Advanced mnemonics for numbers
(For a video presentation, scroll to the bottom of the page.)
There are some very handy mnemonic techniques that unfortunately require a bit of work up front.
But they can be extremely rewarding.
1. The Major System
Suppose you wanted to remember this phone number:
(I generated this number at random.org/strings/, so I have no idea if it’s a real number; call at your own risk.)
Numbers, of course, are not easy to remember in and of themselves (see the main page about numbers).
But if you have the following system memorized, you can turn these numbers into words with a little creativity:
Note that these are all consonants. The way you use this is to come up with some vowels and turn the numbers into memorable words.
So the phone number above might become “Tear shoe toe. Pay dead cash: Rare.”
Odd, but if you recite it a couple of times and imagine pulling “dead cash” out of a shoe’s torn toe, it should be easier to remember than the number.
Admittedly, some numbers are easier to apply this technique to than others.
The Major System is most useful for remembering short numbers, for example remembering that you’re staying in hotel room 4012 by remembering “rose tune,” or maybe “reset now.”
2. An even more advanced technique
Obviously the Major System requires quite a bit of in-the-moment creativity, because you have to come up with words as you think of
For memorizing a lot more quickly, and especially for memorizing much longer strings of digits, you have to have an even more advanced technique.
It takes a significant amount of work up front, but if you come up with 100 different memorable characters, each with a corresponding action and “prop”, you can break any number down into six-digit units and read memorable stories.
Consider the number 923740177747.
I can remember that number within a few seconds of seeing it.
For me, 92 37 40 means “Hermione” (from Harry Potter) is “chewing her way out of” a “saxophone”. 17 77 47 means that “Reepicheep” from Narnia is “doing a back flip” into a “paper cup”.
Who’s going to forget something as memorable as that?
So now I can memorize 30-digits strings of numbers in less than 60 seconds, and I can basically remember any numbers I want, numbers of any length up to 100 digits, with hardly any work.
But obviously I had to do quite a bit of work up front, memorizing all these characters and associating them with those numbers. It took me a few minutes a day for a couple of months to attain this skill. But believe me, it’s worth it.
If you’re interested in seeing more information on this topic, leave me a voice mail question on my podcast page.