Best way to remember dates?

I’m busy working on my 100 PAO, to form images for 0-99 people, actions and objects. I’m getting on ok with that and am now just looking ahead to how to best actually utilize it for the things I want to use it for so I begin applying it correctly.

I’m not interested in competitions - I want to be able to remember ‘useful’ information for the long term and reasonably quickly.

One of the main things I’m going to need to remember lots of are dates. E.g. the year kings/queens were born, died, dates of battles, dates famous people were born/died, and any other dates of note.

Now, for most dates the year should be enough - but what’s the best way to remember them?

One way I’m thinking is to ignore the first digit as that ought to be obvious. Then I just need to remember the last two digits (using the person from the PAO system I’m learning) and the century - though that’s maybe where I am wondering how best to do it.

One idea I’ve got is to create specific images for each century and combine them with the person. Is that worthwhile, or is it just easier to use a person/action to remember the year as there’s less work needed?

The next issue is for when I do need/want to remember the month and day too. How best to remember something like 3rd June 1873? Do I just split it up and use my PAO images for all the parts, or do I do something like have additional images for each month?

I suppose one reason for wondering about having extra images for the centuries/months is that I wonder whether some time down the line, after remembering a lot of things, the PAO images will get used so much that I could start getting them confused. Whereas if I had specific extra images for parts of the dates then date images should be different from any other numerical information I want to learn.

So how to you memorize dates for the long term?

And one other thought - when remembering lots of dates how do you remember what the date represents? E.g. I read another post where they said they remember Darwin released Origin of the Species in 1859 by thinking of bugs (their image for 59) crawling out of his beard.

However, that could get confusing if you also want to remember his date of birth, death and any other notable event.

So I wondered whether it was also worth having a modifier to add to the image to indicate if the date was a birth, death, the date they came to or left office, or ‘other’. So you could decide to add water to the image to indicate birth, fire to the image to indicate death, etc.

Does anyone do anything like that?

I highly recommend the Major System or phonetic number system. I really don’t see how anyone can memorize numbers without this, and it makes memorization so simple, but it does take lots of practice to become second nature.
I don’t usually bother with memorizing entire dates (the year is usually what you want) but when I do, I try to memorize it all as a number using the American (month day, year) style. This sometimes makes patterns memorable in themselves, such as D-Day (6-6-44 or 66 44 (there is no 60th month, so if you remember 66, you know it must mean June 6th) which has the phonetic mnemonic of “choo choo horror” (I imagine a choo choo train derailed and shot full of holes on the beaches of Normandy which were full of horror that day)).
For Darwin’s 1859 Origin of Species date, I imagine Darwin as having a giant LiP (59) as he appeared in some unflattering cartoons of the time, although what he published was an enormous heLP (59) to biologists, forever changing the field no matter how much the fundamentalists today might yeLP (59). (I know it was the 19th century, so just remember the last two digits.) I find 2 or 3 images is better than one and creating a stupid little story as I illustrated here does the trick, but you must practice the story a few times.
I am listening to a lecture series on the Renaissance and when I heard the Zwingli died in 1531, I tried to imagine him being thrown into a MoaT (31), but not just any moat, a hoTeL (15) MoaT (31)… 1531.
Regarding centuries, I do try to create a single image for each one, using the first two digits, such as
nose for 20xx
tape for 19xx
dove for 18xx
dog for 17xx
touch for 16xx (I imagine a giant finger touching whatever the xx image is)
hotel for 15xx (I imagine a giant hotel lobby or the Bates Hotel)
tire for 14xx
dime for 13xx
tuna for 12xx …
For dates before the common era, instead of using the cumbersome BC or BCE, I just put a minus sign in front of the date in my mind (which also helps when making year calculations).
I try to create a scaffolding of other historical dates, tying one thing to the other. For example, across the Atlantic from Darwin, the Southern States began to secede from the Union in 1860, so I might remember that Origin of Species was published the year before this (I imagine some puffed up Southerner angry about Lincoln and Darwin (who were both born on the same day, by the way, February 12th, 1809). The Indulgence Crisis of 1517 occurred exactly 400 years before the 1917 entry of the United States into World War I. There is a lot of evidence that the more you link what you are learning to what you already know, the more likely you are to be able to recall both.
If there is a pattern to the numbers, this helps. The French Revolution occurred in 1789 which conveniently enough is 1 then 7-8-9. If you can count (and remember that it occurred in the 18th Century) then you can remember this. Using the linking pattern, you can also remember that this occurred 200 years before the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 (it’s jarring when you realize how much happens in just a few short centuries that we usually don’t link in our minds, but these jarring images make it easier to remember).
For historical figures, I only try to remember the year they died. For presidents, I only remember the year they left office (I had a great high school history teacher who made us remember them all). Knowing the death year or year the figure left office helps you to date them (and know whether they were alive or in office in a given year).
Finally, if you really want to learn and be able to recall these dates effortlessly, you have to do some brute force memorization - I memorize the fact AND the mnemonic at the same time using a flashcard type approach. The mnemonic helps months or years later if there is some confusion about the exact year or date since I can often reconstruct it (whereas a 37 can become a 38 or 39 or 47 fairly easy with the passage of time).

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Hi - thanks for that!

Reinforcing the memorized information is a great idea, stopping things from being little islands of memorized facts and joining them together to reinforce them even more. I can see how that would make memories much more permanent and also how it’d make them more useful/interesting so I’ll certainly try to do that.

I’ve decided to use a sort of Dominic O’Brian system (PAO) to memorise the numbers, rather than the major system. I do know the major system but it does always leave you having to think up words on the fly, whereas with the PAO system I’ll already have the images and just need to combine them to be memorable. I’m just interested to see how it works in practice.

I may additionally go back to the Major system, or remember some things using it too, so I don’t intend to ignore it. E.g. I could use it to augment the PAO system I’m working on - e.g. for creating images for the centuries. That could help stop numbers in the PAO I’m working on from becoming too overused.

Though I may also look more into the Ben System, which is similar but you remember numbers in threes with the middle one indicating a vowel. I can see that being more work, so I’m not doing it initially, but I like the idea and remembering 3 numbers at a time would be good.

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I’ve been thinking a bit about days in the year. There are actually a lot of dates for which I already have some association:

  • Friends' birthdays, anniversaries, etc
  • Festivals (4th July, December 25th)
  • Historical events (9/11)

Then there are several other sources to fill out imagery for the rest of the year. Various calendars associate a saint with each day – here is a roman catholic one: The saints have some iconography associated with them, giving you some imagery:
[unfortunately, many other religions use lunar calendars, so their dates shift around in relation to the solar year]

Or you can look at wikipedia for things that happened on a certain date.

[I’ve not seriously tried any of this. I’m trying to weigh up the pros and cons of it versus something based on the major system. I’m instinctively more attracted to connecting to the external significance of the dates – because part of the point of memory work for me is to deepen my associations of the time and space I am in. But the major system will be simpler to get going]

Within a given historical period (e.g. French revolution) you can get pretty far just by remembering the “off sets” (e.g. 4 years before 1789 or 2 years afterward).

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