This post is a dump of notes I took while reading the book Unlimited Memory: How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More and be More Productive by Kevin Horsely. This book caught my eye while searching for high quality, actionable material designed for memory optimization. Accelerated learning techniques have been on my mind the past few months and the ability to retain and recall information is near the top of the list.After all, knowledge without the ability to comprehension and recall is utterly useful. As with other posts in the Reading List  series, this isn’t a book review or designed to persuade anyone about anything. I take these notes while reading as a technique to boost comprehension and recall.

All learning involves associating and relating the known with the unknown.

Optimizing memory comes down to the 4 C’s.

  • Concentration: it’s self-defeating trying to learn something if you’re distracted or simply not present.
  • Create Imagery: the human brain is visual and memory benefits from associating concepts, lists, or anything to imagery. Simple, creative, and grounded in long term memories are all useful when creating new imagery.
  • Connect Concepts: To really learn a new concept or memorize something, connect whatever you’re trying to learn (short term memory) with something you already know (long term memory).
  • Continuous Use: even with memory techniques, if you don’t practice, you’ll eventually forget. Spaced repetition can be used to optimize medium term memories into long term memories with enough practice over time.

To boost attention, comprehension, and retention, take time to understand the intent behind learning something new by using the PIC technique:

  • Purpose: why are you learning about x? Specifically what will you gain from it? The more detailed the answer, the better. It’s really no different than goal setting. The more specific a goal, the more probable the chances of achieving it. I want to lose 10 lbs in 5 weeks is a goal more likely to be accomplished than I want to lose weight.
  • Interest: the more interest in the subject, the greater the retention and comprehension. Subjects with low levels of interest should be reframed, or abandoned if possible.
  • Curiosity: ask questions to frame why the subject is worth learning (e.g how will this help me? How will this make me more effective in my job?).

Retention, comprehension, and concentration are increased when learning is associated with multiple senses, especially visual. Relying on the written word greatly inhibits memory as it’s linear.

This just means a word must be read from start to finish for coherence whereas an image can be zoomed in or out and still make sense in reverse or any other order.

The SEE method is the foundation for most visual memory methods:

  • Senses: engage the 5 senses to mental imagery and movies more realistic. Add texture, sounds, smells, etc. to cement the image in mind.
  • Exaggerate: the image, context, or situation. The wilder the setting, the better. Flex the creative muscles and really go to town dreaming up a crazy mental image.
  • Energize: apply motion to the mental imagery to bring it to life.

Organize information to achieve long lasting memory and quick recall with this formula: Long Term Memory (LTM) + Short Term Memory (STM) = Medium Term Memory (MTM).

This is important as the volume of bits being learned grows. By chunking  content, the brain quickly retrieves key bits without having to memorize the entire list or array at once 2 techniques used in this way are the car list or the body list:

Imagine a car or your body (anything already permanently stored in LTM) then place new information represented by imagery in and around it (STM). Something up front, something in the trunk, etc.. Use the human body in place of a car or any other familiar object. 

By organizing information, specific bits can be accessed in groupings or chunks such as list #s or “elements” within “rooms” in a location (e.g. an oven and fridge in the kitchen. Information stored in both grouped by Kitchen).

List pegging involves rhyming numbers with keywords to trigger imagery of the subject at hand (e.g. one-gun to recall a “target” financial projection). Useful for lists around 30 or fewer.

The journey or route method uses a location (e.g. a house) with a list of memory components stored throughout.  This technique uses the same LTM + STM = MTM formula.

Basically, grouping concepts or elements within larger concepts is represented by elements within locations. Works with any location type so long as it’s familiar to LTM (house, grocery store, office, etc.). 

Making Mental Images Physical

Imagery can be further enhanced with artistic impressions like Google images to create a collage, painting/drawing, and using mind mapping to create even more detailed imagery designed to boost recall and comprehension.

Word for word memorization can use any techniques outlined plus linking to spur recall of specific keywords or sections. Generally speaking, combining two or more methods will make memory and recall stronger.

Presentation and public speaking are addressed with the FLOOR principle. This helps presenting information by knowing the structure and increases audience engagement because it’s easier for them to follow key points.

  • First things
  • Last things
  • Outstanding information
  • Own links
  • Repeated information

The book addresses specific techniques related to memorizing names (mostly association tips), numbers (a more complex system of creating a numbers “alphabet”), and playing cards (number alphabet + association). Too lengthy to describe here but realistic with consistent practice.

All Accelerated Learning Techniques Are Useless Without (Regular) Practice.

Finally, continuous practice is essential to implement and optimize memory with all techniques listed. This is true about anything in general. Develop the self-discipline needed to consistently practice by:

  • Create a vision. Specifics work better than general or vague reasons.
  • Make a conscious decision and be intentional.
  • Disregard emotions. Practice especially when you don’t feel like it.
  • Create a vision. Specifics work better than general or vague reasons.
  • Make a conscious decision and be intentional.
  • Disregard emotions. Practice especially when you don’t feel like it.

Be consistent with daily practice. Spaced repetition (see Anki) is valuable. Reviewing out of order and in reverse will boost recall and lead to medium term memories becoming long term memories with enough practice.