A Simple System To Help You Remember Lists

My Memory Is Like A Sieve

It’s very common to hear people complain they have a poor memory.  

Now, with Post it notes and digital devices you might think we don’t really need to memorise much these days. 

But be honest, don’t you have a sneaking admiration for memory ‘Olympians’ like Dominic O’Brien who once memorised 54 decks of cards just after a single sighting of each card? Or waiters who don’t need to write down orders? Or people who remember names?

They all use systems. 

You can use them, too. 

It’s fun, handy and may be good for your brain 

Different methods are used to remember different types of things. 


A Simple System

Below is the system most people use when they first become interested in improving their memory. It will give you a grounding for some of the more advanced techniques I will share later. 

It’s a very simple method which is great when you want to remember a list of objects, for example a shopping list. 

There are TWO components to this system. 

First you need a system of visual ‘Pegs’. These are imaginary objects that represent the numbers 1-10 


My Pegs

Here’s my list. Notice the object rhymes with the number it represents.  

1: BUN 

2: SHOE 

3: TREE 

4: DOOR 

5: HIVE 



8: GATE (Farm) 

9: LINE (washing) 

10: HEN 


TIP: If you are going to make your own ‘pegs’, as far as possible use the FIRST word that comes to mind that rhymes with the number.  

For example, if for you PEN is the first thing that rhymes with TEN, for you, then use it. That way, when you think of the number the image will pop into your mind immediately without you have to search for it. 


Using the Pegs

The second component of this system is one that is used in many of the other methods too: VISUALISATION and SENSATION. The more outrageous, bizarre, intense, the better.  

Sexual imagery is particularly effective! 

 You are now going to create a series of crazy visual images linked to your pegs. 

So, let’s imagine I am going shopping and want to buy these ten things: carrots, milk, sugar, aubergines, Hobnob biscuits, coffee, garlic, wine, toothpaste, potatoes 

I create a set of images like these: 

BUN So, I imagine a bun with containing 5 HUGE carrots. They are about two-foot-long and bugs bunny is taking a bite from it and then waving it around saying What’s Up Doc? 

SHOE As I put my foot in I find it is soaked through with milk. The milk is sploshing all over the sides. I can feel my foot is cold wet. 

TREE There’s a tree with small bags of sugar instead of fruit. They bags are swaying gently in the breeze, which carries the sweet scent of the sugar. 

DOOR I open the door and about a thousand aubergines come tumbling out, knocking me to the ground. Like a cartoon. I am up to my neck in them. Suddenly one more pops out of nowhere and taps me on my head. 

HIVE Thousands of tiny packets of Hobnobs with wings are flying in and out of the hive. I can hear them buzzing. 

STICKS There’s a pile of sticks on the ground. I pick one up and as I do so, it turns into coffee powder and dissolves in my hand. I pick up some more and the same thing happens. Every stick turns to coffee. 

HEAVEN I see clouds. Sitting on each one is an angel playing a harp. The turn to me and sing but there is a stench of garlic on their breath that knocks me flying down to earth where I land in a field of garlic. 

GATE Two farmers are leaning over a gate. In fact, I imagine the two Ronnies, who used to perform comedy sketches about two farmers having conversations over a gate. They are each swigging from massive bottle so wine. They are clearly drunk! 

LINE  One-foot long tubes of toothpaste are pegged to the washing line 

HEN I am in a farmyard. There are dozens of hens mooching about. Each one has a potato for a body. They are clucking. One comes up to my feet. I pick it up and feel the cool potato body in my hands. 

Each image strange and unreal. I have incorporated other senses (sound, texture, smell, movement). I haven’t included anything sexual though.  

I’ll leave that to your own imaginations. 

The method works and after a little practise you will be able to create lists quickly and move backwards and forwards through them easily. 


Key Actions

 The steps are:  

  1. Create a peg list. 
  2. For each object you want to remember create a vivid visual image. Try to incorporate as many senses as you can. 
  3. Practise.