Learn your memory list
You need to get busy learning your memory list of 100 characters. It’s not enough to create the List, which is quite a job in itself, and it not enough to learn how to use it. No, you have to really learn it. You have to get comfortable with using it, in different situations. It has to become almost second nature.
What seemed like a daunting prospect (translating numbers into images) has to become the most natural thing in the world. As soon as you see (or hear) a number, you need to be able to translate it into the appropriate image, or series of images. Only when you can do this easily and readily will you really appreciate the power of this 100-character memory list.
It might be a good idea to write a short piece about each and every character, a sort of dossier or check-list. Note every aspect of the character – what he or she looks like (in detail), how the character sounds (and the kind of things they’re likely to say), how they’re dressed, see them performing their unique actions (in a few different situations), etc. This isn’t some kind of test for you, it’s something that will help you cement the character firmly in your imagination and your memory.
Working with groups of numbers
At first, just work with four-digit numbers. Write down a list of ten four-digit numbers at random and then go to work. For each one, think what would be the image. Take the first character (the first pair of digits) and couple him or her with the action of the second character (suggested by the second pair of digits).
A few examples:
5578 – Einstein tearing his shirt off
5311 – The Queen, skiing
4958 – Old Mother Riley playing a fruit machine
6636 – Steve Irwin playing roulette
3795 – Michael Jackson slinging chicken bones
7383 – Bruce Lee doing pull-ups
See how quickly you can form the image. At first you’ll sometimes struggle to remember which character is ‘on stage’, and what action needs to be used. No problem! Just write down another list of ten numbers and have another go. Do this for a few minutes a day till it becomes easy, and almost effortless.
Random number generator
If you want to see a freshly generated list of random numbers, use the random sequence generator at random.org. Type in 1000 for the smallest value and 9999 for the largest value, and click on Get Sequence. After a few seconds you’ll see a list of random four-digit numbers, in the number of columns you’ve selected.
Or use the random number generator above (it’s already set to generate 4-digit numbers, but you can change that if you like – just change 1000 to 10000 and 9999 to 99999 to generate 5-digit numbers, and so on). Click ‘Generate’ and see what comes up. See how quickly you can create a mental image. Thanks to random.org for the very useful little widget.
And if you’ve been wondering how to come up with some really random numbers (for playing the lottery, for example), then you can use this.
Learn to be flexible
You don’t have to stick rigidly to the single action you’ve decided on when you created the list. Allow yourself a bit of leeway. For example, it might suit you better to see Einsein growling or turning green. You might be content just seeing Bruce Forsyth wearing skiing goggles and with frost on his face, rather than actually skiing. And Old Mother Riley could be losing her temper and banging hell out of the machine for not coughing up!
The point is, the action needs to be linked uniquely with the second character. As long as it is, the image will still make sense to you. But you will have endless scope to vary your images!
It’s a good idea to revisit your memory list and select a few more actions for each character, or at least one alternative action. This way you’ll be building up a vast databank of memory images that can be interlinked in such a way that you can keep creating interesting mental ‘videos’. Just keep in mind that the actions you choose must not be confusing. If you think that bringing Steptoe’s horse into the mix will cause confusion with John Wayne and his horse, don’t use that image/action. Or make Steptoe’s horse look much more skinny and flea-bitten, and John Wayne’s horse much more healthy and robust, with a gleaming coat. Just use your common sense to ensure your images can’t be mistaken for one another.
The trailing digit
Sometimes you’ll be left with a single digit (in odd numbers). In that case, use your creativity to make an image link using a single number shape or image, such as an egg for zero, a gun (six-shooter) for six, or a beehive for five. Just add it into the mix, making up something that makes sense (in a nonsensical sort of way, of course)!
For example, let’s say you’re memorising a phone number. Let’s say it’s 624-3507-4481 (this is a completely random number, and I’ve split it up randomly into a group of three and two groups of four, in the way phone numbers commonly are). For the purpose of memorising the number, you could choose to work on it two digits at a time. Alternatively, you could keep the groups as they are and work on the first group of three, followed by the two groups of four.
