Anthony Metivier is an experienced memory expert, author, professor and memory improvement course creator. He is host of the Anthony Metivier's Magnetic Memory Method Podcast.
Do you want to give a presentation that everyone in the room remembers? I know I sure do. That’s why I did one thing first after getting the invitation to give a TEDx Talk: I picked up the phone and called Thomas Krafft. I’d seen Thomas give a presentation about a year earlier and knew he was good himself. I also knew about his company and the help it offers people around the world through the Presentation Boss Podcast. I learned a ton as a result of working with Thomas. Plus, it looks like my talk really hit it out the park, setting the stage for even better talks to come. Now… if you’re a regular here, you might be thinking… Hang on, Anthony! You’ve been speaking for years! What do you need a speaking coach for? Good question. Here’s the low-down: Although I’d been writing and delivering lectures at universities around the world for nearly ten years, not to mention oodles of videos and live streams, I was humble enough to realize that this particular stage was new to me. It’s also a huge opportunity and I didn’t want to “wing it” as I’ve done so many times before. Thanks to the help I got from Thomas, it’s been a tremendous success, though ultimately you have to be the judge of just how successful… It’s NEVER To Soon To Learn How To Present Better Frankly, I could have used help  to become a better speaker during my earlier career too. Speaking actually isn’t that difficult for me, and neither is writing talks or presenting based on notes. What is difficult for everyone is being your own critic and seeing things from an outside perspective. For me, that is excruciatingly difficult… and all the more so as my meditation projects reduce the amount of thoughts in my head. In other words, without the external feedback of an expert… just because you might be able to crank out lots of writing, memorize it and speak easily in front of a crowd doesn’t mean it’s going to be good. In fact, without expert help, you can pretty much guarantee it’s going to be far from world class. And that’s what you want, right? To be understood, and above all, remembered. A Good Presentation Changes Lives You also probably want to know that you’ve touched lives too. You probably want to receive feedback like this: Dr. Metivier, I wanted to thank you for helping me release an immense amount of tension and negative thoughts in a manner of seconds. I was sitting on my couch two days ago with a heating pad on a massive knot in my neck. I don’t generally have physical manifestations of stress, and this was new. This knot came from stress related to the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and what that will mean for the US and the upcoming election. My Youtube recommendations are mostly cooking or travel related and the very rare Ted talk mostly related to topics i can use in my classroom. Self-help is not a topic that I think of much or watch videos related to, ever. Something made me stop at your TedX talk that appeared in my feed with an incomplete title “Two Easily Remembered Questions That Help Silence Negative…” So I watched it, then watched it again. Then I tried it. My stress and negativity released almost immediately. And then the tears started. a middle aged man, with a heating pad on his neck, bawling on the couch. It was glorious. It was so easy. Thank you for that. Thank you so much for giving me this small tool, these questions and this mindset. Stay Well and Stay Safe. Chris Drake San Diego, CA USA Do You Want Your Next Speech To Create An Impact Like That? The important points in Chris’s email, and in many of the comments on the presentation video are these: The content was good enough to go through twice The content was good enough to create a response My listener took action and got results. There are rules that govern how and why good presentations create such results. If you want to discover these simple rules, let me introduce you to my new “secret weapon” for giving world class presentations that reach and help positively transform the lives of hundreds of thousands of people: About Thomas Krafft Thomas Krafft is the co-founder of Presentation Boss, Australia’s premiere communications consulting firm, he has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses refine their communication, specifically presentations, and, more specifically, the visual tools used in those communications, to share a message effectively, making it unforgettable. Our conversation moves swiftly, as we cover such a wide range of areas of the art of public speaking, but, at the same time, it’s casual enough as a listen-anywhere, anytime topic. Thomas is a wealth of information, and in our time spent together the insight he delivered was both a challenge, and encouragement – the best of both worlds. Having delivered hundreds of talks to thousands, with audiences big and small, he has mastered the art of balance, both in preparation (believe it or not you can be overprepared), and presentation (knowing how to truly cater to your listeners for maximum impact).  Whether you have an upcoming presentation that you’re struggling to prepare for, racing to make a deadline for that first draft of notes. Or you want to freshen up your presentation style because your last talk didn’t go as planned. Maybe you just want to be a more effective communicator in your everyday life with your peers. Whatever the motivation, Thomas can help. So press play above and listen in as we discuss: The secret to taking what’s inside your head, and with clarity and confidence, deliver that to an audience (very high level, I know, but it’s true!) How speeches are really judged and evaluated – and it may not be as subjective as you think The questions you must ask about your audience before even putting a pen to paper The real purpose of any presentation you deliver, bridging a gap, and how exactly to construct that bridge Where people “fall down the most,” in speaking How to handle “blind dates” for your audience – without context – and how to avoid them. Why you need to incorporate Aristotle’s Pillars of Rhetoric into every presentation you give, and why the right mix of the three elements is crucial Rethinking the idea of audience participation and engagement – it can take many different forms The reason using tools, or not using them for arbitrary reasons, can be your biggest downfall The pros and cons of verbatim vs. topic based speaking styles (you might be surprised here!) The keys to making good communication skills translatable to any medium How comforting a reality check can be – understanding the process that skills are learned (bring on the learning curve as it’s perfectly natural) Why being terrified of public speaking is okay, but the real reason overcoming it is necessary…and possible. For anyone. Enjoy this episode and make sure to give Thomas a call before you give your next presentation! Further Resources:  How to Memorize a Monologue: Your Quick and Easy Guide  How to Memorize a Speech Fast (Without Sounding Like a Robot)  The ancient art of giving persuasive speeches from memory is also covered in the Rhetorica Ad Herennium:
