By Dominic O’Brien, 8 times World Memory Champion

Our lives seem to be governed by numbers. Phone numbers, travel schedules, weights and measures, bank statements, The Office of National Statistics, appointment times, and so on.

Identity theft is on the increase as criminals are after our secret numbers and codes. This adds pressure on us to memorize PINs and passwords for such things as credit card security or for accessing accounts like social media outlets on the internet. 

It’s one thing to memorize a short sequence of numbers to gain access to your apartment or office but increasingly we’re expected to memorize much longer numbers to hide our precious account numbers and personal codes, especially if you have forty or fifty of them to access different internet accounts.

Wouldn’t it be easier if we could file away all these numbers efficiently and easily in our heads for instant and reliable retrieval on demand?

Here’s a simple method for memorising numbers.

Number Shapes

The Number Shape System works by taking the shape of a number to form a key image or code. In this way, the image is easier to remember than the number itself.

For example, the number 4 can be represented by the shape of a sail on a boat or a flag. The number 6 might call to mind an elephant’s trunk, and the shape of a 9, a balloon and string. 

What does the number 3 look like? A set of open hand-cuffs, maybe? The number 2 has the fairly obvious shape of a Swan.

There are ten of these picture codes representing the numbers from 0 to 9. What shapes would you choose for the other numbers, 0, 1, 5, 7, and 8? 

How can we use these codes in practical ways? 

Medical Students

Some medical students use some basic memory aids to help them remember information.

For example, there are 3 bones in the human ear. Just think of a set of hand-cuffs dangling from your ear-lobe as a new fashion accessory.

Hand-cuffs is the Key Image for the number 3. If you’d chosen a pair of lips as your key image for the number 3 then imagine someone kissing your ear.

Make sure, though, you always stick to the same number codes to avoid confusion.

It’s wise to place those key images at a relevant location.

For example, to remember your aunt’s phone number, use your aunt’s home as the location. To memorize your bank PIN, use your own bank or a bank you visit frequently.

So, to remember a 4 digit bank PIN, all you have to do is create a short story involving the Number Shape codes.

Take the number 6799. Because it’s a bank we’re dealing with, imagine an elephant using its trunk (number shape for 6) to throw a boomerang (number 7) at a pair of balloons (99) inside your bank.

If the PIN was to get into your apartment then imagine the same scene taking place there instead.

I find myself using these Number Shapes nearly every day as a mental post-it note or reminder. For example, if I have a meeting with my accountant at 2pm, I picture myself walking into her office carrying a swan. Although I’m fairly confident I’m not going to forget appointment it acts as a visual reminder.

To remember much longer sequences of numbers I developed my own system, the Dominic System, which essentially codes all combinations of two digits numbers into images. 

Last December Ryu Song I from DPR Korea used this system to memorise a staggering 4,620 decimals in just one hour. She told me she she had been training for just eight months.

How many numbers can you memorise by using codes? Try it yourself and remember: your memory is limited only by your imagination. 

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