A Bedtime & Morning Exercise for Life Memorization (Pythagoras)

This memory exercise might interest people here:

In a nutshell, here’s the memory building exercise:

Every night, as you’re lying in bed ready to fall asleep, review what you did during the day from start to finish in as much detail as you can possibly remember. Start with the exact moment you woke up and got out of bed and finish with the moment that just passed as you laid back down in your bed. Visualize every single detail in your mind, each and every step you took in sequential order from beginning to end as if you were watching a video recap of your day.

A comment on the post mentioned Pythagoras, so I looked it up and found his advice on reviewing the day at bedtime and in the morning. I don’t know if Pythagoras intended it as a memory technique though.

Here is the text:

He advised special regard to two times; that when we go to sleep, and that when we awake. At
each of these we should consider our past actions, and those that are to come. We ought to require of ourselves an account of our past deeds, while of the future we should have a providential care. Therefore he advised everybody to repeat to himself the following verses before he fell asleep:

“Nor suffer sleep to close thine eyes
Till thrice thy acts that day thou hast run o’er;
How slipt? What deeds? What duty left undone?”

On rising:

“As soon as ere thou wakest, in order lay
The actions to be done that following day”

(Source: Complete Pythagoras)


I did a quick search this morning and found a mention of this kind of memory exercise in Life of Pythagoras (1818).

The Pythagoreans likewise employed select sentences of Homer and Hesiod for the amendment of souls. But they thought it was necessary to retain and preserve in the memory things which they had learnt and heard; and that it was requisite to be furnished with disciplines and auditions, to as great an extent as there was an ability of learning and remembering; the former of these being the power by which knowledge is obtained, but the latter, the power by which it is preserved. Hence, they very much honored the memory, abundantly exercised and paid great attention to it.

In learning too, they did not dismiss what they were taught, till they had firmly comprehended the first rudiments of it; and they recalled to their memory what they had daily heard; after the following manner: A Pythagorean never rose from his bed till he had first recollected the transactions of the former day; and he accomplished this by endeavoring to remember what he first said, or heard, or ordered his domestics to do when he was rising, or what was the second and third thing which he said, heard, or commanded to be done. And the same method was adopted with respect to the remainder of the day. For again, he endeavored to recollect who was the first person that he met, on leaving his house, or who was the second; and with whom he in the first, or second, or third place discoursed. And after the same manner he proceeded in other things. For he endeavored to resume in his memory all the events of the whole day, and in the very same order in which each of them happened to take place. But if they had sufficient leisure after rising from sleep, they tried after the same manner to recollect the events of the third preceding day. And thus they endeavored to exercise the memory to a great extent. For there is not any thing which is of greater importance with respect to science, experience and wisdom, than the ability of remembering.

From these studies therefore, it happened that all Italy was filled with philosophers, and this place, which before was unknown, was afterwards on account of Pythagoras called Magna Griecia. Hence also it contained many philosophers, poets, and legislators. For the rhetorical arts, demonstrative reasonings, and the laws written by them, were transferred from Italy to Greece.


In a similar manner, they were attentive to the mandate of Pythagoras, not to do any thing without previous deliberation and disquisition; but to form a plan in the morning of what ought to be done in the course of the day, and at night to call to mind the actions of the day, by this means at one and the same time exploring their conduct, and exercising their memory.


I have been doing it since my childhood without Knowing exactly the real effect. Then I had stopped because I thought I was getting crazy! Now have more confidence returning to it again. Thanks to share this!


I’ve just started to attempt this technique with index cards. In the morning, I take an index card and fill out my things to accomplish for the day. At night, I write down a quick summary of the day. Then they get filed away in a box.

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I’ve seen this exercise in a few different variations.

In one place, the exercise was to remember the events in reverse, starting at lying down in bed and working back through the day to the morning. It was supposed to have various effects, not least that you are remembering in a different way than it was experienced, so you get a different perspective on the day. In particular, it highlights how effects follow from causes, how what happened later followed from what you did earlier.

I think that in the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, he recommends doing an evening review of the days events. I believe this was more done from a moral point of view, seeing your virtues and failings, which appeals to me a bit less, but for a religious person I could see this being a good practice to add to some evening prayer, that would have memory benefits like the others. I would think the important point would be not to be too hard on yourself, just think back lightly & resolve to do better tomorrow.

Last, I saw a chess teacher recommend this daily recollection of events to help chess players improve their memories, but the small twist he put on it was to, in addition to remembering the events of the day in order, then to pick one moment or event and remember it in more detail, see what you can recall of the surroundings, conversation, etc.

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The main problem I had with this was deciding in how much detail I would remember each part of the day.

