Blog PostLearning & Memory

When should you review your memory palaces?

If you’ve been in any way exposed to memory techniques and memory enhancement, you’ve probably heard about the ultra-powerful memory palace technique. You see, one of the questions I get asked most often, particularly from our students, about memory and speed reading, is “when should I review my memory palace?”.

The answer is: Spaced Repetition

These questions come because, through our courses, our students understand the importance of spaced repetition, meaning the necessity for review. Even when you use some of the most powerful memory techniques out there, like the memory palace technique, you still need to review to keep everything in your long-term memory.

In fact, when I interviewed Ron White, a U.S. memory champion, he told me that, because he doesn’t review things he learns in competitions, he actually forgets them a week later! Spaced repetition, though, does not mean reviewing every single day, but rather reviewing after one day, after four days, after seven days, after ten days, and so on. Eventually, you only need to review once every six to 12 months!

What time should your review your memory palaces?

But, how do you do this in the beginning stages?

I mean, going along a memory palace is such an intense visual process that it might not work while you’re sitting around watching TV, the same way you could simply flip through those boring old flashcards. One of the things that I prefer to do, besides when I occasionally need the information or when I’m waiting in line, is I will often review my memory palaces while I’m trying to fall asleep.

Look at it this way: it’s a lot more effective and productive than just simply counting sheep in your head, which is another visual technique that’s been used for centuries to fall asleep. But, in addition to that, you get an incredible benefit. You see, we don’t know a lot about what the brain does during sleep, but one of the things we do know is that the hippocampus uses this time to determine what is worth memorizing and what is not.

And, for that reason, one of the things that we teach in our courses is actually to do your review, or wind down review, before bed. What you do before bed is going to be fresh in your mind and it’s going to more likely convince your mind to move that information from short term into long term memory.

Seeing how we forget (through a children’s movie)

If you want to see an example of how this works (kind of), a completely imaginative and fictional movie for children by Pixar covers it really nicely! That movie, as you guys may already know, is called Inside Out. In that movie, when the child is asleep, they show a deep part of the brain, the hippocampus. And, if my memory serves me, there’s a couple of funky goofy-looking guys going around with a vacuum and then they come upon a memory and they go “oh man we used to love that, but yeah, looks like we haven’t used that in a long time” and they suck it out.

I saw that movie and I was blown away because, clearly, someone from Pixar understands the way that the hippocampus works. Now, this doesn’t happen for every memory every night. And, of course, there’s no vacuum involved. I promise you. But this is exactly the process the brain does.

It asks “when was the last time we used this information”, “is this information still emotionally relevant to us” and if it’s not, out it goes, it doesn’t really matter how important it is. Now, there are exceptions to that. You’re never going to forget your childhood sweetheart. You’re probably never going to forget the phone number to your parents’ house. Those are so deeply emotionally ingrained you’ll never forget them.

But for everything else you’re trying to learn you’ll probably need to do that review and spaced repetition. But do it smart. Don’t use boring flashcards, use memory palaces. Don’t use a lame system of reviewing, instead use spaced repetition for everything, every time.

Final thoughts

With this technique, I hope that you will be able to improve your usage of memory palaces and minimize the amount of work that you need to do. I also suggest that you watch the video below, where I explain the exact neuroscience behind the memory palace, and how the heck it works SO incredibly well.

I hope that you enjoyed this article, even if it was a little bit advanced. If you want to learn more about different ways to hack your mind, your body, and your life, go ahead and check out my completely free checklist of the top 75 SuperHuman hacks I’ve learned from interviewing 175 of the world’s top performers.

Jonathan

Jonathan

Jonathan Levi is a serial entrepreneur, published author, and lifehacker born and raised in Silicon Valley. Since 2014, Jonathan has been one of the top-performing instructors on online learning platform Udemy, and has snowballed this success into the launch of his rapidly growing information products company, SuperHuman Enterprises, which produces such products as the award-winning Becoming SuperHuman Podcast; the bestselling "Become a SuperLearner" print, digital, and audiobooks; and numerous other online courses through it’s own online training portal, SuperLearner Academy. Jonathan’s media products have been enjoyed by over 130,000 people in 200 countries. He is based in Tel Aviv, Israel.