Mnemonics Course (Part 2) – Rules of Creating Images

How did it go yesterday?
I hope this small test didn’t depress you.

Typically, an average person can remember 7 bits of information (+ or – 2) (Miller’s number) or 3-5 chunks of information. That’s why most people can’t really hold a phone number in their head.

Not to mention that numbers don’t mean anything to most of the people.
And as I’ve mentioned, if your brain doesn’t understand nor finds any use for information, it won’t bother to memorize it.

But it is possible to memorize such lists in less than 30 seconds with some training.
That’s less than you need to jot all the products down.
And more fun. Have I mentioned impressive?

Today we will learn how to quickly memorize such lists.
I’ll stress once again how important it’s to get the basics right.

In the next parts of the course, we will learn how to use today’s strategies to learn vocabulary (or definitions, presentations etc. if you choose so).

If you’re a non-believer and doubt that it’s possible to learn 100 words per day or even more, I’m more than convinced that I’ll be able to change your mind.



Does it ring a bell?
I hope it does since I’ve written about it in e-book!
But let’s go through it again.

1) Encoding – involves initial processing of information which leads to the construction of its
mental representation in memory
2) Storage – is the retention of encoded information in the short-term or long-term memory
3) Recall – is the retrieval of stored information from memory

Mnemonics will help you at the Encoding stage, which I believe is the most important one of all of them.

The better you encode information the better the chance that you won’t have to repeat it too many times (or maybe even at all!).



Most of the associations are done unconsciously.
Your task is to make this process a conscious one.

What’s more, reinventing the wheel doesn’t make much sense.
Isn’t better to use our natural strengths?

But what are they?

Visualization and a sense of orientation.

It makes perfect sense when you give it a thought.
For thousands of years, our survival depended on these qualities.

Now they’ll help us survive and thrive in the concrete jungle.

We think with images.
When you hear the word “elephant” or “bed”, do you actually see words or images?

Images. That’s right.
And we’re also pretty good at moving around different places.
We know the layout of our homes perfectly.

Let’s turn these fine qualities into learning tools.



The most important element of rapid learning is creating images (of new pieces of information) and associating them with what you already know.

The creation of these images is nothing more than a skill and it’s governed by a set of rules which I’ll lay down later on.

The list of yesterday’s words

milk, cherries, shampoo, soap, flour, sugar, artificial beard, sunglasses, socks, fireworks, spade, frogs, ball, carpet, chair, chocolate, beer, sanitary towels, onion, vinegar

I’ll walk you step by step through the process of memorizing these items.
First of all, I have to choose some location to place my images in.
Since this is a shopping list, I’ll choose my local supermarket.

Also, remember that this is how I would do memorize it.
Your associations might differ from mine and that’s ok.

And I’m really sorry in advance if you find some of these images distasteful!
That is what makes them memorable after all…!


I stand in front of the stairs which lead to the supermarket.
I’m about to start climbing them when suddenly a huge carton of milk (animated one! It has eyes and legs, and hands) blocks my way and start swinging a bunch of cherries in front of my face.

I get scared and use a bottle of shampoo in the self-defense! I poke a scary carton in the eyes with my shampoo.
The carton of milk starts screaming! It’s time to run!

I jump on a magical soap and fly past milk just to find myself opposite the front door of the supermarket.

As I try to press the handle I hear a strange noise above my head…
It’s a trap! A bag of flour falls heavily on my head and knocks me off my feet.

My head hurts like hell. It starts bleeding with sugar! (or sugaring?!)
It doesn’t look pretty.

I look terrible and I don’t want to be recognized. That’s why I put on an artificial beard and sunglasses.
So much better now.

I enter the main hall.
Since it’s a weird supermarket I take a sock instead of a basket.
The problem is that I didn’t notice that this sock is filled with fireworks which are about to explode.

I toss it away and dive onto the floor. So close…
After a movie-like explosion, I jump on my feet and notice that nobody even cares.

A lot of people seem to be mesmerized by some crazy frog which tries to pierce a ball with a spade.
What misbehavior!

