Remembering Phrases with No Easy Images (example Agile Principles)

I’m trying to remember, word-by-word, a list of 12 phrases (these -> and much of these items are not easy to make an image for. I can easily create a Peg list of 12 things to hook them onto but coming up with an image for something like this (item #10 of 12):

“Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.”

Doesn’t fit. How to best memorize things like this?

Do you want to memorize the exact words or just the general ideas?

(Side note: for more discussions on verbatim text memorization see how to memorize a book.)

For text like this I wouldn’t use a specific memory technique, but would memorize the two parts separately and then have one split the other:

"Simplicity--the art of maximizing the amount of work not done--is essential."

can be broken into:

"Simplicity is essential."


"the art of maximizing the amount of work not done"

For me, it would be easier to think about the sentence like that before trying to remember it. Manipulating the grammar in my head would make it memorable.

If you have trouble recalling it without mnemonics, try picking a few keywords and creating mnemonic images for them. “The art of maximizing…” makes me think of “the art of memory” and max functions, which would lead me down a chain of obscure associations related to programming. Or “Max Headroom” – a TV show I never saw, but that everyone was talking about when I was a kid.

Both actually, but from what you said I need to lower my expectations and probably just have to start with something like being able to hook “Simplicity” to principle #10. At this point someone can say what is #10 and I can’t necessarily even do the gist of it much less the exact phrase. #1 could be “Customer Service”.

I’m just so use to mnemonics, as I know them now being associated with imagery and I can’t imagine these concepts very easily. If it was a list of things to pick up at the store it would be a lot easier to associate them to the Loci and Peg lists I have already prepared.

I’ll check out the verbatim text link you provided. I imagine this is something like memorizing lines of Shakespeare. I was just hoping there was some trick I was missing here that I could practice to make this easier because this list of 12 is just one of many that I would really like to nail down as a meta skill.

Oddly enough in the world of autobiographical/episodic memory I seem to almost have a video recorder in my mind for interactions with people but when it comes to semantic memory of dry facts it just doesn’t stick as easily. If I could swap the stickiness of memories from episodic memories in interacting with people for the slippery, lack of stickiness of semantic memory for facts I would do it in a heartbeat. And be a happier person in the end for it too :slight_smile:


You can convert a semantic mnemonic memory autobiographical/episodic if you imagine you are organizing a scene in a play and have at least one character. That character can be yourself, or not, as you prefer. If you can add a second character, that person could be the main love interest or antagonist, or somebody to add interest. Other characters can be more or less important.

Since the statement is about simplicity, why not make the heroine of the scene into a woman named Simplicity?

We can also add Max as her love interest.

We could now see the basics of the scene of a play shaping up:

First, we have our main character Simplicity who is painting a portrait of her love interest Max ('the art of Maximizing").
Next, we could add a mountain of dirt to our scene that is created by workers (digging a huge hole) while wearing graduation caps.

(Why the graduation caps? A lot of people assume that manual labourers are uneducated dunces. But these workers are scholars, not dunces. This helps me capture “work not done”.)

Max could also be the foreman in charge of the workers.

Finally, we have the word essential. To me, the word essential always conjures up the idea of perfume. So, maybe Simplicity wears wa-a-a-ay too much perfume.

So, now we have the basics of a scene in our play:

Simplicity is painting a portrait of Max with a mountain of dirt and his scholarly workers who are digging a hole in the background. She is in love with Max. He likes her, too, but she smells very strongly of perfume, so he and the guys are having a hard time staying still for the portrait because of the smell.

From this I get:
Simplicity … art of Max(imizing) the (a)mount of work(ers) not done (not dunces) … is essential (perfume smell).

Hopefully this has been clear and useful. I have been finding similar techniques work very well for aphorisms, axioms, sayings, etc.



Appreciate that Darn. I’ll give it a try. That’s a completely new method for me and will see how it works. I had a thought here while reading when you said name her Simplicity and him Max and I have to admit despite the wonderful recording abilities of my episodic memory, ability to remember faces and “loci” (where sitting, scene around, weather) I’m not good with having names stick to faces. It is a social weakness and source of embarrassment, but I can imagine that there people out there are good with face/name associations and since their mind naturally makes names sticky like this they can then use names as a form of peg for concepts (Simplicity and Max) like you appear to be doing.

Makes me wonder if this kind of practice itself, piggybacking off episodic/autobiographical memory capabilities of the brain, which I think I’m a natural top 10% at without effort, will rub off and make name/face memory (name being more in semantic memory domain) easier.

Thanks again.

Continuing with the autobiographical memory theme, I wonder what happens if you imagine yourself as a highly engaged stage director who is getting up on the stage with the actors and actively giving them directions for how to act on stage.

That is, suppose you decide how you want your characters to behave, then you picture yourself interacting with them as if they were real actors on a stage. For example, you could picture a woman actor whose character name is Simplicity and a male actor whose character name is Max, as well as the work men. Imagine that they don’t fully understand their roles, so you have to explain things to them. All this is in order to maximize the autobiographical quality: you imagine yourself on the stage with the actors, speaking to them, hearing them as questions, interacting with them, giving them instructions, calling them by their stage names, showing them where to walk, which way to face, etc.

The objective is to avoid being a mere onlooker (in your imagination), and instead be an active participant. In the end, you should remember their names because you remember repeating their character names to the actors. You should end up with a feel for the layout of the scene, because you helped the actors find their places on the stage…and so on.

Although I have suggested a particular scene, it is not important to that you go with the characters or scene that I suggested. The most important thing (I believe) is to find a strategy that shifts the load to your autobiographical imagination. There are 2 principles at play here:

  1. Make use of a character driven scene or story
  2. Insert yourself into the story in some important way and play a very active role, interacting with the scene and with the other characters.

On the second point, I believe that the more imaginative effort you expend in imagining yourself as an active participant, interacting with other characters, the more the other components, space, loci, names, etc, will be reinforced.

Anyway, that’s my theory, for whatever it’s worth. I would be interested to know if this works for you at all.



Thanks Darn. I will keep all this in mind and do my best to apply. It is much easier to read about these techniques then actually make images so I have to schedule time in a the day for 20 minutes to make image sequences. I’m going to have to tie this stuff into my animal list where I have animals associated with numbers for the 1 to 12, but will start building characters like Simplicity and Max.

I will probably start a new thread here on this subject matter but does the making images in your head ever become less consciously-effortful (and frankly can take minutes to do instead of a second) over time and feel more unconscious, effortless, and immediate (seconds at most)?

Thanks again!

To master any complex skill, you will need to put in a good deal of conscious effort–but if you enjoy it and play at it consistently, paying close attention to what works for you and making adjustments as necessary, you can reach a surprising level of speed, smoothness and efficiency. Many ordinary people with no special talents have practiced and achieved incredible results. If they were able to do it, you can, too.