So, you could do it like this (using my memory list):
62 is Ringo. The 4 could be a table (four legs), so the image for 624 could be Ringo drumming on a table.
Next is 35 and 07. That’s Tarzan, swinging on a long scarf (Professor Marcus’ scarf, in place of a vine). He lands on the table (you could imagine him mini-sized, maybe a foot tall), and he steadies himself by grabbing onto Ringo’s drumsticks.
The last group is 4481. That’s Freddy Krueger on a hover-board. He’s tiny as well, like Tarzan, and he glides onto the table at speed, causing Tarzan to lose his balance, and the two of them go flying. Ringo is shocked and drops the drumsticks.
Now, link that series of images to the person or the business that has that phone number and it’s job done.
Another approach would be to tackle them in twos from the beginning.
So, you’d have Ringo (62) with big, shabby shoes on (like Charlie Chaplin, (43), and you link him to Tommy Cooper (50) bouncing around on a pogo stick (like Jerry Springer, 74), andYvette (from ‘Allo ‘Allo, 48), who is doing a pole dance (the pole indicating the trailing digit, 1).
Maybe Ringo, in his big shoes, is drumming on Tommy Cooper’s fez as Tommy’s bouncing around on the pogo stick, and he keeps missing the fez because he’s distracted watching Yvette do the pole dance. I know, it sound involved, even messy, but explaining it is a lot messier than just thinking it. And the very act of forming these strange connections makes it easier to remember them!
In the first method, we kept the groups the way they were written (3-4-4), and the trailing digit (3) was linked to the first two. In the second, it was all pairs, and the last digit (again a 3) was linked to the last pair. It doesn’t matter which route you take, as long as you make something that will stay in your memory, and as long as you link it to the appropriate person or company.
Let’s do one more
Let’s do one more odd number. We’ll have a go at …
I don’t like the look of a number this long, so for a start, I’d write this down in groups of four. Just that alone will help you memorise the number. So now we have
which is a lot easier to digest.
Don Corleone (52) is throwing darts (action of Eric Brisow, 40). One of his darts hits Hitler (39), who’s playing the ukulele (or cleaning windows, an action linked to George Formby, 46). Pick one, so let’s say he’s cleaning windows when he gets hit by the dart. Inside, watching him cleaning the window, is Alf Garnett (32), who’s been trying to play the piano (action of 57), but has been disturbed by what’s going on at the window. He’s glad to see Hitler get hit and decides to add to his troubles … he grabs an egg (shaped like an ‘0’) and hurls it at the window, forgetting it’s not open. Naturally, he starts whining and complaining that it all went wrong – first he missed Hitler, and now he realises he’s got to clean all that egg of the inside of the glass.
Adding a little to the ‘story’ and seeing the images vividly (such as the egg splatting against the window and dripping down the glass) makes this scene quite easy to remember. Now all you have to do is link it to whatever you need to remember the number for (just bring something of the ‘target’ into the mix).
Remember though, as useful as this method is, it only works properly if you really learn your memory list!
Use every opportunity to keep forming these number images, and creating these extended scenes. Use these methods to memorise your family and friends’ phone numbers. See if you can memorise all the numbers in your mobile phone’s memory. Make it a habit to use your new memory skills and you’ll see them become sharper and more useful. There’s nothing like seeing results to get you motivated!
If you want to test yourself to see how good you’re doing, write down a long number and set yourself to memorising it. And when I say a long number, I mean a very long number … like, for example, 25 digits, or even fifty digits. A number like that would be practically impossible to memorise without a system, and this memory list system will fit the bill, if you learn it and practise it.
Just to underline how ridiculous a 50-digit number would be to memorise without a system, it would look something like this:
Do you think you could memorise this without a system? Where would you even start?
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