Some things were easy, like making dinner - though even that could be broken down in different ways, like: ‘I roasted a chicken’ could be a whole episode, or you could imagine mincing up some garlic, and salting the meat, or you could go further and remember selecting the knife, and going into the cupboard for the salt, etc…

Work was a hard one, as lots of the tasks were repetitive and repeated without the day… it can usually be broken down in a few parts, maybe two periods before and after a lunch break…

I found was worked best was to be fairly light & loose as to how detailed the memory would be, sometimes focusing in and at other times going past larger time-chunks pretty quickly…

I also found it best to phrase it mentally like, “I did this, then before that I did this, then before that I went to” etc. (I’ve practiced it in the backwards-review, evening to morning.)

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I have so much to say around this topic, I don’t even know where to start…

TL;DR : I did something like this intuitively this Christmas season and it did wonders for me. I knew this week would be eventful and have important turning point for my life and my family; I wanted to make sure I would make the most of it, and that I wouldn’t forget any important moment of it by mistake.
The past week has been eventful beyond my expectations and had a great deal of defining moments and conflicts. But my evening routine and memory / meditation techniques helped me go through it like a stroll in the park; Not only have I gone through it without much stress, but I’m sure I made the most out of it all in the end.

-Longer version-

Context :
(Exactly why I needed the technique, you may skip to next section)
I’ve been working on having a healthier state of mind intensely this last year, and developed a handful of techniques, tricks and reminders to help me in this regard.
Remembering the past day before going to sleep and reviewing it in the morning is only the latest addition to these tricks that help me stay sane.
I started doing this exercise because I wanted to have no regrets.
My sister is pregnant and it’s going the first baby of our family, I went to see my mother for 5 days, haven’t seen her in months and knew that we both had problems and conflicts which would probably need to be addressed while I was there. I wanted to do my absolute best to resolve these conflicts and problems, not just let them hit me in the face.
What’s more, I’ve been trapped in the same state of mind for a long time and recently discovered new states of mind…
More precisely, there was some fears that I never let go of that prevented me of being in the present.
I haven’t let myself “be in the present” for so long, that I thought I was going crazy the last months, because I tried cannabis and under its influence, it was impossible to keep my usual fears in mind, I was forced into a different state of mind where I was more focused of the present moment, my surroundings and feelings.

All that to say,
I doubted my mind a lot lately, and needed techniques to help me every thought and events of the days, because they all helped me understand exactly what was wrong with my previous state of mind, and exactly how different it was when I was in a different state of mind, so I could try to go out of my usual and unhealthy state of mind once again when sober.
(And I’m happy to say, these efforts finally paid off and I find myself stable and sane for the first time since forever :slight_smile: )

My method of reviewing the last day(s) in detail :
I’m confident in my capabilities to remember all the important events of the day when I’m going to bed.
So I can usually wait untill I go to bed to commit the important events to memory.
I also know my memory capabilities well enough to know when there is too much information shown to me for me to remember it at night. In these situations, I then commit the information to memory straight away.
This way, I can relax and be relatively sure I won’t forget anything important.

Before sleeping,
I go back to a memory palace I know well,
(I chose the one used to store my PAO, it has 10 rooms with 10 loci each)
I started at 0 for the Christmas season.
Each day, I’d go forward and make as much images as needed in the palace to remember everything of importance that day. I’d also make some kind of image to give myself an idea of the date.
Some images are for events, others are for ideas, other for state of mind, and there are some for beautiful scenery. ( I’m practicing my photography skills and applying them to family events )
So, everything that is important to you on that day, not just events.

Before commiting new images to my Palace, I’d review at least the previous day, more if I want or need to.

In the morning, I’d start to review the previous day in my Palace, then slowly finish doing it as I start my day.

Also , when I’m done placing the events of the day in my palace,
I’ll then take the time to think of a solution to the problems I have,
finally, I’ll make images to help me remember these solutions (ideas) in the future.

The review:
The review is not as simple as it seems.
There are actually 2 different ways of reviewing your memories :