I pull a carpet from under frog’s legs. The frog in its turn flies high into the air just to land on a chair.
My job here is done.

I enter one of the aisles to buy myself a treat – a bar of chocolate.
Then I feel this overwhelming urge…”Smear it all over your face and run headfirst into the beer section!”.

Who am I to oppose myself? I do it humbly.
Glass flies in all the directions!

What a day…I take my sock, throw in all the sanitary towels I can find, and head towards a cash register.
To my surprise, a cashier turns out to be an onion.

“Are these all for you?”, he says, pointing at the sanitary towels.

I look the onion dead in the eye and say “Of course, I love to pour some vinegar on them and use them instead of my underwear. It reminds of my childhood.”

The awkward and utter silence ensues as my shopping comes to an end.

(Side note: No, I don’t do drugs! I swear!)



Writing the entire story definitely took me some time.
But the amazing thing about the brain is that it can picture such a story in a fraction of this time.

Obviously, you don’t know the layout of the supermarket where I shop, nor my neighborhood.
That’s why it is impossible for you to see what I see.

But that shouldn’t stop you from remembering everything.
Can you now pause for a second and name all the items from our shopping list?

Did you succeed? That’s great! Congratulations!

Now we’ll move to the rules of creating images (associations)



The images you create should include at least one of these qualities:

  • absurd (Von_Restorff_effect) – all the things which stand out become more memorable (How likely it is to happen in real life?)
  • senses – as many as possible (Is it moist, rough? How does it sound? How does it smell?)
  • details – the more details the clearer an image (Is it old, new? Does it have cracks or maybe it’s smooth?)
  • emotions – images should move you in some way (Does the image make you scared, laugh?)
  • gore – we remember things which are gory as they alarm our primary instincts
  • exaggerate – make something much bigger or smaller than it is in reality
  • action – there should be always something going on – explosions, fights, etc.
  • sexuality – we all have unlimited capacity to create such images, and we tend to remember them just fine
  • including yourself in images – you remember things which are associated with you better
  • animating inanimate objects – because that’s absurd!


Disclaimer – some mnemonists say that more logical associations work better for them.
They definitely don’t work for me.

And that’s the thing. We’re all different.
What works for me may not work for you.

That’s why you have to test these rules and strategies and see what’s best for you!

If the moment arrives when you tell yourself that these strategies do not work for you, remember this: it’s probably not the fault of techniques themselves.

The chance is that your images simply suck.

I know it well. Years ago I actually resigned from using mnemonics as I deemed them ineffective.
It took me some time to realize that the fault was entirely mine.

If that ever happens to you, don’t give up!
Simply analyze the process of creating images and find all the flaws in it.



Create another list of 20 objects or 25 objects and try to memorize it.
This time take your time and don’t rush it. Make sure that you follow the aforementioned rules.

That’s it.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Bartosz Czekala


  • Hi. I’m looking to clarify something, please. The initial test was to see what can be memorized in one minute of reading the list. The exercise for today’s lesson is to create a new list of 20-25 words then create a mnemonics story to go with it. Are we supposed to be able to create a crazy word association story within a one minute time frame (like with the first test) or is it a ‘take your time so you can remember it for longer periods of time’ type deal? Thanks.

  • I managed to remember 13 out of 20 words when I did it on my own, 14 words were remembered after reading your story 😀

    I actually dislike mnemonics where you need to imagine something crazy. It’s always been very laborious, and hasn’t brought any joy. But the words about you, Bertosz, helped me not to refuse but give it a try.

    Today’s task was a complete success. But it took about 10 mins to create a story. Can’t imagine that it’s possible for me to make this process faster!

