Magnetic square review

Today’s article is a bit different. While usually, I try to review several approaches to a complex issue, today I want to review a dead-simple approach to a very simple challenge. Suppose you want to learn memorization and have only three days, what would you do?

The simplest mental palace known to man

Memory palaces are one of the most versatile and well-established techniques to memorize information. Various memory palaces techniques are at least two thousand years old, and they are still widely used by memory champions. Unfortunately, learning memory palaces is anything but quick and effortless.

Here comes my friend and colleague Anthony Metivier with the simplest solution one can find. In fact, I think it is so simple you can master it over a weekend. The suggestion starts with memorizing just one room, a single square.

Control your environment

The biggest challenge in memory palaces is memorizing and using multiple homes with 5 or 10 rooms each and complex itinerary between the rooms. If we use just one room, everything gets simple. The itinerary is as simple as visiting all the corners of the room in a clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. And you can use any room you like: your dorm room, local coffee shops, school class and so on.

Since it becomes very easy to use this method with any space, the selection of space also improves. For example, you can choose a coffee shop for food-related issues, and school classes of study-related issues, bathroom for hygiene and so on.

I confess I have been using a variation of this method to learn a foreign language well before I met my friend Anthony for the first time.

Weaving information into the room

How many items per room can we weave? Basically, in memory palaces, we put objects in various locations of the room. The methods we usually recommend includes placing 10 visualizations (4 corners, 4 walls, floor, and ceiling) with 3 words per visualization (person performing an action with an object) and a couple of details. This is roughly 50 items per square. Why do we need so many words? Most memory palaces I use in my life are at least 2000 items large, which means many palaces. For less, I would probably use mental maps, which are faster and more flexible for me.

Clearly, if you are not that efficient, you can simply use the four walls and four corners with one visualization each, memorizing 8 items, or you can use just corners for 4 items.  In fact, as long as you can visualize objects in all the corners of your current room, you can start memorizing stuff. You can do it in 3 days or less.

Chunking data into memory squares

Another great thing about memory squares is their compactness. You can create as many memory squares as you want, and then group them into a story or a mindmap. If you want to modify your itinerary, you simply shuffle the memory squares any way you want. You will manipulate your memory much faster than most people you know, as you will be using chunks of 8 objects each time.

You can further imagine that your squares are magnetic. This means that whatever you do, they will try to pull and push so that the north pole of one magnet realigns with the south pole of another. Then, when you reshuffle your memory cubes, they will always make sense.

Just do it

If you need to memorize a lot and have several months to learn, you should probably not use the memory squares. They are simply too easy, too convenient for you to want anything more complex.  However, if you are in a hurry or lazy, there is no better way to use a long weekend than learning the memory squares…..
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