Instantly memorizing what you need to know is the ultimate dream for many people. But for many, their inability to remember anything is the ultimate nightmare. One reason people struggle is that there are so many terms. It can be confusing. But the facts are that anyone can use mnemonic strategies to learn faster and remember more. You just have to find the approach that works best for you. Here’s what this post will cover: What Is A Mnemonic Device? Mnemonic Device Examples – Personally Created Flashcards – Acronyms – The Memory Palace Technique – Associative Imagery, Linking, and Pegwords – Story Method – Major System and Dominic System – 00-99 PAO – Mind Maps Mnemonic Techniques and Strategies for Remembering Things So if you’re ready to dive in, let’s get started with… What Is A Mnemonic Device? The best mnemonic device definition we can start with is this: Anything that helps you remember better is a mnemonic. Even the dictionary says that a mnemonic device is anything: “assisting or intended to assist the memory.” For that reason, it’s a highly adaptable term that works as an umbrella to cover a wide range of activities including: Personally created flashcards Acronyms Memory Palaces (sometimes called a Mind Palace, the Method of Loci, Journey Method, or Roman Room) Associative imagery, linking, and pegwords Story method Major System or Dominic System 00-99 PAO Mind Maps … and more Given this adaptability, it’s little wonder there’s so much confusion over the term. But here’s what I’d like you to notice: None of these are really “devices.” They are processes. As memory expert David Berglass made clear in A Question of Memory, memory is not a unitary mechanism or a “thing.” It is a behavior. And that is how you use mnemonics. You understand them as processes and then you sprinkle them into your life so they become part of your behavior. Let me make that more concrete: When I gave a TEDx presentation, I not only memorized my talk — on that day, I memorized all the names of the people I met. I used a wide variety of techniques (see how to memorize a speech) and chose the specific mnemonic devices I used based on the circumstances. With practice, using mnemonics happens almost on autopilot! Mnemonic Device Examples Let’s dig a little deeper using our list of mnemonic examples above. Personally Created Flashcards My friend and language learning expert Gabriel Wyner inspired me to give these a try after reading his book, Fluent Forever. Basically, instead of downloading software put together by a stranger, get some paper and colored pens. (Obviously, you also have all the information you want to memorize organized too.) Next, use the paper and colors to help you create images. These images should remind you of the target information you want to recall. Flashcards as mnemonic devices for Chinese characters Now, there’s a whole lot more going on in this example, so please keep it in mind. I’ll go deeper into it later in this post. For now, if you’re worried about having a bunch of cards flying all over the place, don’t be. You can wrap them up in a Memory Palace drawing just like this: I used simple and elegant combinations of mnemonic devices to pass level III in Mandarin last year Next, let’s look at how abbreviations can help. Acronyms Have you ever asked… what is it called when you use letters to remember words? As usual, there’s no one answer, but the first method is called an acronym. For example, when I teach memory improvement in a live setting, I usually talk about how following the rules will set you F.R.E.E. “Free” is a word that helps me remember the meta-rules students need to make learning with memory techniques easy and fun: Frequent practice in a state of… Relaxation and a spirit of… Experimentation so that you can be… Entertained Just follow those rules as you use mnemonics and you will truly be free to memorize as much as you want. The best part? You can lay out acronyms inside of a Memory Palace. The Memory Palace Technique The Memory Palace is an ancient technique. It essentially involves using space as a mnemonic device. You do this by thinking about a familiar location. Then, you chart out a logical journey that does not take energy from your memory. If you have to memorize the journey, it is not a good Memory Palace, so pick something else. For example, I visited a bookstore in Zamalek, a part of Cairo, Egypt. To keep it simple, I used only the parts of the bookstore I remembered. To help my brain reduce the cognitive load even further, I made a quick drawing of the space: A Memory Palace drawn on an index card to maximize its value as a mnemonic device Notice I’ve actually drawn the Memory Palace on an index card (or flashcard). I do this because it makes it easy to store many of them for quick reference if I ever need them. I also write down the number of stations and name them. I find this helps me “set and forget” the Memory Palace and ensure I’ve gotten it right the first time. I believe scientists call this kind of activity a means of harnessing the levels of processing effect. Associative Imagery, Linking, and Pegwords Inside of these Memory Palaces, place a list of mnemonics you create. These will be a kind of mnemonic that are multi-sensory. For example, think back to that first image I shared above with the flashcards for Chinese. Those colorful drawings help me remember the sound and the meaning of the Mandarin words. But those mental images aren’t just on the flashcards! They’re also mentally situated on stations in the Memory Palaces I use. (Some people call these stations “loci.” It’s basically the same thing, but “Magnetic Station” is my preferred term because recent advancements make them much more powerful than the ancient teachings suggest.) To make such imagery, you will want to complete a number of exercises. For example, go through the alphabet and think of an image for each letter. The pegword method is a great way to explore this technique further. If you’re really serious about mastering the Memory Palace technique, you can explore having an image on each and every station. For example, when I memorize cards, I always have images on the stations to help me “trigger” the row of cards I’ll be placing and later recalling on a Magnetic Station. Basically, what I’m talking about is multiple levels of linking all at once. Some people talk about the linking method in a very weak way, that amounts to just “this links to that.” I don’t find that approach is strong enough. What most of us need is for our association imagery to combine: Sound and meaning links at the granular level of the alphabet Multi-sensory links that are concrete and specific, not vague and abstract Tied tightly to space so that we are working from the foundations of the strongest level of memory: spatial memory Furthermore, the real trick with these associative images is that they must: Actually associate in a way that triggers what you want to memorize (for example, the barber symbol I used on the card above triggers the ‘ba’ sound). Help you get back the meaning of the content (where relevant). Have a Memory Palace so you can mentally “find” the imagery. Some people don’t need the Memory Palace, but in my experience, they are few and far between. And when you think about what mnemonic device means more holistically, each card is a kind of station in a Memory Palace. Story Method Using a story (with or without