Long term memory palace

Hi everyone,
I’ve been using the memory palace technique for more than a year now, and I’d like to discuss some aspects of it here with you. First of all, my goal using this technique is to help long term memorization, by simplifing the review step, and not for any competition purposes.
Being an avid reader, I’ve always been frustrated by forgetting most of books i read (fiction or not), even just after 6 months. To avoid this, i started writing notes while reading, then write a small abstract of the book with information i want to retain, to finish by creating a palace for the book I want to recall about. For fiction books, I even skip the note taking part and just populate a new memory palace as I’m reading. I just take care of not creating too many loci, between 30 and 50 per book.
I’ve noticed that by reviewing again and again some of these palaces, my understanding of some books changes and gets deeper, which is something I wasn’t expecting.
For now, I’ve used this technique for 12 books, and it seems to work well. I use a “main” memory palace to connect all the others. I’ve noticed that after some time, the images I created start to fade, but this isn’t a problem as at this time, I know the information by rote.

I’d like to know if some of you did a similar thing for a longer period of time, and if you experimented this fading effects (or other effects), and if you find the technique suitable for this use.
Furthermore, if you have any advice, I’d be glad to hear it.
In the same vein, I use the technique to remember important personal events, such as trips, family meetings, and the only thing I regret is not having started this earlier !

I’d like to thank you all for being on this forum, which is important for me as I don’t know anyone interested in these techniques in real life.



Hi Pierre :slight_smile:

Memorizing informations from books is also the main reason why I’m interested in mnemonics. My approach is to convert them into vivid images and place them along simple fictional journeys that I create on the fly.

For instance I once read in a book that wolfs eat carcasses to get rid of worms. That was something I considered interesting to remember, so I placed a carcass along the way. Its position is between a trail and a small conifer wood. Whenever I walk along the journey, it remembers me of the wolf behavior. You can think of it as one ‘loci’.
Another example would be transitivity from mathematics: When a R b and b R c then a R c. Transitivity looks a bit like transvestite, so I imagined three transvestites of different size. A small one, a normal one and a big one. This helps me to remember what transitivity means.

One book usually needs between one hundred and several hundred stations, depending on information density. I probably have to recall these journeys more often than a real palace until they stick. But then it is really easy to repeat them. You can literally fly through. Plus I never run out of loci.

Best thing is that I can use these journeys for memory sports too. The stations are suitable hooks for Major system images etc. Doing so, I hardly have to repeat them separately.

I’ve noticed that by reviewing again and again some of these palaces, my understanding of some books changes and gets deeper, which is something I wasn’t expecting.

Yes, I can confirm this. Absolutely.


I mostly use memory palaces to memorize the law for long term. When I started, I made the mistake of underestimating the importance of spaced repetition. Now, I always make appointments in my calendar when I have to do reviews. This helps a lot with fading images.

I do 10 reviews in total:

  1. immediately
  2. after 24 hours
  3. 3 days later
  4. 7 days later
  5. 14 days later
  6. 1 month later
  7. 3 months later
  8. 6 months later
  9. 1 year later
  10. 2 years later

There are other approaches to spaced repetition, but the 10 reviews seem to work best for me.


The fading but still knowing the things by rote or by heart one could say, is happening to mine after approximately 2 weeks. I read up on the forum and it appears it is a normal thing. As in, after a point you no longer need the support of a memory palace due to that memory getting ingrained enough. Makes sense enough, though probably a good idea to continue reviewing them albeit less so even after the memory palace fades.


Hey Finwing,
Very interesting thank you !
I also like using fictional palaces, as you can easily make them very memorable, and you never run out of loci.

A few more questions :
To have an idea, how many books have you studied and how many palaces did you create to do so ?
I wonder at which level of realism an Hannibal-like memory is ?

You say you’re using the same stations for memory sports. Don’t you have any “interferences” effect using the same loci for a long term piece of information and for short term information at the same time ? Or do you set the short term info next to the long term one ? (which could be interesting to strengthen the long term one while practicing memory sports)

Thank you,


Hey SilvioB and Mitchell,
I’ve not tried spaced repetition yet, as I’m reviewing my palaces each evening before sleeping, it has became a habit to do so. I think my problem is not focusing enough on each station, and passing through them too fast. But for the moment, I didn’t experiment any information losses so that’s ok (at least I don’t remember it hehe :slight_smile:)

You are welcome :slight_smile:

Usually I use one palace/journey for shorter, easy to understand books (e.g. ‘The Man Who Lives with Wolves’ by Shaun Ellis, ‘World Wide Rave’ by David Merman Scott) and one journey per chapter for textbooks and other information dense texts (e.g. ‘Psychology and Life’ by Richard Gerrig, ‘Molecular Biology of the Cell’ by Alberts et. al., mathematics books and study scripts). I don’t recommend to use more than 100-150 stations each because otherwise the journeys start to feel like pipes.

