Memorizing a long list of items can be tricky. Many of us carry around PDAs and pieces of paper to keep track of our shopping lists, to-do lists, and other lists of items that we have to memorize. Web sites are dedicated to keeping our lists for us. The lists that we write down, however, can be lost. If there was a way to memorize a list, we wouldn’t have to be so dependent on electronic devices and sheets of paper. You can learn a technique to memorize word lists, even if the words are somewhat random. Lists of just about any length can be memorized by using linking thoughts. This technique can be used to memorize any list, from historical timelines to random thoughts.
Let’s say that you have to memorize a list of random words. Let’s say it includes the word bird, strawberry, printer, dog, chair, book, piano, backpack, tuba, and knee. Without a system of memorizing these words, the task could be quite difficult. Using a linking list, you can memorize a simple list of ten words in minutes.
The first step to memorize the lists is to link the words. Use ridiculous images to make them hard to forget. You could think of a giant bird with the body of a strawberry to link bird and strawberry. Then you could imagine sticking a giant strawberry in the printer and trying to photocopy it. You can imagine in your mind shutting the cover on the printer, and seeing the strawberries juices dripping all over the machine. Printer can be linked to dog by imagining a giant dog eating the printer. You can imagine sitting on the dog as if it were a chair. The chair could be reading a book. The book could be playing a piano. The piano could stand up and wear a backpack. The backpack could play a tuba. The tuba could sprout legs and skin its knee.
Making your own associations is the most effective way to memorize a list. By picturing your associations a few times, you’ll easily be able to memorize the list. It’s certainly a lot easier to memorize a list this way than to not use a linking list.
But My List Isn’t Random!
Most people don’t need to memorize random lists of things, unless they are playing that baby shower game where you look at a tray of things for one minute and try to memorize everything on the tray. Memorizing a non-random list is a lot easier. Let’s say that you needed to go to the grocery store and buy butter, eggs, milk, sugar, and cereal. Imagine the butter trying to beat eggs… without cracking them. Imagine a giant egg dumping milk on its head. Imagine pouring milk into a giant bowl of sugar. Think about millions of boxes of cereal poking out of a sea of sugar. Go over those associations a few times, and you have it memorized.
I Forgot the First Link!
You’ll have to find out a way to remember the first item in your link. If you need to memorize your grocery list, you can use the grocery store to help you memorize the first item, which was butter. Imagine a thousand sticks of butter at the entrance of the grocery store, and you accidentally slip on the butter at the entrance and fall flat on your back. When you get to the grocery store, you will remember that the first item was butter, and that will lead you to all the other items on your list.
Another device that you can use to memorize the first item in your list is to tie a string around your finger or turn your watch backwards. You just have to link the string or the watch to your list. If you needed to memorize the first list in this article, you have to know that bird is the first item. Imagine a bird grabbing the string that is around your finger and carrying you away (that probably would hurt). If you wanted to link your watch to that list, you could imagine the bird wearing your watch like a necklace. The watch necklace is too tight on the bird and it is choking the bird.
If you have many items to memorize, you might have to go over the list a few times to make it stick. If you want to memorize something for a very long time, you might have to go over it periodically to refresh it in your head. Memorizing long lists using this technique gets easier with practice. It is certainly easier than trying to memorize a group of words the conventional way!
Lorayne, Harry, and Lucas, Jerry. The Memory Book, pp. 31-36. Barnes & Noble, 1974.