a Memory Palace) is not much different than using, links pegs or associations. The only difference is that with the story method you’re adding the extra step of creating a narrative. For example, let’s say you want to memorize a list of names at an event: Haley Allan Sharon Andrew Edward Angela Sam If you were using pegs, you would look at “h” when seeing Haley and associate her with something like Halley’s comet or a hat. Allan could be associated with an Allen key. You can also spontaneously produce associations or have stock characters. For example, every Sharon could be Sharon Osbourne. The story method, on the other hand, requires us to add a narrative to the association, such as: Halley’s comet is crashing into an Allan key in the hands of Sharon who finds it burning hot and hands it to Andrew. The story method can possibly be used without a Memory Palace. However, stories have parts. And those parts exist somewhere in your brain which means they are inherently spatially located. I think you’ll find it a lot less mentally taxing to lay out any narrative elements you use in a Memory Palace. Another way to approach the story method is to use a movie or novel plot you know well. For example, let’s say you have mentally reduced The Matrix series down to three scenes: the hotel, the desert of the real, and Neo’s cabin on Morpheus’ ship. For the first piece of information you want to remember, you would use the first room and perhaps Trinity doing her flying kick. Then you would move on to the next location for the next piece of information. This example shows how stories are always spatial in nature from another angle… after all, if they don’t take place somewhere… how can they be stories? Ultimately, there is no right or wrong to this application. It basically comes down to your level of skill, the context, and the nature of the information. I personally would not add a story step while memorizing names in a live setting — and tend to create my associations on the fly rather than draw upon stock images. But if a stock image makes sense, I’ll certainly use it. Major System and Dominic System When it comes to associative imagery, the alphabet is a great tool. But it can also be mixed with numbers. The Major System (often called the Major Method) helps you associate a consonant with each digit from 0-9. This mnemonic device has been in use since the Katapayadi of ancient India. A more common approach that has been in use since the 1700s looks like this: A more recent innovation is the Dominic System. It has some key differences, so make sure to study both. 00-99 PAO PAO stands for Person, Action, Object. Basically, you’re taking the Major System and using it to help you make words from numbers. Here are some examples from mine: 01 – Sad (tragedy mask) 02 – Sun (from the movie Sunshine) 31 – Mad Magazine mascot (often dressed as a maid) Notice that I’ve put some concrete indicators in parentheses. This is because “sad” is not very evocative. It’s just a concept. But when I think of a tragedy mask, it still links to the concept of sadness. To make it even more specific, I think of the tragedy mask worn by William Shatner in Oedipus Rex. Mind Maps Tony Buzan is one of the greatest innovators of mind mapping, but he says in Mind Map Mastery that he abandoned this technique for improving memory back in the 70s. He focused more on using keywords that help with creativity, problem-solving, and planning. I feel that the conclusion to remove their use as a memorization tool was premature. If you would like to learn how to combine mind maps with Memory Palaces, for example, here’s a simple way to also add in the Major System for incredible results: As you can see, it’s fun to mix keywords with the Major Method on paper in a way that turns the mind map into a simple Memory Palace. And this is really just the beginning when it comes to learning how to remember things. It’s not just that there are a TON of mnemonic devices to choose from. It’s that we get to delight in how they can be mixed and matched in so many ways. Mnemonic Techniques and Strategies for Remembering Things Now, you might be wondering… how do you apply all of these techniques strategically? Good question! The answer is that you need to explore on your own, ideally based on a clearly defined learning goal. That said, here are some suggestions. Mnemonic Strategy #1: How to Memorize Numbers For learning numbers, you’ll want to have either the Major System or the Dominic System. Nothing will be lost if you develop skills with both. In fact, that is highly recommended. You can even consider learning another version called The Shadow if you’re really ambitious. My friend and fellow memory expert Braden Adams talks about this technique here. Mnemonic Strategy #2: How to Learn a Language For learning languages, a solid Memory Palace Network is advised. This means having one Memory Palace per most letters of the alphabet. (Skip x, y, z, etc. if you can’t come up with solutions. Just gather as many together as you can.) If you have a Major System prepared, you can use this to help with memorizing words, such as using your image for 90 when you encounter a “bas” sound, etc. Mnemonic Strategy #3: How to Memorize Names For memorizing names, some people like to have prepared associations ready to go. For example, if they meet a Ron, they’ll use Ronald McDonald. However, the world has evolved a lot and we’re increasingly in contact with people who have diverse names. For that, you’ll want to make sure your peg system is very robust. Mnemonic Strategy #4: How to Memorize Music For memorizing music, the Major System will be a must. Here’s how to memorize a song — the post is very detailed and shows you how to turn your instrument into a Memory Palace to combine with the number system you choose. Mnemonic Strategy #5: How to Memorize a Speech For memorizing a speech, you can use acronyms or a Memory Palace. I’ve done a combination of both over the years, and sometimes will place acronyms in a Memory Palace. Memory Palace using an acronym as a mnemonic device For memorizing playing cards, most people take a Major System and develop it into a 00-99 PAO. For example, in my system, the Ace of Spades is 11. Using the Major, the image is a toad. To make it more specific, I use the Warner Brothers toad. Each card has an image like this and then I lay them out in a particular Memory Palace I prefer for memorizing cards. Guess what? there are even more mnemonic strategies you can learn (not to be confused with memory strategies). Treat them like missions and practice consistently. You will succeed. Please don’t think all of this is too difficult or complex. Frankly, the problem with the memory world is that so many teachers out there dumb it all down. But when someone finally shows how all of these mnemonic devices work together in unison, you wind up getting great successes like James Gerwing winning the 2019 Canadian Memory Championship — as a retiree! I Love Using A Combination Of Mnemonic Strategies — How About You? We’re incredibly lucky. Although it can be confusing, the Internet has enabled dozens of memory competitors, memory athletes, and plain ol’ memory fanatics like me to create tons of free content for the world. Even though it’s easy to get lost in the intricacies, remember: Memory is not a thing. It is a behavior. Dive into each of the approaches you learned today. Really dig deep into their nuances through practice. Let me know if you found this guide helpful and comment below. If there’s a mnemonic device I missed, please share it so I can update this post. All of us will be eternally grateful. And if you want to learn more about how to make the most of your new mnemonic strategies using a Memory Palace, pick up your free copy of the memory improvement kit today!
