You have plans to take a short trip. The afternoon before, you are sitting in your car on the way home from work, and you begin thinking about all the things that need to be done before you leave. Of course you haven’t had a chance to write any of it down, and because you’re stressed and distracted by work, you’ve already forgotten half of the things you need to remember. As you come to a traffic light, you begin to list tasks in your mind. The answering machine still needs to be repaired. You want to buy fruit, lemonade, ham, and cheese for the trip tomorrow. You also need to buy a new pair of flip-fl ops, you lost your beach mat on your last vacation, and you’ve run out of toothpaste again. You want to remember to call a friend and water the flowers before you go. You need a new shopping bag, and you still haven’t packed your umbrella and sunglasses. Finally, you want to remember to say good-bye to your neighbor. When the traffic light turns green, you’re stressed out; you accelerate and almost rear-end the car in front of you. Unnerved, you wonder, “How am I ever going to remember all that?” Let me show you how with a short story.

I want you to visualize this story in your mind; allow your imagination to create pictures in your head. Try to generate sensory perceptions such as smells, noises, or the feeling of objects.

You arrive home, and the first thing you see is your answering machine. It’s broken and hasn’t recorded any incoming calls for days. You feel bad for it and want to buy it some fruit, because it likes fruit very much. You also want to bring it some lemonade so it doesn’t get thirsty. As you are out shopping, the delicious-looking ham at the delicatessen counter catches your attention. Your mouth waters simply from looking at it. On the way home, you notice that the ham you just bought has begun to smell like cheese because of the heat. In the next store, you buy red flip-flops, so you can waft the smell away. Fanning with your flip-flops becomes exhausting, so you decide to rest in a meadow for a little while. You spot a blue and white spotted beach mat, and as you begin to sit on the mat, you notice that the white spots are toothpaste. You jump up and bump into your friend, who is walking toward you, and accidentally crush the fresh flowers she just bought. Your shopping bag is also ripped in the mishap. Your friend offers you her umbrella as compensation, and naturally, you accept. You both go shopping, and you buy your friend a pair of wonderful pink sunglasses as a present. You also buy yourself a pair because you like them so much. As you are returning home, your neighbor, who happens to be looking out of her window, sees you with your new purchase and looks at you with great envy.

If you still don’t feel that you know all of the keywords associated with your list of necessary tasks after reading this story, read it again and, if necessary, embellish it with your own details. When you feel confident that you have memorized them, write down the keywords in the correct sequence.

How many words were you able to remember this time? Memorizing facts or tasks by making up a story is just the starting point. With the help of keywords, you’ll be able to remember the details of what you wanted to do.