Atomic visualizations using the face of the clock

I define atomic visualization as compound visualizations of multiple keywords that cannot be easily disassembled. Due to strong connectivity between the keywords, these visualizations are faster to make and easier to retain. In this article I provide a clock-related way of generating such visualizations. It may work for up to 12 objects with complex relations.

Simple recipe

I will start from the end: how one can create such visualization. As far as I know this is the first time such a method is described.

  1. Visualize the anchor marker as the face of the clock
  2. Encode meaning to the hands of the clock. For example, the three top priority subjects.
  3. Divide the clock dial into sectors and assign a meaning for each sector.
  4. Assign specific visualizations for the 12 numbers on the dial
  5. Use this device to test at least 6 different scenarios for at least 6 days

And that’s it. Looks simple, but what does it say exactly? Now, that’s a bit more complex.

Historical validity

The dial of the clock is usually used for recurring events and activities. It  probably started from 12 months of the year, then 12 signs of Zodiac, and then the clock. The division into 12 is very ancient, as ancient as the culture itself. See the aerial view of Göbekli Tepe:  it looks like  a mental palace, where each room houses a giant clock-like collection of huge stones.

I cannot show that the 12 signs of Zodiac were the initial pegs of the first memory systems. There is very little known about memory arts before ancient Greece. The months were guiding holidays and agricultural activities, but I will not dare to extrapolate beyond that.

Recurring events and activities

We have many recurring events and activities: per day, per year or otherwise. For example, if the events recur per week we may use  5 longer days (2 sectors each) and 2 shorter days (1 sector each). There is even something similar in the Bible, where the lord skips “It was good” on Monday. Possibly we were not the first to hate Mondays….

If we have multiple recurring task, the clock face is a good way to encode them. We probably need a single pointer. Each time period, we do the activity that we are supposed to do (including “pass”) and the pointer is promoted. Since many of us have hundreds of recurring events, mnemonic device is very welcome.

Combinatorics and creativity

For creativity we may need multiple perspectives. For example, the “6 hats” method has 6 perspective. We can play all perspectives, or a combination of perspectives as a tradeoff. For example, we can choose randomly two perspectives and see what happens. Clock-like roulette provides random choices. The division into 12 here is less obvious. An 8-ball oracle will often have ~24 answers. The list of 24 strength characteristics is 24 items long.

How do we visualize a 24-object wheel? This might include too many details for most of us, definitely too many details for me. Instead I visualize 2 clocks with different clock-face images. First I select the clock, and then I select the answer within. Toss a coin, spin a roulette and you have a perspective.

If there is primary and secondary perspectives, there are also three hands on each clock.


Divide the tasks into categories. Typically there are 4 categories with 3 tasks in each category like signs of Zodiac. This is not a must. Assign signs for tasks. Again, usually reusing Zodiac to place the task on the clock face. The placement may be random, but it is best to have a system: then the result is more memorable.

Choose the 3 hands of the clock to assign 3 tasks of top priority. After completion of the top priority tasks, replace the top-priority tasks with new tasks and repeat.

There are several variations according to importance and urgency. For example, the hour hand may point at long-term important task, the second  hand to an urgent and easy task, and the minutes hand to something of medium complexity and duration.


The pegs method can easily use the zodiac signs, or another representation of 12 numbers, and the memorizations associated with it. 12 pegs per clock may encode long lists. The method may be nested with 12 smaller clocks within one larger clock. This method can work with random selection of data in lists of up to 144 items. You can easily place such clocks in mindmaps or mental palaces.

And again, you can use 24×24 numbers if you have two clock faces with very different color schemes.

How many color schemes are reasonable?

To distinguish between a pair of clock we can use color schemes. Normally we use just a pair of colors like: white and black, yellow and blue or red and blue.  Consider the colors of chess pieces.

Notice that the very first chess games were played not by two, but by 4 opponent. Using 4 primary colors is easy. It is possible to use 8 colors (white, black, red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow). I do not think the method can or should be extended beyond that. In fact, I myself never had a use case for more than 2 colors.

Clock face as the anchor marker

Each clock can be easily identified by the image of the clock face. Typically we use a complex and memorable visualization for the anchor marker, as it has to be unique. If there are 24 numbers, we need to have a pair of faces. The pair usually depicts the opposites: man and women, night and day, red and blue.

Typically to get something unique we can encode 9 keywords. For example, two people interacting and with accessories. Lovers, parent and child, friends, enemies. Mythology is full of such connections.

Weekly pills example

People with many conditions need to take pills every day. Let us consider the visualization.

The names of the days of the week are actually the names of Norse gods. You can visualize the face of Odin with one eye, and it is clear that you mean Wednesday. Accessorizing Odin can connect it to the weekly clock, say of the pills that we take. So we put a red cross on Odin, and we understand that this is a list of the pills we need to take on Wednesday.

Chemical compounds are associated with Greek gods.  For example, messengers are associated with Hermes, downers with Morphium, performance enhancers with Athena and so on. For example, if we want to take magnesium we imagine Magnes the shepherd. Google is usually a good place for such encodings. Alternatively, go for logical markers. B12 is a queen bee, as queen bee honey contains a lot of b12. Or etymology. Ashwagandha means smelly horse.

Multiple exposures

The clock visualization is complex. To remember it, I suggest using the visualization for at least 6 days in 6 different scenarios. This is easily ensured in common use cases. If events recur every year, we kind of need to visualize the time go faster – otherwise we will forget while waiting for the next  month to pass.


The visualization is atomic, because it uses symmetry and structure for dual coding. If we forget something, the symmetry is broken and we can often reconstruct it either from its neighbors of from its opposite.

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