Wouldn’t it be great if you could snap your fingers and instantly concentrate on studies? The problem is… you know some people can. But no one has shown you how. Today’s your lucky day because I once suffered from an attention span so frazzled, I nearly had to drop out of grad school. But I turned it all around and you can too. Easily. Why am I so convinced? The reality is this: There are tons of science-backed techniques that help students of every age concentrate on studies. It doesn’t have to do with your personality or your discipline. It has to do with how you design your learning life as a kind of game you can win. So if you’re ready to start stacking the chips in your favor, let’s get started. Here’s what this post will cover: Why Can’t I Focus On Studying? How to Focus on Studying: 11 Proven Strategies 1. Create Clear and Achievable Goals 2. Keep A Rigorous Study Schedule 3. Use Spatial Anchors 4. Block Out Distractions The Easy Way 5. Train Your Attention Span 6. Place Long-Term Outcomes First 7. Put Accountability On Autopilot 8. Track Your Progress 9. Use Tangible Study Tools 10. Keep Your Body Fit 11. Breathe and Meditate How to Concentrate On Studies The Easy Way Ready to learn how to concentrate on studies? Let’s go. Why Can’t I Focus On Studying? The main reason people can’t concentrate isn’t because they don’t know how to focus on studying. It’s usually because they: Lack clearly defined goals Haven’t scheduled specific study times Do not study in specially designated areas Fail to strategically block out distractions Have not trained their attention span Focus on getting good grades instead of developing skills Do not seek accountability from mentors, peers, or themselves Have no tracking systems in place Rely on smartphones and apps instead traditional and tangible study tools like physical notebooks and flashcards Include no dietary and physical exercises regimes in their daily routines Do not meditate or have knowledge of breathing exercises that can create a state of presence To sum all of this up based on research, failing to attend to each of these points keeps you trapped in endless loops of mind wandering. According to scientists in the journal NeuroImage, too many learners have no strategies to help them focus on tasks. It’s not just that people have multiple tabs open on their browsers and allow themselves to be endlessly distracted by notifications on their phones. They cannot enter what is commonly called “flow” (governed by the Task Positive Network of the brain) because of all the factors listed above. The good news is that even the simple act of breathing strategically can calm your nerves so thoroughly within seconds that you can get through far worse than lack of concentration while studying. You can potentially even land a plane suffering mechanical failure! How to Focus on Studying: 11 Proven Strategies Let’s look at each of the eleven strategies in detail. 1. Create Clear and Achievable Goals Have you ever caught yourself saying something like, “I’m going to read 11 articles by the end of the day and remember everything!” If so, I’ve been there. And guess what? It never works. Instead, I’ve learned to create goals I can actually achieve. Long before James Clear wrote his international hit Atomic Habits, I got so sick and frustrated with my fanciful overreaching that I knew I had to change. I took a long hard look at how I was reading and using memory techniques and realized I was trying to have it all instead of focusing on only the most relevant information. I started to think of it as the Faust Syndrome. (Faust is a fictional character who sold his soul to the devil in order to enjoy universal knowledge of everything. He ultimately realized knowing everything in exchange for eternal torment really wasn’t worth anything compared to the satisfaction of functional knowledge.) Although it would be many years before I heard about the 80/20 principle, I was aware of something called “the rule of redundancy.” Basically, it means most of the words in a book have nothing to do with its core points. Rather, they’re needed for context and innuendo. So instead of trying to memorize the entire book, as I wanted to do (essentially selling my soul to the devil for nothing in return), I learned to set a simple goal: I would extract and memorize just 3 points from each chapter in a book and nothing more. Here’s how it works: Over the years, some people have smirked at the system I came up with, but I just ignore their criticism. And I’m glad I did because I wound up picking up a second MA in Media and Communications while completing my PhD! This was possible because I learned to set realistic goals and only extract the most important information from books. And it all works very well because (so long as you’re using memory techniques correctly) your brain will fill in the gaps. You’ll remember far more than just three points per chapter, especially if you also use other accelerated learning techniques. 2. Keep A Rigorous Study Schedule If you’re anything like me, you don’t always feel like studying. But let’s face the facts: Time is flowing by whether we like it or not. And exam dates aren’t going to be changed just because we don’t feel ready. During my PhD, I sat for two field exams and a dissertation defense. Because I had to travel from either New York or Berlin to Toronto to attend them, not only could I not easily extend the dates — it would have incurred a great cost if I did. That’s why I always scheduled time in the morning, afternoons, and evenings for reading. Three reading sessions a day still feels right for me years later, too. (I completed my doctorate in 2009.) Three reading sessions a day might be too much or too little for you, but the exact amount is less important than the consistency. As Graham Allcott points out in his excellent book How to be a Knowledge Ninja, “it’s only your routine that matters.” And he really means YOUR routine. As Allcott explains, too many people are ruled by their “lizard brain.” They’re scanning the environment and comparing themselves to others. But he suggests you develop your own checklists and explore your own personality to help design it. He’s right, and from my experience I can tell you this: Expect your schedule preferences to change. For example, for many years I used to love reading in the morning. Now I prefer the evening. But I still read in the morning anyway, even if it’s just a few sentences. Usually I find that once I get a couple of words down the hatch, the rest flows in a lot easier. And if you make it an iron-clad rule with no exceptions that you’ll read at least once sentence at the scheduled time, I think you’ll be delighted by how easy it is to keep reading. 