The Journey Technique
Remembering Long Lists
The Journey Technique is a powerful, flexible and effective mnemonic based around the idea of remembering landmarks on a well-known journey.
It combines the narrative flow of the Link Method and the structure and order of the Peg Systems into one very powerful system.
How to Use the Journey Technique
You use the Journey Technique by associating information with landmarks on a journey that you know well. This could, for example, be your journey to work in the morning; the route you use to get to the front door when you get up; the route to visit your parents; or a tour around a holiday destination. Once you are familiar with the technique you may be able to create imaginary journeys that fix in your mind, and apply these.
To use this technique most effectively, it is often best to prepare the journey beforehand. In this way the landmarks are clear in your mind before you try to commit information to them. One of the ways of doing this is to write down all the landmarks that you can recall in order on a piece of paper. This allows you to fix these landmarks as the significant ones to be used in your mnemonic, separating them from others that you may notice as you get to know the route even better.
To remember a list of items, whether these are people, experiments, events or objects, all you need do is associate these things with the landmarks or stops on your journey.
This is an extremely effective method of remembering long lists of information. With a sufficiently long journey you could, for example, remember elements on the periodic table, lists of Kings and Presidents, geographical information, or the order of cards in a shuffled pack.
The system is extremely flexible: all you need do to remember many items is to remember a longer journey with more landmarks. To remember a short list, only use part of the route!
One advantage of this technique is that you can use it to work both backwards and forwards, and start anywhere within the route to retrieve information.
You can use the technique well with other mnemonics. This can be done either by building complex coding images at the stops on a journey, or by linking to other mnemonics at each stop. You could start other journeys at each landmark. Alternatively, you may use a peg system to organize lists of journeys, etc.
See the introduction to this section of the toolkit for information on how to enhance the images used for this technique.
You may, as a simple example, want to remember something mundane like this shopping list:
Coffee, salad, vegetables, bread, kitchen paper, fish, chicken breasts, pork chops, soup, fruit, bath tub cleaner.
You could associate this list with a journey to a supermarket. Mnemonic images could be:
- Front door: spilt coffee grains on the doormat
- Rose bush in front garden: growing lettuce leaves and tomatoes around the roses
- Car: with potatoes, onions and cauliflower on the driver's seat
- End of the road: an arch of French bread over the road
- Past garage: with its sign wrapped in kitchen roll
- Under railway bridge: from which haddock and cod are dangling by their tails
- Traffic lights: chickens squawking and flapping on top of lights
- Past church: in front of which a pig is doing karate, breaking boards
- Under office block: with a soup slick underneath: my car tires send up jets of tomato soup as I drive through it
- Past car park: with apples and oranges tumbling from the top level
- Supermarket car park: a filthy bath tub is parked in the space next to my car!
Click on the thumbnail image below to see The Journey Technique demonstrated in an infographic:
The Journey Technique is a powerful, effective method of remembering lists of information, by imagining images and events at stops on a journey.
As the journeys used are distinct in location and form, one list remembered using this technique is easy to distinguish from other lists.
To use this technique you need to invest some time in preparing journeys clearly in your mind. This investment pays off many times over by the application of the technique.
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here at Mind Tools. Subscribe to our free newsletter, or join the Mind Tools Club and really supercharge your career!