How to excel in this exercise
I suggest using the method of loci
(called also the memory palace technique). Here is how you can apply the method of loci to this exercise.
Step 1: build a virtual walk
Try to imagine a walk in the town or village you know the best. Note down the places you pass by when walking. It can be shops, public places, your home, ...
- Make sure you do not choose places too near from each other. This is to remember the list of places in the right order without being confused.
- Make sure the walk is not changing direction or changing road too much. Avoid backtracking. In other words, the path you follow should not be complicated. This is to ensure the path is extremely easy to remember.
To help you understand which kind of places you can choose, here are two examples. The first example is a walk in a village near the sea. I used to spend all my summer vacations in this village until the age of twenty. Here are the places I pass by when making this walk. I listed them in the order I see them during this walk :
- I start from the home I used to live in.
- I turn on the left, passing by a big pine tree.
- I keep walking on the same street until I reach the post office.
- I keep walking straight, passing by the chemist shop.
- I keep walking straight, passing by the town hall.
- At the end of the street, I pass through the roundabout.
- I keep walking straight, passing through the harbor.
- At the end of the harbor, there is a building with toilets, a bar on the roof.
- I keep walking straight, reaching the lighthouse.
- I turn on the left, walking along the cost until I see a bunker from the world war two.
- I see the beach on my right-hand side.
- After two hundred meters, walking on the path along the sea, I see tennis courts.
- Walking on the same path, I see a group of rocks on my right-hand side.
- Walking on the same path, I reach a block of flats of houses looking like a fortress.
- Walking on the same path, I see a golf course on my left-hand side.
- Walking on the same path, I see a bar on the beach.
During this walk, I am most of the time walking on the same path, most of the time straight, and I never backtrack.
The second example relates to a walk in a town where I used to live before college. Here are the places I pass by during this walk:
- My home.
- A bar.
- A supermarket.
- My school.
- A post office.
- A cinema.
- An apartment building where a close friend lives.
- A school.
- A path along the river.
- A moveable bridge.
- The harbor.
- A bar near the harbor.
- The post office.
- Another friend's house.
When you build your own list, based on the walk you know the best, try to gather around twenty places if possible.
Step 2: imagine more virtual walks
Once you build this list, build other lists with other cities or villages you know well (the city where you studied, the capital of your country, a place where you spent vacations regularly,...).
You can also use a walk in a shopping mall, using each shop as a place to remember, from the entrance on the ground floor to the next elevator, then around the first floor, ...
Try to build as many virtual walks as you can. At the same time, limit yourself to places you know very well. You will use the same set of walks anytime you have something to learn, whether is it an image, a word, even a presentation.
Step 3: validate your virtual walk
Go through all your virtual walks in your head:
- counting the total number of places (milestones). This will be the number of items you will be able to remember thanks to this method.
- making sure you can very easily recall all the places in the right order. If you are repeatedly hesitating on some places, suppress them without hesitation from the virtual walk.
Step 1 to 3 are done once and for all. Each time you will memorize something in the future, you will use the same virtual walks.
Step 4: associate the places in the walk with each item to learn
How to proceed:
- Make sure you use the places (milestones) in the order they appear during your virtual walk: imagine you are making this walk and that you see these places while walking.
- Each time you pass by one the place part of your virtual walk, associate it with the next image you have to learn. To do that, imagine a scene taking place around this place and linked to the item to learn. Do not hesitate to use a crazy association. The association will be only known by you, so do not censor any idea. Also, when imagining the scene, make sure to exaggerate everything in this scene as much as possible. Make this scene either very silly, very vulgar or very scary.
Example using a walk in a city, in order to remember pictures in the right order (this is only an example so that you understand;you will have to use your own walk, the one you know very well):
- The first step in the walk: your home.
The first image to remember: an image representing a bath.
Association: imagine yourself taking a huge bath, playing with a duck and making huge green and smelly bubbles in the water.
- The second step in the walk: a bar.
The second image to remember: binoculars.
Association: imagine someone inside the bar so drunk that he looks at each of the other clients in the bar using binoculars, cursing at them.
- The third step in the walk: a supermarket.
The third image to remember: a birthday cake.
Association: imagine the supermarket closing while you are still inside, lights turn off, and everybody shouts happy birthday to you, someone goes in your direction with a huge birthday cake. Imagine something very vulgar is written on the cake.
- The fourth step: your school.
The fourth image: balance.
Association: imagine that a crazy teacher decides to weight each pupil, shouting that those who don't weight enough will be excluded from the class. You decide to stop eating alltogether.
- The fifth step: the post office.
The fifth image: a flag.
Association: imagine people standing in line in the post office, and someone just entering the building manages to get served first because he wears the flag of your country on his shoulders, shouts your national anthem so loud and so well that everybody sings with him and get very emotional.
- The sixth step: the cinema.
The sixth image: a fire extinguisher.
Association: Imagine someone smoking in the cinema, so thrilled by the film that he burns his seat with his cigarette. Finally an employee of the cinema comes with a fire extinguisher to help him.
If you practice this regularly, crazy associations will start popping up in seconds. Then, you will be able to learn something more complex than images, like a series of words or a series of ideas to prepare for a speech.
What makes this method very efficient, is that you associate new items with things you already know very well. It is more powerful than associating these items to a story you make up from scratch, as you may forget parts of this new story.