3. Use Spatial Anchors Nearly every morning I study in one of three places. It’s really important I have variety, and I’ll explain why. At the moment, I’m researching for a book that includes references to both Advaita Vedanta and the hermetic art of memory. Frankly, some of the books are boring. But I can’t write a good book without references to them. I also won’t remember much if I don’t go through what is called “diffuse thinking” after taking notes from my reading. Now, I just said that mind wandering is a bad thing and can be stopped by getting yourself in the zone. This remains true. However, there is a time when it works wonders. And that is before and after reading. Learning expert Barbara Oakley explains this well in her popular Learning How to Learn course. Basically, your brain percolates the information at the neurochemical level while you’re taking a break — something walking between locations accelerates for reasons covered by Alex Pang in Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. In fact, Pang suggests that the effects of diffuse thinking are so profound, you’re best served by carrying a notebook with you. He points out that both Tchaikovsky and Beethoven walked with journals, not to mention the film directors Billy Wilder and David Lean. Moreover: “Thomas Hobbes walked with a cane that had an inkwell built into the handle and would write on a piece of paper attached to a board. The great German mathematician David Hilbert wrote down ideas as he walked… Walking doesn’t look like an intellectual activity, and there are plenty of times when it’s purely utilitarian or recreational, but we can learn to use it to help us think better.” (an excerpt from Pang’s Rest) The second reason having fixed locations is so powerful is called “matching conditions.” As Bruce Goldstein explains in his textbook Cognitive Psychology, he once needed to remember to bring a movie to a lecture. As part of triggering his recall, he thought of his office first: “The key to remembering the DVD was that I retrieved the thought ‘Bring the DVD’ by returning to the place where I had originally encoded that thought. This example illustrates the following basic principle: Retrieval can be increased by matching the conditions at retrieval to the conditions that existed at encoding.” The success of the Memory Palace technique is based on the fact that our minds “match” information with space. When I was sitting in those field exams and answered the questions that determined my ability to earn the PhD, I often thought back to the locations where I’d read the books I was responsible for knowing. And I use the exact same “matching conditions” to remember what I want to write about in my books. Finally, when it comes to rotating the exact locations where I read, I do this because novelty has been shown to improve memory. I have a few places I read in parks, a few favorite cafes, and I routinely visit new cafes. Even if I suspect that they will not have coffee, I give it a try anyway. The research I’ve read always proves true: I remember more of what I read simply by making a point of combining walking to and from anchored and new places to study. Give it a try! 4. Block Out Distractions The Easy Way Actually, what I consider the easy way might strike you as incredibly hard. That’s because those “study walks” I just mentioned usually take place without my smartphone. That’s right. I kiss my wife goodbye and tell her I’ll be back when I get back. Then, I go out with nothing more than my study materials and note books. (Sometimes I bring a camera to grab a pic for social media, but not always. Even the thought of documenting my studies can be distracting!) Whether or not you go to these extremes, the point is the same: If you don’t have anything that rings, pings, or buzzes near you, it can’t distract you. The sounds of traffic, cafe chatter, and birds in the trees can actually help you focus if it’s in the background. But some people think that part of our minds scan the environment for distractions from our phones. It’s sometimes called “anticipation addiction” and is related strongly to gambling. Reading from physical books instead of a device is also very useful. Not everyone agrees with me, but I rarely read from digital anymore, preferring print for a few reasons: First, print has no multiple tabs. It won’t vibrate or spike your dopamine with a notification. Second, you can use the pages of books as mini-Memory Palaces. This feature is tremendously useful. Third, your brain can track the space of physical books in a way that is impossible with digital books. I suggest you read The Case for Mental Imagery if you’re interested in more scientific research on just how important space is for learning and memory. 5. Train Your Attention Span A lot of people think that brain training apps will improve their attention span. Maybe. But since we want to focus on information and be able to recall it under test conditions where we’re not allowed to access any kind of computer, does that approach really make sense? Instead, seek out brain exercises that are not reliant on devices. One of the best I know involves nothing more than memory techniques and a deck of playing cards. You have to learn something called the Major System so you can give each card a unique image. Then, using a Memory Palace, you simply shuffle them up and memorize the unique order by making the images interact. This simple exercise not only increases your attention span — it also helps you learn how to memorize information that is similar without any bleedthrough or what I think of as “borderblur.” Learning to play an instrument or memorizing lyrics is also a great way to increase your attention span because performing music requires extended focus. I practice what I preach in this regard, and even memorize songs in other languages just for the attention span benefits it brings. As a result, I never say “I can’t concentrate on studying.” The best part? Scholar Gunter Kreutz has shown that singing also promotes healing and improves mood. 6. Place Long-Term Outcomes First Instead of worrying about grades, focus on your vision. Sure, I have quite a few A+ grades on my transcript. But guess what? No one cares, including me. Instead, I completed all my degrees because I wanted to fulfill the vision of being a writer and teacher. If I had focused only on grades in the short term, I would have endlessly frustrated myself and felt empty later. That’s why I’m so glad I just did the best I could and made sure I enjoyed the journey along the way. In addition to working on my degrees, I also worked on my writing. I did not enjoy writing academic papers one bit, but loved every moment working on poetry and novels. And I supplemented many of the dry and boring film theory textbooks I needed to read by working at the legendary Queen Video and promoting cool events. These supplementary experiments taught me how to run a small publishing enterprise and organize events — key skills I have drawn upon far more than my knowledge of Shakespeare. Sure, I got an A+ in “Shakespeare and his Contemporaries” in a third year English course at York University, but my career success in no way relies on that grade. It never will either, but I draw upon the sum of all the experiences I added along the way to practice the comprehensive professionalism that has enabled me to run the Magnetic Memory Method Mission for nearly a decade. What’s your vision? Focus on that and the grades will surely follow. 