How I Overcome Plateaus and Keep Improving

I just want to write a few thoughts down about this subject for myself and anyone who reads this :slight_smile:

In case you don’t know, a few months back I qualified to compete in the 2016 Extreme Memory Tournament. Since the 2015 USAMC I had done next to nothing in terms of memory training, so the XMT provided a much needed spark. I’ve been training consistently for about 30-60 minutes per day, and I’m pleased to say that my scores have been steadily improving. Now just to be clear, chances are I’m going to get crushed in my group at the XMT, but I’ve decided to not worry about wins/losses and just focus on hitting the scores I want.

Plateaus are really annoying. Everyone hates when they get stuck and just can’t get better. I’m no different, but after some research I’ve found some pretty helpful ways to get past these plateaus.

  1. Push yourself! Get out of your comfort zone and make mistakes. Right now I can memorize a deck of cards anywhere between 24-30 seconds with a high success rate. My goal is to be just as consistent at speeds between 20-23 seconds. To do this I take everything one step further and memorize at times under 20 seconds. A few days ago I clocked in at 19 seconds and remembered 13/52 cards. I HATE memorizing at this speed - it’s hard to make solid images and I draw tons of blanks. But I’m confident that if I keep practicing at this speed eventually it’ll get easier and before I know it, a 20 second speed card deck will be a piece of cake.

  2. Find what’s holding you back and work specifically on that problem. When I first started with memory techniques, my biggest problem was linking to locations. For example, I would see an image and just imagine it on top of my desk. After a bit of experimenting I figured out the problem and spent time thinking of ways to link images with locations and have the two interacting. It slowed me down a little in the beginning, but soon I was back on track and improving faster than ever. Also note that this trick should be used with the first tip. Once you get out of your comfort zone and start making mistakes, figure out what those mistakes are and work on them.

  3. Take notes and keep a log. I try to log every single card I blank on, every name I misspell, every word I mess up on. Sometimes I’ll see a pattern of the same thing messing me up over and over again. It used to be the 6 of Diamonds, an astronaut. After seeing the pattern I came to the conclusion that the astronaut was static and didn’t have enough action attached to it. Another thing that helps is writing down how a trial went or how it felt. For example, I’ll note if I didn’t have any blanks or if the whole thing felt a little jerky. Taking good notes will also help with identifying errors and make improvement a lot quicker.

  4. Get creative! Remember that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When I first started with XMT words, I was able to view about 30 out of the 50 in one minute. But then I came up with the great idea of viewing a few more words at the last second. I memorized my 30 in 59 seconds and just glanced at the next two for one second. Kept doing this for a few weeks until finally I hit all 50! Moral of story: Don’t always stick with the same approach. Change things up here and there and maybe you’ll find what works for you.

Hopefully you can use some of these tips for your own training! Have fun :smiley:

Great tips, Everett! Thank you.

Excellent tips. If you do not mind me asking what card system do you use? Is it a single or 2 card system or a PAO? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks Tracy!

Sal - I currently use a single card system. I used to use PAO, but it wasn’t working too well so I just took the objects and ignored the persons and actions. I’ll probably have to expand to some sort of 2-card system later for the longer card events. Hopefully that makes sense.

Great pointers! :slight_smile: