Having memorized the days of the week that all dates occurred since 1966, I discovered I could use each date as a point of reference for the events that occurred on that date. I now have more than 19,000 squares in them, with dates and information on any date since then, and I can instantly picture a square with that date. My pictures include the day of the week, news, and personal events.
It began in 1966 when I was home from Kindergarten for a week. I had a calendar that my uncle Billy gave me. I lay in bed and looked at each square. I then filled the square with a picture of what would be on prime-time television that night. By the end of the week, I knew what day of the week every date in that year would be.
As the months went by, I began including pictures of weather, news, and personal events. Here is an example of a date a few years ago—Tuesday, November 22, 2005:
Personal event – A filing cabinet fell in the office in the counseling center I was working in.
News event – Ted Koppel stepped down from being the anchor newscaster on Nightline.
News event – The first Xbox was sold.
I combined these three events into an amusing and slightly bizarre story. I imagined the Nightline sky above the file cabinet. Ted Koppel stands on the file cabinet. He announces, “I am now retiring from Nightline because I want to devote more time to playing with my new Xbox.” The cabinet falls, and Ted steps down. There is a new Xbox on the floor, and Ted picks it up and starts playing.
This story is somewhat bizarre. If you recall from previous articles that the more bizarre the picture, the better, you will be able to use it to remember. If I had limited my picture to Ted Koppel quitting, the Xbox, and a file cabinet falling, that would not have worked as well because all these events could happen.
You may think that I can do this because I have a vivid imagination and interests in many things. Yet you are already an expert in something. Possible you are an expert in more than one subject.
Whether your interest is your occupation, your hobby, or any subject, you are an expert. This book was written with the idea that you learn new information from old information that you already know. Perhaps you are a sports fan, a movie buff or music lover, or a computer geek. You can create your reference points for memory from what you already know about your personal interests. This will make memorizing more interesting and comfortable when you start in an area that you are comfortable and confident in. For me, it was the calendar and dates. I can link every fact that I ever learned to a date.
It would be helpful at this point to decide what your main interests are. Maybe you are a fan of a particular sport. It could be baseball. Do you know the names of the last 30 World Series winners? Do you know a lot of historical facts about your favorite team? Do you know the top 20 all-time home run leaders of your favorite team and their totals? If you are a football fan, do you know all the Super Bowl winners, the scores, and which stadium they played in?
Maybe your interest is in movies. Do you know the past 20 Oscar winners? Do you know all the movies that your favorite stars were in? You may have favorite movies where you know all the details. I used to know a young man who could quote every movie he had ever seen.
If your favorite subject is popular music, you will probably pick as your subject the decade that you were a teen or a tween.
The main idea here is to make your favorite subjects your reference points. You may think, How can I memorize 19,000 facts about the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, or Seinfeld episodes? You probably do not need to memorize 19,000 facts. The thought of doing that may seem quite overwhelming. You could fare quite well with a couple hundred facts at your disposal.
Think back to when you were first learning your favorite subject. Did you use any memory techniques to learn and connect the information? Probably not. The information just came to you, as you were interested in the subject. You might have been so engrossed that you were oblivious to everything else. Time may have seemed to stop. Yet when you finished the activity, you may have looked at your watch and been surprised at how late it was.
We are now going to do an exercise to pick your interests. You will need your pen and notebook. The purpose of this exercise is to discover what your interests are and in what areas you have already learned some facts. The subject that you choose and the facts that you have already memorized will be the basis for all the exercises that you do in the rest of this book. This is why I recommend that you do all six steps. Do not skip step 6. Refer to each fact that you have memorized as a peg. That is because you are going to peg new information onto the pegs that you already have.
Step 1 – Peruse this list of things that people are commonly interested in. Write in your notebook at least five ideas. Don’t pick something that you know little about but might find interesting. Pick something that you already have knowledge about.
Animals – You could pick a list of different animals or pick a favorite animal and memorize the different breeds. Remember, the idea is to learn a plethora of facts so you will have many reference points for new information.
Baseball – As mentioned earlier in this chapter, you could memorize World Series winners, record holders, or the history of your favorite team.
Card Games – This could include ways to play Blackjack, Bridge, Canasta, Pinochle, and Texas hold ’em form of Poker. I am not a card player, but I know that there are strategies and things you could picture. Maybe you could imagine your ideal hand and the order of the cards.
Coin Collectibles – Coins, dates of mint, and inscriptions are all fodder for using this.
Computer – Types and equipment, languages; this is another endless list.
Cooking – Favorite dishes, ingredients, favorite episodes of the Food Network.
Gardening – Flowers, vegetables, the arrangements of beds and borders. You might take a mental walk through your own garden or a public garden you know and sequentially order the flowers and plants.
Movies – Including Academy Award Winners, your favorite actor’s or actress’s movies.
Racing – NASCAR racers, the names of their cars, who won which races on the circuit year by year, Ind 500 winners.
Singing Groups – Your favorites from your time that you were a fan.
Trivial Pursuit – I will not tell anyone if you sit down for a day and memorize the cards.
Video Games – I just dated myself; my grandchildren know much more than I do.
Other ideas for subjects include antiques and collectibles, art history, astronomy, basketball, bathroom reader facts, birds, boats chemistry, children’s books, crafts, criminals, Disney Movies, Disney World Facts, dogs, electronics, football, history, home improvement ideas, horses, horror stories, insects, legal terms and famous cases, literature classics, marine life, musical pieces, mystery novels and characters, poems, politics, popular culture, scrabble words, states, science fiction on stamps, tools, trains, truck wars, world records, and yoga poses.
Step 2 – If you picked more than one subject, write in your notebook the first subject you chose. Then write the name of the second subject at the top of the next page. Continue this for all subjects you selected. If you have selected only one subject, then write it at the top of the page.
Step 3 – Under the headings of your subject, write what you know about the subject. For example, if your subject was Astronomy, write Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus. Then list facts about another subheading with astronomy, such as the names of the space flights and the astronauts. Remember that every fact you write is going to be a peg that you will attach new information to. Hence the more facts you write, the more potential you will have to memorize.
Step 4 – If you have more than one subject you selected, write as much as you know about each subject. When you finish, see what subject you wrote the most about. That will be the subject that you choose for your pegs.
Step 5 – Now that you have chosen your subject, write in the next pages everything that you know about the subject. Put each fact on a separate line and number it. For example, if your subject is animals, dogs can be a peg, so can schnauzer, collie, Yorkshire Terrier, cats, Persian. Any fact can be a peg that you choose.
Step 6 – If you feel ambitious, google your subject and learn more about it. This will give you more information to peg.
If you recall from a previous article how to do pegs, you can create as many pegs as you have information on your subject. Then when you need to memorize new information on another subject, you have the pegs of your familiar information. You then put each fact of the new information on a peg and create a bizarre picture to connect them.
This article is taken from the book Memory Brain Exercises with permission from the author, Frank Healy. The book continues with an exercise for you to discover your learning style. You could learn that you are a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. Then you go to the chapter for your learning style and learn to memorize using your strength.