7. Put Accountability On Autopilot There are at least three levels of accountability: Accountability to yourself Accountability to another person Accountability to a group Sadly, some people don’t even practice one of these layers. And no doubt: effort will be involved and that will scare some people away. But what if there was an easy way to “set and forget” accountability? There is! If you’re going to be accountable to yourself, I recommend The Freedom Journal. Other journals will do, but this one helps you create achievable study goals — and it’s hard to ignore the physical copy when you anchor it to space in your environment. The way to get yourself motivated using another person can be summed up in three words: hire a coach. If you’re skeptical that it works, just read some of the science that compares different levels of effectiveness based on the kind of coaching you get. When you pay for coaching and get the sessions on the calendar, your investment itself will pay off because loss avoidance will increase your “show up” and implementation rates. As for groups, this approach can take a little more work, but it’s worth it. Throughout my university years, I participated in study groups. We made it simple on ourselves: We met immediately after our classes. The best part? We walked from the classroom to the campus pub, giving our brains a bit of time for diffuse thinking before piling back into our books. In grad school, my study groups were a bit more sophisticated. Since there was always more reading than anyone could expect to cover thoroughly, we would assign presentations to ourselves. That way, if you had to cover five books or articles, you could scan four of them and focus deeply on just one of them. Then, your fellow study group participants let you know the most important points of the book they focused on. Upon review, your brain had been primed to perceive those big points and all the minutia stuck better thanks to having your radar switched on. To make sure it happened on autopilot, we scheduled each date throughout the semester in advance. Sure, sometimes things happened and people couldn’t attend. But overall, by selecting serious students in advance, things went smoothly and we all were able to cover far more territory as a group than would have been possible as students on our own. In sum, it doesn’t have to be lonely along the extra mile. 8. Track Your Progress Too many students fail to concentrate because their responsibilities aren’t mentally manageable. They’ve got syllabi scattered across multiple folders in their computers, or worse, they’ve done little more than bookmark pages on their university website. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead: Translate all of your reading obligations onto a physical calendar, including the titles of all the books and articles. Print out your syllabi as well and paste them into individual notebooks for each course. Then, schedule your reading and check off or cross out each book after you’ve completed it. You might even want to use multiple colors, such as blue for the first read, green for the second and red for the third. As part of tracking your progress, put rewards in place. You can assign a movie night, museum visit or anything healthy and fun you love to do for after you complete a set of study tasks. When it comes to your writing assignments, I used to keep track of the number of words I wrote on a daily basis. I also went out of my way to complete reading early so I could get writing started early. That allowed me to consult with my teachers in advance to see if I was on the right track or if they had any additional reading they thought might supplement my research. Without tracking my progress, I wouldn’t have created the spare time for seeking out their advice, and if I hadn’t gotten to them early enough in the semester, they wouldn’t have had time to give it. 9. Use Tangible Study Tools Far too many students dump everything in Evernote or some other app and then wonder why they can’t find anything. My friend Charles Bryd has shown just how effective such tools can be — but if you’re like me, it’s a losing gambit. If you’re struggling to remember your notes, give physical notebooks and flashcard or index cards a try. I never suggest people throw out technology and am a huge fan of computers myself. But if you’re struggling, digital fasting and working with physical tools like pen and paper could be a huge boon for you. Mind Mapping is one technique I highly recommend you explore. It’s not a magic bullet, but when it comes to focusing on big picture ideas and digging deeper into the minutiae, it’s really powerful. It can also help you remember to study and work on assignments, which is one reason why I keep my Memory Journals where I can see them — and often carry them with me to those cafes I mentioned. Frankly, it’s darn hard to forget your study commitments when your tools are too big to ignore! 10. Keep Your Body Fit The Internet is loaded with dietary and exercise advice. This should be non-controversial in every way — endless scientific studies show that movement increases blood flow to the brain, for example. There are also tons of foods that are proven to improve memory. I don’t think we have to dwell on these points. It’s just obvious that you need to care for your body if you want the ability to focus on studying with any success. 11. Breathe and Meditate I was lucky to learn how to meditate at a young age. But it wasn’t really until I was in my PhD years that I started a consistent, daily practice. Around the same time, I learned a number of breathing exercises. Breathing has been shown to assist mental functioning. The trick is in remembering to watch your breathing. Concentration meditation is a great way to assist the self-observation needed to monitor your breath. Here’s a simple exercise: When you’re reading a book, focus on your nostrils and imagine that you’re inhaling the words up from the page. Then, when writing your notes, imagine you are exhaling them onto the page — or assisting your hand as it writes with your breath. This action can take a bit of practice, but it is worth it. One of my favorites sources of breathing exercises is Let Every Breath by Vladimir Vasiliev. How to Concentrate On Studies The Easy Way I know I’ve shared a TON of information in this post. But there is an easy way to get started: Pick just one of the tips I’ve shared above. Put it into action. Then add another. Soon, you’ll have a nice “habit stack” that will create what I call “cruising altitude.” What I mean by that is exactly what pilots talk about when flying aircraft — that wonderful sense of peace as you fly through the air. Sure, there’s going to be turbulence as you study. Life happens and sometimes you have to make changes when you least expect something to come up. But the more of these study survival techniques you have, the sooner and easier you’ll be able to get yourself back on course. That’s how I managed to be so stable during my doctoral studies that I had time and attention span to pick up a second Masters degree while writing my dissertation. How I pulled it off isn’t rocket science. It’s just normal science, and I hope you find the research materials I shared with you today useful supplementary reading. Let me know if there’s anything I’m missing — and what do you say? If you’re ready to concentrate on studies in a whole new way and want to learn how to use Memory Palaces to help you focus on studying, sign up for my free training today.
