Selecting Good Mnemonic Cues

Remembering information is more than just storing it as images, rhymes, or acronyms; it is also the trick of using a good cue or prompt to recall the memory when you need it. Elsewhere, someone mentioned the example of remembering to buy toothpaste -- when brushing your teeth. The act of looking at your toothbrush or the empty tube of toothpaste is a cue for the memory "buy toothpaste". Unfortunately, it's a bad cue, because it only reminds you to buy toothpaste when you need the toothpaste, instead of when you are at the store. Likewise, a written shopping list only works if you remember where the list is and remember to take it with you before you leave for the store.

Selecting good mnemonic cues is probably more important than selecting strong images or good NumberSystems. There are a couple good ways to go about it.

Link Information to Destinations

For lists of items you need to get or tasks you need to do at a destination, such as shopping lists or books to find at the library, use the destination as your memory cue. Build a journey, using the store or library as a memory peg. Seeing the destination reminds you to do a mental walk-through of the destination to recall what you need to get or do there. This isn't a good method to remember things you need to take somewhere, however, because it reminds you of what you need after it's too late.

To remember things you need to tell or ask someone about, use the same concept. Visualize that person and peg images using the BodyList as a guide.

Use Your Environment

For items you need to take or do something about before leaving for another destination, link images to an object or place that you will see before you leave. For example, you can imagine yourself facing your front door as you are leaving and use that in a LociSystem to peg a "before I leave..." to-do list.

Better yet, position anything you need to take with you before you leave in a place where you will see it as you leave. Link the image of what you need to do to that object.

The old trick of tying a string around one finger is based on this concept, since looking at your finger reminds you that you needed to remember something. Unfortunately, unless you need to remember to buy more string, it's not a very good cue, since it doesn't tell you what to recall. You can combine this with the trick of visualizing things wrapped around or tied to your fingers, to make it more useful.

Use Cue Cards

Professional speakers memorize their speeches, but usually also have an index card or two with one or two words to remind them of each point they wish to make. You can combine this with a systematic memory approach and record memory places with one-word topics to create a short list that looks something like:

If you needed to remember facts about chemistry, art, and geology (for a party?) this list would remind you where you stored that information. Put it somewhere where you will see it in time to review your information, such as on the door to the refrigerator or your front door.

Be Systematic

The previous list used a simple system to link fields of study to places in a LociSystem: chemistry resembles cooking, art is found in a museum, and geology is about rocks, which are found in caves. This makes recalling the information easier, since when you need to recall that information, you can think "where would I have put that?" and use the same guidelines you used to select the loci in the first place to find it again, then do your mental walk-through to recall the information.

You can be even more systematic. Use places that start with the same letter or sound as the subject you are memorizing, for example.

Create a Good Habit

Whether you use a daily planner or a PegSystem to store a to-do list, you have to create a habit of checking your planner or PegSystem at regular intervals or it won't be effective. Other habits help, too. When you are introduced to someone and want to remember their name, remember to LinkQuickly, using a prominent feature of their face as a peg to connect their name to. Set up a regular schedule to review information you've stashed away. Use physical actions or sounds to reinforce your visualization process by writing down the images you use (then throwing away the paper) or talking to yourself.