The Linking Method a.k.a. How to Never Forget a List Again

Follow me for a quick trip to the grocery store! Now what do we need????? Let’s say:

  1. Bananas
  2. Bread
  3. Grapes
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Pork Chops
  6. Salmon
  7. Butter
  8. Peanuts

Alright now. Normally what we would do here is make a list on our phones and then look at it when we get to the store, or we could even write a list out and bring it to the store if we’re feeling old fashioned. But let’s say for some reason or another we lost our phone, and all the pens and pencils in our house have disappeared. YIKES. Now personally, I in this situation would use the handy linking method to learn my list. What’s the linking method you ask? Well let’s get right into it.

The Linking Method

The linking method is a clever technique used for memorizing sequenced list of items effectively and quickly. The linking method uses an interesting aspect of our brain: images and stories stick better than simple things.

If you want to memorize a list of things all you have to do is connect each of them in a colorful and action packed story. It’s as simple as that!

For each item on your list you want to make it do something to the next item on your list in an interesting and “sticky” way. For example, if the first thing on my list is a bird and the second thing on my list is a book, I may want to imagine the bird tearing apart the book into shreds. The trick with the action is you want to make it as interesting and dramatic as possible. Yes, I could have had my bird peck the book, but it will be easier to remember if my bird shreds the book into pieces. I want to emphasize that point: make your actions crazy and dramatic. Emotional even works too! The trick here is that crazy things stand out in our brain. We’ve all seen a thousand birds pecking the ground. Heck, I’ve seen probably about twenty today. But have we seen any birds shred things? Maybe a few. Just shredding may not even be good enough. How about shredding rabidly with foam coming out of its mouth. That’s even more dramatic and memorable.

Our List

All right, let’s get to our list because the best way to teach the linking method is to show you! First we have a banana. Let’s start our list by having someone pick up the banana and throw it full speed.

Next comes bread so let’s have the banana ram into the bread and splatter into tons of mush all over the bread. Now let’s have the bread start flying like a helicopter through the air because it just got hit by the banana so hard.

Next, we can have the helicopter bread spin into a bucket of grapes making them fly everywhere. After they’re in the air, we can have the grapes be picked up by a gust of wind and get blown into tomatoes, hitting them like bullets.

Next, we’ll have the tomatoes getting hit so hard they’re turning into sauce, and then we’ll have the sauce leaking down onto pork chops.

After that we can imagine a school of wild salmon flopping on the ground up to the pork chops to eat them.

But because pork chops covered in tomato sauce aren’t in a healthy salmon’s diet, the salmon start exploding and they’re bits fly into bags of butter and break them.

Then the butter rolls down onto peanuts and melts.

Wow! What a weird story, but also a memorable one. Now read over the story one more time and see if you can remember it.

For most of you that should have been easy. Now, let’s try a list of your own. Take a couple minutes to create a story for the following things. And remember, keep it dramatic.

  1. Book
  2. Cake
  3. Horse
  4. Knife
  5. Shoe

Once your done, you can read on.

So how does that feel? You were able to create a list and memorize it with ease.

As you do more lists you will be able to memorize longer and longer lists, and all of this you will be able to do quicker and quicker with practice. Now, in case you ever lose your phone and all pens and pencils (and now that I think of it markers, highlighters, sharpies, and crayons too), you will be able to memorize your shopping list.

Useful Applications

But “Hey!” you may be saying. This isn’t all that practical. And I would respond with a yes. Memorizing groceries lists is not practical at all. But there are plenty of extremely useful things you can do with this technique.

If you’re still in school, you can memorize the plot of a book by creating a dramatic linked story of it in your head.

If you’re in business, you can memorize the key points of a book by linking them together. (For example, Cialdini’s six weapons of influence)

If you’re a scientist, I’m sure there are plenty of lists you can think of that would be very helpful to know.

If you’re have a public speaking engagement, then you can use this method to remember the main points you have to make without using a piece of paper. (Fun Fact: “In the first place, in the second place etc…” actually came from ancient public speakers using a memory technique very similar to this one to memorize their speeches).

So, you may never actually end up using this to memorize a grocery list, but as you can see there are a ton of useful applications of this technique that you could put into practice.

So go ahead and memorize a bunch of things that you always wanted to have in the back of your head: the seven ancient wonders of the world, the planets in order, or you’re favorite restaurants menu.

Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions, just comment below!

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