Welcome to Day 1 of your training program. The very first thing you should do is to solemnly swear that you will follow this program in its entirety. You can choose to ignore some of my suggestions, but if you do you’ll still need to spend an equivalent or superior amount of time doing some similar forms of memory training. And you’ll need to remain active for at least 5 of the next 7 or 10 days. For your training sessions to be really efficient, they need to be separated by full nights of sleep. Training for 2 hours on a single day is great, but it isn’t nearly as useful as training for 20 minutes on 5 different days.
This training program may not be very long, but human nature being what it is, it’s still very easy to start it before either giving up or procrastinating the rest after a few minutes or after a day or two. To avoid this, I recommend that you schedule exactly where and when you’re planning to train. A vague commitment isn’t going to work, you need to be specific. It’s a proven fact that vague commitments (“I’ll eat better and work out more often”) are rarely obeyed, while specific and well-defined commitments (“I’ll do this specific action at this precise time and place”) lead to success much more often. Another good pre-commitment device you could choose to use would be to send a very short email to email@example.com or make a post on this Facebook group.
Are you done yelling out your determination to everyone you know? Did you write a binding contract with yourself that you signed with your own blood? Wow that’s awesome and you’re the best! Now let’s start learning.
Do you already have a clear idea of what a memory palace is? Have you ever used one, either by yourself or with some help? If not, you should start by reading this very interesting New York Times article. Cool isn’t it? The short exercise included in the article isn’t ideal for various reasons, but hopefully you’ll soon discover how the same basic principles can be applied in all kinds of situations. That’s most of what you need to know for now. If you’re still hungry for more knowledge, here a compilation of some of the best articles and news report about the art of memory. Those links are all very interesting, but be careful not to spend too much time exploring them for now. You still have some training to do today! As a general rule, if you want to keep your daily training session under 20 minutes, unfortunately you’ll have to ignore all the optional supplementary reading and the optional additional exercises that I’ll be suggesting.
Day 1, task number 1:
This is a 7-minute video where world memory champion Alex Mullen shows you how to use a memory palace to memorize a list of 20 random words. Make sure you’re in a place and a state of mind where you can focus. Watch the video. Make an effort to imagine what he’s describing and make it memorable in various ways. Review everything once and then see if you can recall the 20 words.
When you’re done watching and memorizing (that shouldn’t take too long), click here to check your answers.
All right congratulations! No doubt using an apartment that you never visited in real life as a memory palace made the task more difficult, but I’m sure you still managed to get most or all the words correct. Just for fun, when you’ll go to sleep later today, think of this story again and see if you can still remember most of it. I bet you will. If I had asked you to do the same thing using just repetition and no memory technique, for 98% of us (including myself), that apparently simple task would have been particularly difficult and unpleasant. Also your memory of most of the list would have evaporated soon after you would have stopped thinking about it.
Day 1, task number 2:
Choose a place that you know well that will be your very first self-made memory palace. Any place can work, as long as you’re capable of mentally navigating through most of it. Later on you’ll choose a more detailed and precise route, but for now all I’m asking you to do is to choose a starting point (say, the front door) and choose one way that you could navigate through most of the place. Here’s what a possible improvised memory palace could look like if it were to start in a small apartment I use to live in:
1- I start in my bedroom. 2- I mentally walk up to the nearby kitchen. 3- I continue to the living room (I choose to ignore the toilet because the room is too small) 4- I go right outside. 5- I teleport myself in front of the nearby grocery store. (I choose the ignore the 2 street blocks in between because I don’t find them to be interesting and memorable enough). 6- I go inside the grocery store next to all the fruits and veggies. 7- I walk up to the meat and fish section. 8- And finally I wait in line to pay for everything.
No need for now to be more precise. It would be good if your improvised memory palace could, just like in the example above, be divided into at least 8 distinct rooms or zones. It’s up to you to decide what a “zone” is. It can be one small section of a park, a much bigger section, one room, half a room, 2 or 3 rooms or whatever. If a room or an area is too small or boring, you can just ignore it or consider it to be part of another room or area. Also know that you’re of course not limited to your house or your apartment. You can choose to use the place where you grew up, a friend’s house, parts of a school or university, a workplace, a restaurant, a bar, an arcade, a gym, any store, a church or mosque, a park, a particularly interesting street or even a video game level or a place you’ve only visited through the Internet (using various photos found online or using this website or Google Street View for example). Any place real or imaginary can work, but at first it will be easier if you start with a place you know relatively well. If you want to use your apartment but it’s too small and the surroundings don’t seem interesting to you, you could also choose to build two smaller memory palaces instead of just one bigger one. If needed, your two small palaces can be linked by a teleportation portal you’ll place anywhere you want. After you’re done choosing your route, try to mentally go through each zone quickly all the way from the starting point until the end. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. Now do the same thing in reverse (8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) and one last time in the regular order.
That’s it for today!
Now congratulate yourself for being so freaking awesome. Eat something. Go brag to someone else. Make sure to go to bed early and to get plenty of sleep. By the way the “get plenty of sleep” part isn’t just some irrelevant motherly advice. Getting sufficient sleep at a regular schedule makes a huge difference for your memory, for your physical and mental health and for almost every single thing you do.