    • I am glad you gave it a try, Elizaveta. I think that’s a good result. And trust me – you can make it faster simply by using it semi-regularly.
      After some time our brains get used to this seemingly absurd way of picturing things 🙂

  • Hi! Yesterday I got 18/20 without any specific strategy (though I did mime some words with my hands or visualized them in my mind as I was trying to memorize them during that minute) and today with the story I got stuck after the cherries. I couldn’t remember how the story went on in chronological order and my mind just kind of gave up. Could that mean that the absurd angle doesn’t work really well for me, or is it more likely that I’m just a bit lazy today / not really trying because I already did it once and the list already bores me? I do know that failing to force myself past my aversion of repetition and always wanting to move on to the next thing instead of consolidating / perfecting something I am still working on is a huge issue in my learning process…

  • The first attempt I got 9/20 and with your story… call me liar haha but I remembered EVERYTHING! (Just that I first named beer before chocolate, is that also ok?)
    Thank you very much, I’m really liking how it is going, I can’t wait for the other parts!!

  • Hi Bartosz!
    For me it was sort of helpful but not as much as for the others. At first I got 8 right and 12 with your story. I wonder how much improvement comes just from the second try/more time with the same words. The first time I managed to read only maybe 12 in 1 minute while trying to memorize.

  • Hello Bartosz, for the first time, I remembered 14 of 20, the second time 16 of 20. I hope next time, I would be able to get all. Thanks, maybe I will try formulate my own words to keep going.

  • I got 10/20 the first time, but 15/20 with your story. I sort of lost track of your story. Ha! Maybe I have to personalize the story more. Categories seem to help some.

  • Hey, i am really enjoying this, i did the exercise after the story and i remembered almost all the words, it was a nice feeling just missed 5 words. Good for me. thank you.

  • The technique seems to be good, though I think that categorisation works better for me. My score was 17/20 after the first 1 minute test and now, after reading the story it went down to 15. I will try making stories bearing it in mind!

  • A very good strategy! I would try it with my students.

  • My score went up from 9 to 18. I’ve tried this method before (making a story up out of a shopping list), and, although I find it hard to think of good images, it definitely works if I can think of some.

  • Mmm First attempt was 13/20 mainly because didn’t read them all before time went out 😛
    Second Attempt 20/20 just conecting one image to the next in a moving scene, til here is easy ^_^

  • This is different to everything I have ever seen regarding memorization techniques… I look forward to the language learning module. Many thanks for sharing!


    Hello Bartosz. Amazing experiments with process of memorizing. Thank you for a fun way to mastering knowledge. 🙂

  • I also went from 6 of 20 to 17 of 20 with just one reading. I’m also looking to apply this to learning language… specifically Japanese. Not sure how that’s going to work yet, since I can’t picture the words of a foreign language. But I’m liking this course. THANK YOU BARTOSZ!!

    • Bartosz Czekala

      Amazing result! Congratulations! Next parts of the course will explain how to apply mnemonics to language learning 🙂

  • Stories do work even with an old man’s memory! I went from 6 of 20 to 17 with only one reading of the story. I’m looking forward to learning how to apply this to a new language.

  • Hi Bartosz, this does really work! How to deal with verbs and adverbs? Can this approach be useful?

    • I know! 🙂 Yes, you can use it with verbs and adverbs. Although more abstract words require greater sophistication 🙂
      This matter will be addressed in further in the course!

  • Hey. This works! I could get 15 objects out of 19. Cool. Thanks.

  • Hi,I have already created something like that concerning the plural forms of the nouns ending with f or fe.The wife of the wolf cut half of the loaf and the calf.The thief stole the leaf from the shelf and I saw it for the first time in my life.What do you think about it?

    • Bartosz Czekala

      Fantastic idea! You definitely understand the concept 🙂 !

      • This worked great! Thanks! One thing I was thinking… For me it was a big help to have pairs of things together – beard and glasses, flour and sugar, chocolate and beer. I could remember the pair together maybe better than either alone. Is that what you mean by logical associations?

  • Hi Bartosz ,through the steps of the story starting in front of the stairs ,honestly I can memorise a bit more words than before.I have a good idea to memorise those words is to classify them,eg:product related to food,to bath…something like that.See you soon

  • that story was like a bad dream and I could visualize it just fine. 🙂

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