paper,

and leisurely draw out your to-do list for the day while sipping some tea.

This is how life happens, right?

WRONG!

What actually happens is:

You find yourself driving on the highway with a burrito in one hand,

your other hand on the wheel (I hope),

your crying children in the back seat,

your mom on speaker phone,

the radio at a dull roar,

and suddenly you remember everything you need to do that day.

You know that by the time you can write it all down, you’ll have forgotten all those to-do list items.

What do you do then?

FOCUS

Remember when I said that focus is a proven method for bolstering prospective memory?

I meant it!

So turn off the radio, call your mom back later, finish that burrito (and get both hands on the wheel), and do everything you can to remove potential distractions.

Then, focus on your to-do list.

How?

Imagine walking through ever item on that list in excruciating detail.

Sing it, say it, tell it to your crying kids.

Anything and everything you can do to focus on that list will make it stick in your mind longer – I guarantee it.

As a bonus, you experience other benefits of making a to-do list like gaining a better understanding of the priority of the tasks as you focus on them.

In my experience, focusing on that list even helps me remember location dependent tasks in the future like stopping by the grocery store the next time I’m driving by it.

So if you struggle with remembering to do future tasks or remembering to remember, try making a list.

If you know you’re going to need every tool available for optimizing prospective memory, there’s one more hack for this that can help you take things to the next level.

It’s nicotine.

I know.

You’re probably wondering why I’m recommending such a demonized substance.

Well:

It turns out nicotine itself isn’t as bad as it was cracked up to be.

I’ll start with Nicotine’s benefits.

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Makes reaction time faster (19)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Increases attention span (20)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Improves your short-term memory (21), (22)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. reduces hunger, especially when coupled with caffeine (23)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Improves motor skills (24)

But most pertinent to this e-book, Nicotine has been document to aid prospective memory. (25)

Now here are the risks associated with Nicotine:

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Nicotine alone has been shown to promote cancer in mice and rats but this has never been documented in humans. (26), (27)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Nicotine (at a significant dose) can increase blood pressure and heart rate. (28)

*
p<>{color:#333;}. Nicotine activates your mesolimbic dopamine system meaning it can be addictive.

So how do you take nicotine responsibly?

Infrequently, at a low dose, in as pure a form as possible.

I recommend Nicorette’s Mini Lozenges* (asterisk indicates affiliate link).

This is also the form of Nicotine that Dave Asprey recommends and he has extraordinarily high quality standards for everything he consumes.

The dose is very small per lozenge and, although it has some artificial sweetener, the amount is probably too small to matter.

Just make sure to use this particular hack sparingly.

  • * Mnemonics for Remembering Life (and Wisdom from Ferris Bueller)

Perhaps memorizing decks of cards and vast amounts of pi isn’t your speed.

I don’t blame you.

But I think we can agree that remembering life is an important life-hack.

Life memories enable us to turn from our past mistakes, remind us of our many blessings, and help us pass on valuable wisdom to future generations.

Because of these obvious benefits, people have hacked remembering life for quite some time.

Various methods come and go but they all boil down to journaling or some sort of regular recording of life-events.

Sure, journaling isn’t a mnemonic like most people think of mnemonics.

But it is worth discussing in the context of memory.

So how should you journal?

Technology has provided a million and one ways to do it.

For example, a guy named Noah took a picture of himself every day for 6 years and turned it into a viral montage video on YouTube.

Cesar Kuriyama filmed a one-second video on his iPhone every day for a year and created a smartphone app called Second Every Day to help other people capture their lives in the same way,

And Flava is another life-documenting app that helps users virtually scrapbook their lives.

I’ve tried each of these methods in some form:

I’ve taken a picture of myself every day for a few months,

I’ve used the Second Every Day app for about a month,

I’ve even logged information in Flava once or twice.

You know what I learned?

The power of journaling lies not in the medium but in your commitment to the medium.

None of these technological methods of journaling really helped me remember my life.

Why?

Because I didn’t commit to them for the long-term.

I’m sure if I had stuck with any of them, I would have found the practice highly beneficial.

But I did journal with pen and paper every day for 3.5 years.

I found the practice incredibly helpful not only in remembering my life but also in appreciating my life.

Kuriyama noted a similar phenomenon that as he recorded these snippets of life on his phone, he began to feel the obligation to live a life worth capturing.

Cesar captures the dual nature of journaling as a life-hack.

It not only helps you remember your life, it also encourages you to live a life worth remembering.

If you want to pursue this life-hack of journaling, find a medium that works for you and stick with it.

You will be happy you have when you can look back at this journal over a period of time and note how you’ve changed and how you’ve been blessed.

In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

[]Conclusion

I don’t think I have a particularly awesome memory.

But I do think I have all the mnemonic tools to improve it and I hope this e-book gives you a starting place for improving your memory too.

Good luck, and remember that not even the memory palace of Rome was built in a day.

Want free life-time access to this e-book’s updates?

Head to lifehackersguide.com and add your email to my exclusive reader’s list. It’s free to sign up (and always will be).

[]References

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Mnemonics, Nootropics, & Other Tools to Optimize Memory: How to Use Your Brain's

  • Author: Harrison Alley
  • Published: 2016-09-01 04:35:30
  • Words: 6898
Mnemonics, Nootropics, & Other Tools to Optimize Memory: How to Use Your Brain's Mnemonics, Nootropics, & Other Tools to Optimize Memory: How to Use Your Brain's