  • Only make sure the image in the palace is intact; This is enough to make sure the element is not forgotten and that you will be able to remember in a later day that this was important to you when it happened.
  • Diving in the moment; Example #1, in the middle of my second day, I had a trip at the groceries. My image to remind myself of it is me pushing a shopping cart in the backyard of my Memory Palace ( Loci #09 ). But the memory it evokes is much more complex :
    I was shocked when strolling through the alleys, because it felt totally different from my usual trip to the grocery store. I remember looking around, waiting for my sister and her boyfriend, and seeing 5-6 person shopping around. But I felt very anchored in my own body compared to my usual state of mind, where I barely feel my own body/ self and focus on the task.
    This was a state of mind I wished to remember, and I mostly did.
    It appears that it was mostly due to my fever and medicine, but it’s nonetheless a state of mind which I can now more easily remember .
    Yesterday, we went to an other grocery store, the fever was gone, but at some point, I decided to try to switch my “normal” state of mind to the one I had wen feverish… It really changed how I saw my surrounding.
    Example #2 : I confronted my mother about something, and some serious drama followed that.
    In my Memory Palace, I placed stairs through the wall behind the bath, with my mother going up the stairs and me calling to her ( Loci #56 ).
    That reminds me of when she left angry, after I tried to explain to her the problem I was having.
    It’s just an image, but if I take the time to remember the event.
    I then start feeling like I did at the moment,
    I hold tight to that feeling and try to bring it all back.
    I slowly try to bring back every little sensation and thought I had at the time: The shaking of my hands, what I did before, how it started, the words I said, the look my mother had, her words, her tone, how she seemed to feel.
    I can rather easily remember her words, but only if I drown in the moment for a while am I able to understand how she felt when she told me the words, and where those words came from.

Why bother with all that, especially with the “diving in the moment” review :
The sole purpose of all that for me,
is to act and live my life as best I can.
To do that, I need to understand myself and my surrounding as best I can.
I need to find what is most important to me, especially the problems that needs a solution.
I need to make sure I remember the problem.
I need to understand the problem and decide what is my best course of action toward it.
I need to remember what my solution is.

I also remember the good moments tho… But I haven’t put as much thought in why exactly I do.
I can’t describe it with as much detail, but in short :
I remember the good things because they are the proof that life is good and wonderful.
They are the reason why it’s worth working on the problems and conflicts,
and why it’s worth to try your hardest to make life beautiful.
Plus, they are just as important as the rest to better understand yourself and your surrounding.

What’s more, in my case, every moment is filled with a complex set of ideas that’s always evolving and changing. I’m sure you also know the feeling of randomly getting deep in your thoughts,
having interesting ideas and concepts in mind, but knowing that once you’ll move forward and think about something else, just continue living, then most of the ideas / concepts that you currently have in mind will fall out of your counsciousness.
Maybe the idea will resurface a second later, or one day later when it’s needed, or maybe just randomly 6 months later for no apparent reason… maybe the idea will even be lost for ever…

But reviewing a moment by diving in it helps a lot to dig in your memories and get back the ideas you had at the moment.
It gives you control on what complex ideas and concepts you get to remember.
The image placed in your memory palace is like a thread leading you to a specific moment in your past, and that moment is in turn leading you to some complex ideas linked to it.

More thoughts on using this method: (or “what I need to be happy with myself”)
All this might seem a bit extreme, over the top or even useless, and maybe you really don’t need this, of maybe you just think you don’t.
But for me, the only way to end my day without regret is to live my day in a way that’s good, in a way that makes it so that if I look at myself, and truly, objectively, ask myself if I’m a good person, have me truly believe that I’m a good person.

This means :

  • that I do the actions that I think are “right” when the moment to take action arise
  • that I’m sincerely trying to understand myself and my situation, without lying to myself
  • that I don’t ignore something important by lying to myself and pretending that it is not important
  • that I try my best to understand what’s important to understand
  • that I try to find the best way to approach a problem
  • that I do my best to not forget what’s important, problem, solution ideas and goodness all included
    (this point is why this technique/routine is important)

All this is not an absolute truth,
I’m certainly not done finding better ways to improve myself,
but I’d have a hard time being happy with myself if I were to get too far from any of those points.

I’m constantly trying to understand what I need to do to be happy with myself.
God knows that I haven’t been a role model…
and I’ve only been using this daily meditation for the last few days…
But those points are all things I unconsciously believed in for most of my life;
They were ideas I had in a moment or an other, but not all at the same time,
but these ideas were lost in those moments, and, at the time, I didn’t give myself the tools to go back to those moments, and dig back the ideas.

Lately, I’ve had a few tricks to help me remember more and more of those points every day, although they weren’t phrased like that in my mind.
But it’s only with this routine / technique that I can truly keep this particular set of ideas in mind, and,
by doing so,
live in a way that makes me happy with myself.


Very meticulous - as usual.

I’m wondering why you prefer paper copies rather than use any of the free note-taking programs, such as Evernote or Cinta Notes - which are searchable, with offsite storage (AKA: cloud).

I use Org Mode for general notes, but I prefer paper for some things.

I am definitely doing this tonight! Thanks for sharing


Tried it last night it’s quite amazing cause I saw many things that were important and others where I fail and could be better just my thoughts drift a lot so I couldn’t complete my day review. Will try again now.

Thanks for sharing this. Lovely forum :heartpulse: