Learning Journey Method The Right Way
Start by choosing a location that is familiar to you, such as your home, your place of work, your home town or a nearby park. The idea is to use this location to prepare a short journey consisting of a series of places or stops along the way. The places are then used to mentally store the items on the list you wish to memorize. The route you take will preserve the original order of the list.
After a while you should find, like me, that you have a favourite journey that you can adopt to memorize almost any type of information for everyday use. In other words, you won’t have to prepare a new journey every time you need to apply this technique: you can simply wipe clean your existing, favourite journey and use it again and again to store the fresh set of information that you wish to memorize.
However, if you want to memorize information for long-term storage, or different sets of information in the shorter term, you will need more than one journey. For example, when I am preparing for record attempts or memory competitions, then I require multiple journeys. As we apply the Journey Method throughout articles on this blog I will give you examples of different routes so that you can practise using different journeys. It also helps if your chosen location is relevant to the particular set of data you wish to memorize. For example, I might choose to store sporting statistics along a journey to my local leisure complex.
Your home is probably the most familiar location to you. So let’s use the layout of a typical house to demonstrate how to memorize a simple “to do” list of 10 jobs for the day. Choose a route through your own home consisting of 10 stops.
Let’s use the following 10 areas as stops on your journey.
1 FRONT DOOR
4 LIVING ROOM
5 UTILITY ROOM
7 MASTER BEDROOM
9 SPARE BEDROOM
Make sure that the order of stops forms a logical route through your own home – for example, you would be unlikely to travel from your front door to your attic before visiting the kitchen. You want the route to act as a “guide rope”, leading you effortlessly through all the stops in their correct order.
I find when preparing my own routes that it helps to close my eyes and imagine that I am floating through each room as I try to picture all the familiar pieces of furniture, ornaments and personal belongings. As I do this, I count off each place on my fingers until I have reached the final stopping place.
Make a mental note of the halfway stage of your route. For example, I would choose the utility room, or fifth stop, as my halfway point in the above example.
Once you have prepared your journey and know all the stopping points effortlessly forward and backward, then you are ready to start placing items from the list along your route.
Don’t consciously try to memorize the items on the list. This is not a test of memory but a demonstration of imagination and association combined with location.
We’ll use the following 10 jobs as an example:
1 CALL VET
2 MEND SUNGLASSES
3 BAKE CUP CAKES
4 VISIT BANK MANAGER
5 BUY BIRTHDAY PRESENT
6 BUY POSTAGE STAMPS
7 COLLECT DRY CLEANING
8 CHECK OIL IN CAR
9 PAY WATER BILL
10 CHANGE LIGHT BULB
All you need to do is form a mental picture of each job and see them at the stops along the route. You can use a number of tools to aid your imagination, such as exaggeration, colour, humour and movement. As well as using all five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, you will also be using plenty of left-brain logic to complement the sometimes bizarre images formed by the right brain. Create the scene, fix it in your mind, then move on to the next stage.
STOP 1 – Front Door
Position yourself at the front door inside your own home. The first item on your “to do” list is call vet. Imagine opening your front door to find a telephone ringing loudly on your door step. Perhaps your cat is sitting on top of the hand set.
STOP 2 – Hallway
Now position yourself in the hallway before looking at the second task -mend sunglasses. Perhaps the hallway lights are so bright that you quickly reach for some sunglasses to protect your eyes. Or maybe the hallway wallpaper is decorated with a repeat pattern of sunglasses.
STOP 3 – Kitchen
In the kitchen you see rows and rows of cup cakes neatly lined up on your work top. An aroma of fresh baking fills the kitchen. There are some more cakes still baking in the oven – which you must rescue before they burn.
STOP 4 – Living Room
Moving into the living room you notice that your bank manager, dressed in a pinstriped suit, is sitting in one of your armchairs sorting through paperwork in preparation for your meeting. There are more papers scattered over the living room floor. Create the scene in your mind’s eye.
STOP 5 – Utility Room
You open the door to the Utility Room to find a gigantic present sitting on top of your fresh pile of laundry. Picture the paper it’s wrapped in – is it brightly coloured, patterned, shiny, adorned with a bow, and so on? Remember to make a mental note that this is the fifth stage of the journey: picture a bold number 5 painted on the door of the utility room.
Now it’s your turn: for the remaining five stops on the journey, listed in the box below, make your own associations to connect these final five jobs to their relevant locations. Remember, at each stage: create a scene, visualize it and add vivid details to make it more memorable.
The Journey Method Test
If you have been using the three keys of memory (association, location and imagination), you should now be able to recall many, if not all, of the 10 jobs on your “to do” list. Jot down in your notebook as many jobs as you can recall in their correct order.
Score Five points for each correctly ordered job – keep a note of your score.
If you know your route well enough, you won’t confuse the order of the list. You could even recite the list in reverse order. All you have to do is walk backward through your journey. And if you want to pinpoint any of the tasks, all that’s required is to dip into the journey at a specific stage. If you made a mental note of the fifth stage, you can easily pinpoint the fourth item in the list, it has to be the item one stage before the fifth. How many of these questions can you answer correctly? Again, write down the answers in your notebook.
1 What task follows cake baking?
2 Which job comes before checking oil?
3 What is the second job on the list?
4 Which task is between buy birthday present and collect dry cleaning?
5 At what number on the list is pay water bill?
Score 10 points for each correct answer.
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