In every person’s mind, their little voices are screaming hundreds of instructions and activities every second. You may be looking at something, but I bet your mind is elsewhere.

This partial attention, this inattentive observing, is the most significant reason why you think you have a poor memory. In other words, if you had a repertoire of tools to help you pay attention better, to force your mind to get into the “Zen of the moment”, then you’d likely have a much more powerful recall.

Mnemonics is a strategy of using some mental tools to help remember things a lot better. Mnemonics forces the mind to pay attention better, to observe better.


  1. Intense: Make your item seem intense. The strong odour of a skunk. A loud thunder clap. A grip of your bicep while in a crowd. The sudden change in water temperature while taking a shower. Striking your toe on the furniture causing sudden pain. A loud voice
  2. Magnitude: Size is an important differentiator. Something huge or tiny can be a powerful stimulant when placed in an environment filled with its opposites.
  3. Beauty or Beast: Beauty, whether in outdoor scene, or in a person, that is, something the eye sees and appreciates as beautiful or handsome, is elevated momentarily in the mind. It’s proven that an aesthetically appealing person is almost automatically attributed a momentary advantage, a momentary benefit-of-the-doubt compared to normal-looking people. The opposite, for the ugly, disgusting, upsetting.
  4. Contrast: This is similar to “Magnitude”, above.
  5. Change: Pointing out how something has evolved from one state to another state. If something is static, imagine it to be making a change of some sort.
  6. Curiosity: Most people with functioning synapses are innately curious. This is the power of science. Science fascinates those who seek to unravel the mysteries of the world around us. Create a mystery of it.
  7. Action (Movement): Either real or imagined. Harry Lorayne, one of the old guard memory masters, suggests that anything moving will attract more attention and be more easily remembered by anything stationary.
  8. Color: In MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN, Joshua Foer mentions to use color when memorizing lists of items.
  9. Repetition. This is obvious. This is how we are taught to memorize from a young age.
  10. Interest: If something is boring or not of interest to you, you won’t remember it very well. If you don’t like it, or are not interested in it, find a way to make it interesting.
  11. Suggestion or SUBSTITUTION: One practitioner of Harry Lorayne’s mnemonic techniques participated in a psychological research project in which experts were assessing people’s recall power. A checkerboard of nonsense 3-letter words was presented to be memorized within a few minutes. Recall was 100%. Psychologists running the test were blown away. Secret? That student used Lorayne’s tactic of assuming the nonsense word suggested something. Where the words could not instantly dredge up a suggestion, the student substituted the nonsense word for a word that made sense.
  12. Immediateness: The closer, more attached, more relevant the matter is to us, the more we are apt to remember it.
  13. Emotional: Does it tug at an emotion? Can you make it tug at an emotion?
  14. Identifiableness: Can you identify with, relate to, emulate, apply what you are trying to remember? If it has no place in your life, you will not remember it very well.
  15. Association–as in mnemonic association: Lorayne wrote about this a long time ago. But even before then this was a popular tactic for memorizing items. Plato and Aristotle used this technique. So it isn’t new. It’s just not taught to many people. Even in MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN, Foer, mentions this as a very powerful tool that helped make him famous among global memorizing competitors. Some call it MEMORY PALACE. You take some building that you know intimately and hang items to be recalled on each item of your “palace”. An item is associated to your sidewalk; another, to your door knob; another, your foyer, etc.

If the above list is overpowering, here is a cheat-sheet, so to say, of the most powerful of the above for use “on the go”. Find a way to make your item to be memorized: action-ized, exaggerated, associated, familiar, even make it do something silly.

Now you have 15 reasons why you should not use your poor memory as an excuse for failing to recall items on your grocery list, or while studying for school exams, or anything else that is important.