Are you confused by the link method and the story method? Seriously, the sheer number of definitions is enough to make your mind melt. Well, never fear. On this page, I’m going to do my best to reduce the confusion. Because the reality is this: Linking and the use of stories to help you learn faster and remember more are tied at the hip. But… each has its own superpower. And it’s the differences between them and how you apply the right mnemonic device in the right situation that matters. So if you want to know how to memorize a story so you can learn faster, or want to leave the narrative aspect behind and go for pure linking, this training is for you. Here’s what this post will cover: What Is The Linking Method? Link Method Examples What Is The Story Method? Story Method Examples Link Method Psychology Let’s get started. What Is The Linking Method? A link is literally part of a chain. If you have a gold necklace, for example, each loop links to the next one until the circle is completed by a clasp. When it comes to memory techniques, a link is the element we use to help us create an association that “triggers” information we want to remember. In many memory courses and books, linking is described in terms of a chain. Everyone from Bruno Furst to Harry Lorayne presents it this way. For example, in some memory trainings, the memory expert will give you a list of words like: Hero Drill Spacecraft Music They will suggest that you: Create an image that reminds you of the first word in the chain, and “Link” the next word to the first. For example, you would imagine that the hero uses a drill on a spacecraft that is blasting out music. This way of using linking sounds a bit like a story, doesn’t it? If so, then it is the story that is doing the linking. And no doubt, having a narrative to think back to is helpful in recalling the list. It also has a weakness though. If you can’t remember how the story started, or a link in your chain goes “missing,” then your hopes of remembering the list quickly falls apart. When Is This Version Of The Link Method Helpful? Do you want the truth? I really don’t know. It’s up for you to practice it and use it in different situations. What I can tell you is that I rarely if ever use it this way. I don’t memorize random words for no reason, and I personally think it’s a shame memory books use such examples. Really, the only time you need to memorize random words is when it’s actually not that random. I’m talking about when you go shopping and need to get tomatoes, carrots, celery, and bread. In such a case, it does make sense to see a tomato stabbing celery and bread with a carrot. But why waste time on memorizing such a list when you could just write it down? If you’re going to memorize your shopping list, at least get a bang for your buck by memorizing it in a foreign language. That extra step will give you practice so you can memorize complex terms, like medical definitions, more foreign language vocabulary, and names for new people you meet or important people you learn about. The Ultimate Linking Supplement: Spatial Linking The Memory Palace technique – sometimes called the Method of Loci or the Roman Room Method – is the ultimate link for a few reasons. First, let’s think about that necklace again. Rather than using a memory system where your links must provide both the connection and the trigger for the target information, the Memory Palace lets you divide the two things. So imagine a necklace with eight links. That’s like a Memory Palace with two rooms. In each room, you simply use the four corners in each. (Of course, you can make much bigger Memory Palaces with many more Magnetic Stations, but let’s just keep it simple for the sake of explanation.) Now what you’ve done is created a no-brainer, easy-to-follow journey with rooms as the linking structure. Then, you can place your hero on or near corner one of your Memory Palace. That hero is linked to the space itself and you don’t need to “link” it to the drill on the next corner. NOTE: I call these corners “Magnetic Stations.” I use this term for two reasons: First, it’s like each place in the Memory Palace has a fridge and my associations are like a fridge magnet. I can then use the imagery to stick information I want to memorize in place, just like I would store concert tickets in real life. Second, magnets have the ability to repel certain things. For example, when I use this kind of linking, my mind pushes away all the distractions. I’m focused just on the information on hand. Now, this doesn’t mean I can’t have the hero and the drill interact. If it’s useful to do so, the hero can move from the first corner to the second. But I’d rather have some kind of image that is working to help me memorize the word “hero” first before moving on to the next word. My “link” for that word would drill into the word itself, leading to the use of something like a favorite superhero eating a Hershey chocolate bar in a weird way before blowing a smoke ring. I explain more here: Now, there is a story element going on here, but it is not the story method of such. Rather, it’s more like having a vignette on each and every station of the Memory Palace. The real benefit of the Memory Palace as a base or meta-linking structure is how it helps with recall. You don’t have to think back to how the story started. You can think back to where you placed the first link, which gives you two chances to kickstart your list of associations. Link Method Examples That Will Make Your Memory Pop There are potentially millions of examples one could give. The problem is this: In 90 BCE, the unknown author of Rhetorica Ad Herennium warned against weakening students by giving too many examples. It counsels the teacher of memory to give only a few so that students quickly learn to create their own. It’s like the old saying goes: Teach people to fish so they can feed themselves. I actually think we need to take it further: Teach people to fish, hunt, and farm so they can eat whatever they want. Eating fish every day is boring! Jokes aside, here are some of the best blog posts on my site that are packed with mnemonic examples: How to Memorize Scripture How to Memorize the Presidents How to Memorize Vocabulary How to Memorize Numbers In addition to the best coming from your own efforts, great mnemonic examples are the ones that: Connect with multi-sensory levels of your imagination Come from your personal experiences with people, locations and pop culture Dig into the alphabet based on the “hero” example I gave above Why is the alphabet so crucial? The answer is simple: It’s the ultimate necklace! Think about it: A-Z is a pre-memorized set of “locations”. So if you want to always have “links” ready to go, get out a piece of paper and write out associations for each letter of the alphabet. Like this: Z = Zorro Y = Yankovich (Weird Al) X = Xylophone W = Weathervane Etc… Go for a mixture of objects and people. Ideally, all of your objects will connect with people or places in some way. For example, I don’t just think of a weathervane in an abstract way. I’m thinking specifically about the weathervane used as a weapon in the movie Warlock. Likewise, with Zorro. I think specifically of Antonio Banderas’ performance of this character. That was particularly important when I was learning German, a language packed with Z words. For example, “zerbrechlich” means “fragile.” I simply saw Banderas as Zorro at a Berlin movie theatre with a few other images to help me memorize the sound and meaning of this word. The next steps are to make sure the “links” are multi-sensory and then add some more German words. 