The Journey Technique
Remembering Long Lists
If you forgot something on your shopping list, chances are you wouldn't be very surprised. But if you forgot the route to the store? Now that would be a shock!
It's because we expect to remember journeys. So why not use that ability to help with other, harder types of learning?
This article explains how to do just that, using a memory method called the Journey Technique. It's a powerful way to learn lists confidently and effectively.
What Is the Journey Technique?
The Journey Technique is an ancient memory method that lets you store new information within familiar mental journeys, allowing you to navigate it with ease.
You could use your journey to work, for example; the route you take to visit your parents; or a tour around a regular holiday destination.
It's a great way to learn lists, because each journey gives a clear order to all the information held within it.
How to Use the Journey Technique
To use the Journey Technique most effectively, it's best to prepare a journey beforehand. This ensures that the landmarks are clear in your mind before you use them to "store" new information.
So first pick a journey that you're very familiar with. Spend a few moments imagining yourself traveling along the journey.
Next, choose landmarks or points of interest along the way. When you've selected approximately ten, write them down – and check that you can remember them in order. You'll need to keep this sequence the same every time you use this particular journey.
When you're ready to remember a list, pick an image to represent each item. With things that you can already "see," such as objects or people, the images will likely be straightforward. However, it's a good idea to exaggerate them, to make them even more memorable.
With more abstract information, such as discussion points or business concepts, you may need to invent "image clues" to represent them in your journey.
If you're struggling to come up with an image for an abstract concept, imagine you're adding a picture to a presentation slide. What sort of illustration would you select to get your point across?
Finally, "position" your chosen images at the landmarks on your journey. You can have fun in your imagination as you create weird and wonderful scenes all along your route.
An Example of the Journey Technique
Let's say you needed to remember a shopping list:
coffee, salad, peas, bread, fish, chicken, pork chops, soup, fruit, bathtub cleaner
Using your regular journey to the store, you might pick the following stopping-points:
- The doormat by your front door.
- The rose bush in your front garden.
- Your driveway.
- The junction at the end of your road.
- A bridge over the highway.
- Traffic signals.
- The local fuel station.
- A large office building.
- A playground by the road.
- The supermarket parking lot.
You would then visualize one item at each of those points, in sequence. The journey might look like this:
- On the doormat, coffee beans are piled high.
- Under the rose bush, a rabbit is munching crunchy salad leaves.
- On your driveway, someone has spilled thousands of bright green peas.
- At the junction there's a signpost made of bread.
- From the bridge, freshly caught fish are hanging above the traffic.
- At the traffic signals there are chicken breasts where the lights should be.
- Outside the fuel station, a pig is doing karate chops (pork chops!).
- In front of the office building there's a deep river of tomato soup.
- In the playground, children are jumping from the swing set to pull fruit from a tree.
- In the supermarket parking lot, a dirty bathtub (in need of cleaner) is blocking your favorite spot.
When the time comes to recall the list, you simply retrace the journey in your "mind's eye." At each stopping-point, you should find an unforgettable image of something to buy.
You can use the Journey Technique in many different workplace situations.
A journey could hold all the key points for a presentation, for example.
If you're negotiating, why not use a journey to memorize your most persuasive pieces of evidence?
And it might be useful to learn the phases of a project this way, and then add in extra details – so that the information you need is always at your fingertips.
Making the Most of the Journey Technique
This is a very flexible memory system. To learn longer lists, simply create longer journeys. To remember a short list, only use part of the route!
Another advantage of this technique is that you can use it to work both backward and forward, and start anywhere within the route to retrieve information.
You can also combine this technique with other mnemonics. This can be done either by building complex images at particular stops on a journey, or by linking to other mnemonics at each one. You could even use some of the landmarks as starting-points for entirely new journeys.
The Journey Technique Infographic
Click on the thumbnail image below to see The Journey Technique demonstrated in an infographic:
The Journey Technique is a way of remembering lists by visualizing images at points along a familiar journey. It involves three steps:
- Choose a journey you know well and highlight memorable landmarks or stopping-points along the way.
- Create images to represent each item on a list that you want to remember.
- Visualize those images arranged, in sequence, at the landmarks you've chosen on your journey.
Be as imaginative as you can to create a richly memorable map. And all the images should still be there when you make the journey again in your "mind's eye."
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