Yeah, I think you can achieve a Hannibal-like memory. Although it may be easier to store addresses in the real world. For example I placed my Major image for 38 in the garden of some relatives I see only every 2-3 years. I’m no longer able to forget their house number.

When I use the stations for memory sports, I make them interact with the objects I want to store. For instance my image for ace of hearts is Jack O’Neill from the Stargate SG 1 series (because the A looks like the Angstrom-like symbol shown in the intro). When using the route with the wolf behavior, he would somehow interact with the carcass. Maybe he shots it with a gun. Or he is the carcass :smiling_imp: Or maybe it is enough to place him next to it. The temporary pictures fade with time just like they would in a normal palace, so there is no lasting interference. The long term information connected to the station is way more durable because it is part of the book context. (Yet it can happen that I forget it when I don’t repeat the journey for a long time.)

To strengthen station images is the main reason for using them in memory sports. I can do something for my education at the same time :slight_smile:
Besides, placing images on furniture without deeper meaning just to beat others in competition kills my motivation in an instant. No offense.

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Many experts suggest reviewing palaces before going to sleep is not the optimal time. You are trying to mobilize the brain circuitry involved in moving in a linear pattern, loading the route with dynamic, vivid imagery, paying attention to each stations content even if only for a second or two, all while your brain and body are slowly shutting down your energy level and attention span.

Contrast that with being on a physical or figurative stationary bike moving rapidly from way point to way point on your journey. You look for the next station/image so you can immediately move to the one following your current position. It is possible to generate a sense of anticipation, a rush as you move through the palace quickly, nailing it on every station. Finish one journey and then turn around and go through it backwards. Slower of course with maybe a bit of frustrating difficulty. Doesn’t seem like the right frame of mind to relax yourself into sleep mode.

Some of my images are the absolute last thing I want to bring in to my consciousness when trying to go to sleep. If it is important for you to go to sleep at something like an appropriate time, your brain will do two things. It will throttle down the attention level given to the journey. The second thing it will do if you routinely review journeys before going to sleep is automatically reduce the intensity of images that it presents in a range of alternative images to be considered for inclusion in your palace.

Jarring images, pleasant or otherwise, conflict with your intended primary goal when reviewing palaces which is going to sleep. Your brain will act accordingly.

In fact, you can test this for yourself. Choose or construct a journey which is relatively flat and lifeless. Keep it a little boring. Review it every night while lying in bed. In a very short period of time, it will become a signal to the brain to go to sleep. Very quickly you won’t even make it through the journey because you fell asleep. You have deliberately conditioned your brain and body to see reviewing a journey as a sleep trigger. The only difference between my suggestion and what you are doing is you exaggerating slightly the soporific effect of the process.

Now imagine your journey while you are standing. The stations are bigger than life size, much bigger. You physically act out your journey. You turn your body along with your attention as you pass stations. You squint at the brightness of some of them. You literally point at the more surprising ones. You turn your head toward the sound of the next station rushing toward you while still pointing at the last station. You physically duck or step over parts of some of the way points. You step forward or back depending on the appropriate distance you want from the image. Your brain when presenting images for inspection for inclusion in palaces will provide the kind of images that make you respond, because that is what you do when reviewing. At the end of the journey, you will not feel like going to sleep.

Of course, as time passes and the imagery and speed of recall get locked in, you can reduce the energy level you devote to rehearsing it.

Who are these experts? Also, “before sleep” to me is, still sitting somewhere and reviewing something and then going to bed… not reviewing as you are already in bed, lights out, and all. This here suggest the opposite by the way:

The results demonstrate the importance of sleep. The Sleep group and the Control group both remembered the words better 12 hours later (as measured by the performance on the first trial of the second study session) than the No Sleep group. That is, consistent with previous research, sleeping after a study session leads to better recall than not sleeping.

Full article here:

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This is fascinating! I first got into memory techniques for the very same reason. I hated forgetting so much of what I’d read.

Do you have a routine that you follow in making these notes, creating your loci, and doing your reviews?

I have struggled to make time for this work, rather than just reading the next book. If you have a routine that works for you, I’d love to hear it.


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Hello Bill,
Happy to know I’m not the only one struggling with this !
I would say it depends on the kind of book I want to memorize.

