Madison Polkowitz / Gavel Media

The Guide to Building a Memory Palace (And Acing Your Finals)

Sherlock Holmes, witty flat mate and detective extraordinaire, is known for his seemingly limitless brain capacity. He has an almost supernatural ability to remember names, dates, historical events and more. This vast amount of space to hold information, and to retrieve it so quickly, is something that any college student would want during finals week. So what is limiting you?

The key to unlocking Sherlock’s infinite amount of knowledge and translating it into a college student’s life is found, simply, by understanding where he keeps all of this information – in his mind palace, or more commonly referred to as a memory palace.

The memory technique of creating a mind palace was invented by the ancient Greeks and was later revolutionized to fit Mr. Holmes’ character on the BBC show. According to myth, a Greek poet named Simonides of Ceos invented the technique after he attended a banquet that ended in tragedy. Immediately after leaving the building, Simonides turned around to see the building collapsing in front of his eyes. After the wreckage had settled, Simonides was able to identify all of the remains purely on his memory of where the banquet guests were sitting. His unbelievable ability to remember all of the names and their locations is the foundation of creating a memory palace – it is a method of loci.

The first step in creating a memory palace is to visualize a complex place where one could physically store a set of memories. Places that would be particularly beneficial to college students might be your dorm room, a specific seat in Bapst, or a cubicle in the back of O’Neill. In places like a building, O’Neill  Library for example, picture each room (or cubicle) as its own specific subject of something to remember. The brain has an incredible ability to retain visual memories, so take advantage of that. The final step of the memory palace is retrieving the information. When the memories or facts need to be recalled, walk through the imaginary room or building in your mind, and visualize each of the stored items.

What at first might seem like an act of nonsense, the memory palace technique has helped countless people remember vast amounts of information. Moonwalking with Einstein is a book by Joshua Foer that chronicles his year-long quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top “mental athletes.” His research concludes, along with the statements of recent medical and law school graduates who have utilized this technique in their studies, that creating a memory palace is the key to unlocking the potential of your mind and memory.

Creating a memory palace can be done in the comfort of your own dorm room and can save you during finals week. The actual success of your memory palace, however, is purely based on your dedication to the process. In addition to the general guidelines above, the true success of your mind palace experience will be determined by following the finer details of the process.

1.)   Decide on a Blueprint for your Palace

2.)   Define a Route

3.)   Identify Specific Storage Locations Along your Route

4.)   Memorize your Palace

5.)   Place Information to be Remembered

6.)   Use Symbols

7.)   Be Creative

8.)   Stock Palace with Mnemonics

9.)   Explore your Palace

10.) Use your Palace

11.) Build New Palaces

By building a mind palace you will not only reduce your stress during finals, but you will also reduce the amount of study guides piling up on the corner of your desk. But, most importantly, building a mind palace will help you retain and recall important information in all areas of your life.

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