There is no such thing as a bad memory. All our experiences and learning are stored deep within the mind. It is the disorganization in the mind that hinders memory. A disorganized mind is like a filing cabinet into which documents have been thrown at random, with no folders or labels. If all the documents are in labeled folders, and the folders are in labeled drawers, anything can be easily found simply by looking under the appropriate heading.

The memory pegs system improves memory by creating a simple filing and retrieval system in the mind. To create a peg list for remembering ten items, select a list of familiar words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent. For example:

  1. Tree (trunk looks like a “1”)
  2. Switch (on or off)
  3. Trident (three prongs)
  4. Chair (four legs)
  5. Glove (five fingers)
  6. Box (six sides)
  7. Sea (seven seas)
  8. Spider (eight legs)
  9. Cat (nine lives)
  10. Fingers (ten fingers)

Those words form the “pegs” of the system. A peg is just a mental hook on which you hang the information. Each hook acts as a reminder to help you mentally retrieve the information related to that sequential position. Because you remember how to count from 1 to 10, associating information with those numbers creates a mental filing and retrieval system for the ten items of information you want to remember in their correct sequential order.

You can use the above ten memory pegs to remember ten items in a shopping list such as:

  1. toothpaste,
  2. lipstick,
  3. butter,
  4. cheese,
  5. sugar,
  6. rice,
  7. salt,
  8. milk,
  9. apples,
  10. flour.

You need to connect each item in the above shopping list with its corresponding memory peg, using some forceful action. For example:

  1. Rub the toothpaste on the tree trunk.
  2. Cover the switch with lipstick.
  3. Stick the trident through the packet of butter.
  4. Plaster the chair with cheese.
  5. Stuff the glove with sugar.
  6. Fill the box with rice.
  7. Throw the salt into the sea.
  8. Bathe the spider in milk.
  9. Throw the apples at the cat.
  10. Sprinkle the flour using your fingers.

Simply relating an item to its corresponding memory peg does not work. You need to create some forceful action because for anything to stick in your mind, action is the glue!

When you meet someone whose name you want to remember, try to find a mental correlation between his or her name and face, and some person or event you are familiar with. For example, say you were to meet me and find that my name was Asoka. If you have heard of the Indian emperor Ashoka and remember his name, see if you can relate my face to some aspect of the story you know, and create some mental action around that. If you think my face has a majestic quality, you can imagine me dethroning emperor Ashoka and wearing his crown. If you think my face looks far from majestic, you can imagine me as emperor Ashoka’s cook, and getting my head chopped off because the emperor was disgusted with my cooking. In either case, you would have created enough mental interest in my name and face to signal to your mind that my name and face are worth remembering.

Six techniques that help improve memory:

  1. Drinking water whenever thirsty improves brainpower by about 14%.
  2. To remember a place or name, imagine something associated with that place or name.
  3. To remember something, sequentially visualize what happened from the last time you remember it.
  4. Practice or revise frequently what needs to be remembered.
  5. Type or write to activate the parts of the brain that deal with typing, writing and hand-eye coordination.
  6. Relax the conscious mind to enable the subconscious mind to retrieve the required information unhindered.

First appeared in November/December 2015 issue of New Living Magazine