If it is a novel and I only want to remember the main lines or specific facts, I’ll think of a palace before (not even the loci), and as I read something interesting, I’ll stop my reading, think of the loci and then create the image. It can get quite fast and it’s very efficient. I even find it makes the novel more enjoyable, as reviewing the palace is a little like reading the book again and again :slight_smile:

Fore more knowledge-rich books, I like to skim the book first to get a clear idea of what it is about, and then read it taking notes on a notebook. If they are too many things, I’ll just write an abstract of these trying to have a ‘big picture’ of the book, as I think it’s the most important part. Then I’ll split this abstract in tens of loci. The number really depends on how important the book is for me. And then, after choosing a palace, I’ll just write every loci and the info I want to remember in my notebook.
It can be way more time-consuming but it’s worth it in my opinion as once the book is in your head, reviewing is so convenient.

And finally, for reviewing, I just ‘fly’ into my palaces every evenings but it might not be the most efficient method, as Ron Arnett was suggesting!

And you, how do you do ?


Hi Pierre! You are definitely not alone on this. :slight_smile:

It sounds like you have a good system, and the habit of spending the time on it. For me, the struggle is getting motivated to spend that time, day in and day out.

Since you have a habit of reviewing your palace every evening, that sounds excellent. A method you actually stick with is infinitely more useful than a “better” way that wouldn’t actually happen. :slight_smile:

In the past, I have tried making Anki cards, and eventually I had thousands. But I eventually collapsed under the incredibly long review sessions. I also think I wasn’t optimizing my cards properly, which contributed to the review problem.

I have also tried using very big memory palaces – one had over 700 loci. But I think I was trying too hard to be efficient, because I was using this arcane method where I would “zoom in” to an object so I could fit five separate loci on an object. I would use Anki to review the loci, but again, it eventually got tiresome. Diminishing returns.

I should note that I was also trying to remember data word for word, which is probably a lot harder and leads to many more repetitions.

So maybe, one piece of advice is to watch out for burnout! :slight_smile:

But it sounds like your system is working for you. I think a major key is to enjoy the review process, and it seems like you have cracked that. Do you have any thoughts on why your review habit works for you?

Also, it sounds like you make up new loci places pretty easily. I tend to overthink them and worry that if they’re not carefully organized, I will lose things. Or I won’t have enough room for everything I want to store. Or whatever.

Do you have a particular process for choosing your new “palaces”? Or are you more spontaneous, and find that it works?

Anyone else reading, please chime in. I’d love to hear.


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Oh, also: my current approach to this problem is quite different. I’m building a “Zettelkasten” in Emacs org-mode… basically a personal wiki, with special code for importing my highlights from places I read ebooks, like Scribd and Kindle Unlimited.

My current theory is that if I make time to link together my highlights and notes, I will actually be “remembering” and thinking about the material. If you search on Zettelkasten, you will find interesting discussions about using it as an extended or external memory.

But again, my problem is actually doing it when there’s always something new to read…

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Hey Bill!
Sorry for not answering sooner, I was quite busy these times (moving for work).

Totally, I think that you have to keep the system simple not to burnout. My palaces are basic, I just take care of not having loci too close from each other, and of making the images big and unusual. The only system i learned is 100 pegs to recall numbers. I think you don’t have to go into complicated techniques, and that’s what makes the beauty of the art of memory :slight_smile:

I aslo try not to add too much info in one session, even if I could, just not to be overwhelmed when reviewing and then skipping the next day ;). It works better for me to add a little information
(even one only thing) but every day.
I think it’s a common problem to always try to find the “best” system, and so to change each time a new one appears, and never really sticking to one. In the end, you spend more energy in looking for the perfect system (which doesn’t exist) than on actually mastering one and learning. I actually had to work on myself not to do that :slight_smile:
I think that it’s a long term practice and thus it’s better to do less than you could potentially do, but to keep doing it daily, and to keep the pleasure doing it. We sometimes (always?) tend to be too hard on ourselves, and I would suggest trying to enjoy more the process than the results.

Do you have any thoughts on why your review habit works for you?
In the first place, I think that you have to learn things you are really interested by, or at least you really need. This adds an emotional part which is not negligible at all!
Then, I really like thinking of my self actually walking/flying into the palace, feeling it. Maybe going slow is more efficient, at least for me.

Do you have a particular process for choosing your new “palaces”? Or are you more spontaneous, and find that it works?
For real palaces, I do not try to find the most appropriated one, and just think of a place i know and go with it. For fictionnal one, it can be interesting to create one on the fly, related to the book you’re reading! It’s often the first thing that comes to mind which is the most memorable. I try not to spend much time on this.
Finally, the most important for me: don’t be hard on yourself, anyway, results will come with time, even if you’re doing it very badly :slight_smile: