I watched a Ted Talk on memory a few months back and it has embedded itself, working through my subconscious mind until now. Joshua Foer is an independent journalist who became interested in writing about a group of people who participated in the US Memory Championships. He became so infatuated with the topic that he trained himself in the techniques and won the Championship himself in 2006.
If you are a fan of the BBC production, Sherlock, then you may be familiar with the Mind Palace, a memorization technique. The idea of the Mind Palace has been around since the early Greek philosophers as a concept called the Method of Loci (no, not the Norse trickster god). It is essentially associating something you want to remember with a place or an image. To remember multiple things you build a Memory Palace or a house with things in it that you then associate with what you want to remember.
Alex Mullen has recently surpassed Foer’s accomplishments to be the 2-time and current US Memory Champ. He runs a non-profit that works to disseminate and encourage these types of techniques. On his website, one of his intro videos shows you how to memorize a list of 20-words. He does so by walking around his house and inside and associates each word with a different item, and gives a description of the image that he would picture.
I am just at the tip of the iceberg on memory training. His initial video seemed unnecessarily complicated, but he’s the memory champ, not me. I took the same list and told a story-kind of like my dreams go where I make a decision and am in a completely different environment, almost like a Rube Goldberg device where one seemingly unrelated thing leads to the next. Telling the story of those words in a visual way, once I had composed the story (maybe 5 minutes), I was able to fully recall all 20 words. Amazingly, an hour later, after unrelated work, starting the story, I was able to recall the 20 words again.
I have a lot to learn about memorization, but in a remarkably short time I was able to memorize something fairly random that I had no real reason to memorize other than for the novelty of it.