5 Quick and Easy Memory Tricks


October 2, 2007   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Did you know that 50% of your memory ability is determined by your genetics?

Before you start feeling like you are doomed, remember that you have the power to affect the other 50% of your ability by practicing some smart memory techniques. Here are a few methods you can employ to remember names, lists, and more.

  1. Remembering People’s Names
  • Repetition: When you first learn a person’s name, say it 3 times in your mind. Repeat it back immediately out loud. “Nice to meet you, Hildegaard. What a nice name you have.” Make it a point to use their name several times while talking to them. And don’t worry about sounding funny doing this. The sweetest sound to any person’s ears is the sound of their own name.
  • Association: Next thing to do is make an association between the person’s looks and their name. Using our Hildegaard example, let’s imagine that she is a very slim person. So in your mind you might think “Hildegaard could use a guard to protect her” and imagine a strong guard with his arm around her. Whatever works. The only one who will know about it is you so have fun with it. The wilder the association, the better you will remember the name.


  • Remembering Long Numbers: The Major System
    This could be used for remembering phone numbers or any time you need to remember a long number. If you don’t need to remember long numbers, then this might simply be a fun mental exercise. The Major System involves substituting consonant sounds for each of the numbers 0-9. These are the consonant substitutions:0 – s, z, soft-c
    1 – d, t, th
    2 – n
    3 – m
    4 – r
    5 – L
    6 – j, sh, soft-ch, dg, soft-g
    7 – k, hard-ch, hard-c, hard-g, ng
    8 – f, v – i
    9 – p, bFirst memorize these substitutions. Then, in order to remember a long number, you will create words out of the consonants by placing vowels between them. For longer numbers you will create multiple words strung together as a quick phrase or story. For example, the number 102 could be represented as “Too SooN.” For more information on how to memorize this chart above and how to use this technique check out these two resources:



  • Remembering a List of Items
    For remembering a list of items you can use the Story Method. Simply take the words you need to remember and make them into a story by modifying the words as needed. Let’s say you need to remember a list of errands and a grocery list:


  • Post office- drop off mail, check PO Box
  • Health food store – buy ground flax seed
  • Blockbuster – return movies
  • Grocery Store – bananas, salad, chicken, kashi, croutons, cupcakes

Here’s how your story might go:
The Post man came to the house today to Drop off the Mail and he had a Box with him. He was the ultimate example of Health and his hair was like golden Flax. He tripped over the kids’ Blocks on the patio, Busting down their building. He Returned to his truck Moving his body in a very strange manner. He then grabbed a Grocery bag from his truck. He dumped it out onto our patio and this is what we saw. A yellow BANdana was at the bottom, there was a Chicken with a Crew cut sitting on a Kushion. He was wearing a necklace of Salad and eating Cake out of a Cup.

Of course, you could just write out a list, but sometimes you don’t have paper. Give it a try. At the very least this exercise will give your brain a great workout.

  • Remembering Information for an Exam
    • Writing. Don’t just read the information you need to remember. Write it out. Re-write out all your class notes and any other information given to you by your teacher. Obviously you can’t write out your whole text book so use an outline method. You might want to write your notes out twice, or as many times as it takes to remember. By writing you will be actively imprinting it in your mind. You will likely be able to close your eyes during an exam and “see” the information you need by remembering the act of writing it out.
    • Cheat Sheets. For math or science type classes where official cheat sheets are not allowed, create one anyway with the intention of memorizing it. Write out the the cheat sheet several times. You may also want to draw pictures or create stories about the formulas that will help you remember them.
    • Mind Maps. This is another way to write out information in order to recall it at a later time. With mind maps you can use more creativity to make the information more sticky such as color coding, using pictures, and cross linking of information. To see more information on this method, visit MindTools.
    • Embellished Stories. For classes like history where you need to remember stories, you can try embellishing the story with current events from something that interests you like sports, celebrity gossip, or current politics. Do this by asking yourself, “what current day story is this similar to?” Or by placing a current day figure into the historic story.


  • Short Term Memory Aids
    Say It Out Loud. Do you ever walk into a room and forget why you went in there? Have you ever lost your keys? Do you panic trying to remember if you turned off the curling iron before leaving work? All of these kinds of day to day memory lapses occur because the information was not properly logged into your brain. The solution is to get the information loaded in correctly. How do you do this? Say it out loud 2 or 3 times. “Placing keys on counter.” “Turning off the stove.” “Going to get my sewing kit in the bedroom.” Will you sound like a crazy person? Maybe, but at least you won’t feel like you’re losing your mind because you’ll finally remember stuff better!


What are your favorite memory tricks? Please share in the comments!

Written for Dumb Little Man by K. Stone, author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvements. Popular articles are Life Is Good and 8 Rituals to Crank Up Your Productivity and Happiness.


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