5-10 at a time in a single Memory Palace is a decent sweet spot, though some people can memorize many more. It’s just a matter of: Thoroughly studying the techniques Preparing your Memory Palaces and images in advance Practicing through consistent application Next, let’s look at the story memory technique. What Is The Story Method? So far, we’ve seen that story elements play into every variation of the link method. But you can also: Use stories themselves as sources for a Memory Palace Memorize stories using story structure Using A Story To Memorize In the first case, you’d be taking locations from novels and movies and using them to create a Memory Palace. For example, at the beginning of The Name of the Rose, we meet Adso in his chamber. Even without the movie version to show us an image of Adso where he sleeps, we can imagine a medieval bedroom. Since most rooms have four walls, we can use them as a Memory Palace. To use this version of the story method, pick a movie or novel and make an inventory of locations you can remember. Ideally, you work based not on every little last detail — instead, work with just what comes naturally to mind. For example, in The Matrix, I readily remember: The hotel Neo’s apartment The dance club The interrogation room The desert of the real The bridge of Morpheus’ ship Neo’s chamber The Oracle’s waiting room The Oracle’s kitchen The subway The hallway with the final showdown between Neo and Agent Smith While I was writing the list, I remembered even more, such as the street with the woman in the red dress, the dojo, and more. Just going through one movie makes for incredible memory exercise! To use this version of the story method, mentally arrange these locations to suit your learning project. Using the chronological order we see them in the movie makes the most sense, but you could also arrange them alphabetically or in whatever way feels right for you. Next, start to “link” your information inside the story. Now, unlike your home, this kind of Memory Palace comes “pre-loaded” with all kinds of imagery to work with. For example, if you want to memorize a phrase like meliora sequimur. This is the Latin motto for Brisbane, which means, “We aim for better things.” You can take the mess hall on Morpheus’ ship and have Mouse complain about the “meal’s aura” “meliora” and have a giant second-hand from a clock ticking over his head. From there, you have many choices. However, you can probably already tell… The story memory technique is not the greatest method for speed, efficiency, or even effectiveness. I haven’t talked to every memory expert under the sun, but so far I don’t know anyone who works this way — though Idriz Zogaj mentions something like this when speaking about a memory competitor he knows, but the explanation is second hand and therefore a bit vague. That said, a close parallel is the use of video games. I’ve used Donkey Kong and have heard of people using the Legend of Zelda, Skyrim, and all kinds of fantasy locations to help them learn faster and remember more. It’s really up to you to learn and practice the techniques. How to Memorize a Story Now, you’re probably thinking I’m going to suggest the Memory Palace technique. Not exactly. But before we talk about memorizing stories, we need to consider: What exactly is it that we want to memorize from or of the story? Ask yourself: Do you want to recite a story verbatim? Do you want to recite the highlights? If it’s just the central points of the story, then here’s what I suggest: Memorize story architecture instead. Most stories worth memorizing are built like this: The hero is haunted by something from the past The hero experiences a conflict between their conscious desires and unconscious needs The hero struggles with some kind of social force (like a job they hate) The hero encounters a dilemma and needs to act but has no easy solution The hero faces a crisis that demands a decision — and they usually have to take the least likable solution The hero needs allies or has to learn some kind of skill The hero meets an enemy and has a battle The hero defeats the enemy, usually be learning something that dissolves the conflict between the conscious desire and unconscious need The hero’s victory resolves into a better world Obviously, there are endless variations and other potential plot points, such as the call to adventure and refusal of the call. The point is that when you know the basic plot structures, all stories become instantly easier to memorize. Because you can see the skeleton, the tendons and muscle on the surface settle into your memory with much greater ease. Story Method Examples Personally, I’ve used my deeply internalized knowledge of story structure in many ways. For example, when I tell people about how a story went, I can unfold the details pretty much as they happened because I simply follow the configuration of plot details. I was also a film studies professor for a number of years, so that helped. But it’s also helpful for when you need to write stories. For example, can you see the ghost haunting me in this story? How about the crises and the decision? If you can remember these plot points as a form of memory linkage, every story you tell will come out in much more structured and interesting ways. Link Method Psychology: The Mindset of a Memory Master Phew — that was quite a deep dive into linking! In sum, if you need to memorize a list of items, having the words themselves interact with each other based on mental imagery can work. However, if you need to memorize information that is a bit more ambitious, you’ll probably want more robust techniques. The good news is that neuroscientists like David Eagleman think the brain has space for a zettabyte of information. And like a computer’s hard drive, everything you memorize requires space. My suggestion is that before you start practicing any of the memory techniques available to you now, think about your goals first. Then pick the technique that is most likely to help you accomplish your mission. If it’s just memorizing grocery lists, then you’re good to go with the information on this page. Of course, a lot of people will tell you it’s the easiest, but that’s only true if you have small goals. Bottom line: if you want to not only deliver speeches from the top of your head, but know the stories you’re sharing deeply, it only makes sense to memorize story structure. You will quickly go beyond the story method and become an expert in it, rapidly memorizing story details almost on autopilot. So what do you say? Are you ready to give either of these a try? Or if you want more simple and fun memory improvement tools to choose from, sign up for my free Memory Improvement Kit today.
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