Memory is a Skill - 5 Key Memory Behaviours and Memory Palaces


When it comes to your memory, there is good news and bad news

  • The good news: a great memory is a skill and like any skill, you can learn how to use and improve it.
  • The bad news: memory is a skill and like any skill, it takes effort, energy and dedication to learn how to use and improve it.

May's Memory Masterclass

In the latest Memory Talk Masterclass, I covered 5 key memory behaviours that can help build your memory skill. Specifically focussing in on the 3rd Key memory behaviour - Memory Palaces

>> Watch key highlights of this Memory Masterclass

Use the timestamp below to jump to a section

  • 5 key memory behaviours (1:43)
  • Memory palace challenges and a deep dive on Virtual memory palaces (5:02)


  • multi-matrix memory palaces (14:33)
  • memory palaces and the 5 steps for names (16:18)
  • what to do when a Memory Palace changes (24:51)
  • how useful is emotion? (26:07)
  • make your behaviours into tiny habits® (26:45)

So, here's the summary of these 5 key memory behaviours:

  • Priming: this is your ability to raise your level of interest in a subject
  • Chains: an essential building block when it comes to improving your memory
  • Memory Palaces: this is your mental filing system that can give the impression of an almost superhuman ability
  • Names: a great way to use your memory skills in a real-life situation that has high value
  • Conversations: the great thing about this behaviour is that it incorporates many techniques at the same time and can be used in many situations, from meetings to social situations

In this post and masterclass, I do a deep-dive into one of these core memory behaviours, the Memory Palace.

Memory Palaces, the 30-second version

If you're completely new to Memory Palaces here's the 30-second version of what they are and how they work

  • You can think of a Memory Palace like a Library in your mind where you can quickly access information (if you've watched Sherlock Holmes you'll see him call this his mind palace)
  • This library is made up of individual memory files, these are locations around a room or along a journey
  • They tap into your spatial and visual memory (which are awesome by the way)
  • To use a memory palace you simply connect information to your individual memory files

If you've had any experience with Memory Palaces you will know that they can give the impression that you have superhuman ability. You can use them to memorise rapidly and make things 'stick' for long periods of time (depending on the intensity of the connection). With the right practice of spaced repetition and working with meaning, it's a more effective way to transfer information to long-term memory and build a deep understanding of your material. 

The Challenge with Memory Palaces

While they are a highly effective strategy to get good enough to create and use memory palaces in your own world is a skill that comes with a number of challenges:

  • Knowing where to start!
  • It can take effort and time
  • Running out of real world places?

Where do I start with Memory Palaces?

To create your first set of Memory Palaces use the Time Traveller technique. Think about all the places, people and events you have been throughout your life, create a list, mind map or visual note (whichever you prefer). This will give you a great starting point to generate a huge number of memory files.

Let's look at an example:

Where did you first go to school?

When you think back to your school, this may give you 10s if not 100s of memory files. When I go back 40+ years I can still clearly remember the first school I went to...

  • the playground
  • the tree in the playground
  • the outside door to the classroom
  • the entrance to the corridor
  • the pegs
  • the table in the classroom
  • the chalkboard
  • the wall of art
  • the toys in the corner
  • the list goes on...

Think about all the things you have done in your life and you can probably generate anything between 1000 to 5000 memory files.

What about the effort and time needed?

In the beginning, it can seem like a lot of effort to create a memory palace. The key is to start simple so you can lower the effort needed:

  • Items in your home
  • Items at work
  • the journey from home to work
  • around the town where you live
  • inside specific restaurants and shops in your town etc.

You also need to 'chunk' up the work. Ideally, you want to start by creating a Tiny Habit® for creating Memory Palaces (make sure you watch to the end of the Masterclass to learn how) and read this post on Tiny Habits.

I can't think of any more memory palaces!

Even for the more experienced practitioner, you hit a point where you feel you've exhausted your 'real world' memory palaces, this is where the virtual world can open the door to an almost unlimited number of virtual memory palaces.

From Google Streetview, the new release of Google Tour Creator to Facebook 360 there is a growing number of 360 pictures and scenes out there. For someone who knows how to create a memory palace, this makes it quick and easy to discover more memory files. Here's a map of the memory files I used in the Memory MasterClass from London Bridge. 

With the Era of VR upon us, we can do more than just look at these Virtual Worlds on a 2D screen, we can actually jump into them with a VR headset. I've recently opted for an Oculus Go and it's making the process of creating memory palaces even easier.

VR and AR is an area that I believe has huge potential when it comes to mnemonics and memory skills, more to come from me on future posts about this, plus keep your eyes open for a prototype I'm currently working on. I'll be looking for beta users so make sure you're on the Memory Talk Newsletter list, if you want to be one of the first to hear. 

5 Memory Habits

Here's the real kicker, it can be a struggle keeping up the motivation needed to get going and build up the momentum. This is where your Tiny Habits® come in. I'm going to assume you know how tiny habits work, if not join my 5-day free course to get started.

If you're up-to-speed, then here are the 5 habits you can put in place that will plant the seeds to grow your own Memory Skill.


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