Mnemonic Devices

One of the main reasons for this blog is to build a community of people who are not only committed to improving themselves, but also to teaching and learning from others.  To that end, I would like to request feedback and tips on mnemonic devices employed by others.

I still remember “My Very Education Mother Just Served Us Nine PizzaPies”, taught to me in the second grade or so as a way to remember the Planets (Mars, Venus, Earth, Jupiter, etc.)  And in a book called “The Brain Book“, I learned the importance of tapping into both sides of your brain in putting together mind maps when studying or just organizing thoughts.  This ability to remember things in “chunks”, something we naturally do as human beings, can significantly help you in several areas of your life, from the obvious benefits for school and work to every-day tasks of remembering phone numbers, names, and shopping lists.

One trick that I’ve done for years is use my memory of numbers–especially as it applies to sports and specifically football and my favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.  For example, remembering my PIN of 0956 is easy when I remember it as Tony Romo (#9), being sacked in practice by Brady James (#56).  When I’m working in Excel and need to enter a number that I am duplicating from a website or piece of paper, I’ll ‘chunk’ as much of it into images and memories from some other portion of my life, then just remember the rest (which should be a minimal amount remaining) the hard way.  If the dollar amount I was transferring from paper to Excel was $21,472.38, for example (a number I literally just typed in randomly to put my theory to the test), I could remember it by Deion Sanders (#21), Clayton Holmes (#47), Michael Jordan (#23), and Troy Aikman (#8).  The trick would be to remember that there was no zero in the last number, of course, but that is a very small piece of information to ‘remember’.

Now I don’t expect you to know who the heck any of those people are- except maybe Michael Jordan.  I also understand that you may not be as numerically or sports inclined.  But you certainly have areas of your life that you can use to remember numbers.  Birthdays.  Anniversaries.  Addresses.  And you can always think of a saying or phrase that helps you remember a list or group of some sort.

For example, the 12 Steps to Recovery from Alcoholism are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Faith
  3. Surrender
  4. Soul Searching
  5. Integrity
  6. Acceptance
  7. Humility
  8. Willingness
  9. Forgiveness
  10. Maintenance
  11. Making Contact
  12. Service

To remember that, I might use the phrase “Her Father Scared Sam In A Hurtful Way For My Man Steve”, where the first letter of each word represents a memory aid for each of the 12 steps.  That phrase makes no sense at all and actually sounds dumb.  But it works.  In the past, I’ve also drawn pictures of what I’m trying to learn.  The more colors, the more outrageous, the better.  Again, it sometimes seems silly, but when you nail that meeting, remember that key person’s name, or ace that test, it’s well worth it.

Below are a couple of links to sites I found when I googled “remembering in chunks” that might shed some more light.  I’d be interested, as well, to hear any other tips and tricks to remembering things.


About bbluford
I am an executive finance professional with a love for process and application development (MS Access, Excel, Quickbooks), mostly as it relates to Accounting and Business Functions. I also love to write and share ideas with other people in this world. I'm an admitted Gym Rat who works out excessively. The best summation of me is that I love to teach and to learn.

6 Responses to Mnemonic Devices

  1. Julie Manriquez says:

    Bobby, I love practicing different techniques to remember names of people I meet or lists of items, etc. I try to repeat back the name of the person I am introduced to so I actually speak the name, then (if I remember), I attach an animal in my brain to the person’s name, So, if I am meeting Robert, I will think of a Rabbit in my head. I know that sounds ca-razy, but it actually works. I used to use it when I taught middle school and had 150 kids per day. We would play name games like this for the first week. Also, if I have a list in my head as I’m driving to the grocery store, I think of a single word to remember the items, so if I need sweet potatoes, brown rice, apples, and toilet paper, I might think, “PARTY” or Potatoes, Apples, Rice, Toilet paper….just an idea!

    • bbluford says:

      I like the shopping list idea. And it certainly doesn’t sound crazy. Not if you really understand how the brain works. In fact, the more nutty, weird, silly, or outrageous the imagery is, the better.

  2. Her Father Scared Sam In A Hurtful Way For My Man Steve, was a very insightful mnemonic. in fact, I love to coin, collect, and share mnemonics in my website. I also wish you to be my friend in facebook or linkedin as we share the common interest; mnemonics

  3. bbluford says:

    Hey Sridhar-
    I’ve just added you on LinkedIn. And I’ll check out your website, as well. Fee free to send me any good mnemonics to share with my friends, family, and other followers.

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