Mind/Body/Spirit

Memory pegging

How many times have you had several things to remember but no pen or paper to make a list? If you’re like most people, you experience this often—both at work and at home. It can be frustrating. Maybe you’ve had to make multiple trips back to the patient’s room at work because you kept forgetting what you’d intended to do. Or perhaps you’ve found yourself at the supermarket without your shopping list and can’t remember what you need to buy.

To shore up your memory gaps, try “pegging.” This technique helps you remember up to 10 items. Simply associate, or “peg,” a memory to an outlandish image representing each number. When you want to recall your list, access your mental images and “see” what you wanted to remember.

One—run. For example, the word “one” rhymes with “run.” Picture a racehorse galloping down the track, straining to reach the finish line. The saddle is empty—so place the item you want to remember in the saddle. Let’s say you’re in a patient’s room and want to remember to return a physician’s call before you go to lunch. To “peg” this task, place the image of a telephone in the saddle and take a mental snapshot.

See the horse? See the phone in the saddle? Now go about your work. Later at the nurses’ station when you need to recall what you planned to do, think of “one” and bring up the image of the horse with the phone in the saddle on your mental screen. You’ll immediately remember that you wanted to make that phone call.

Two—zoo. Do you also need to remember to change a patient’s dressing? The word “two” rhymes with “zoo.” Picture a group of monkeys at the zoo, throwing something at each other—in this case, bandages. Now when you want to remember your “pegging” list, think one, run, phone and two, zoo, dressing.

Admittedly, you’ll need to do a bit of up-front work to remember the outlandish images, but it’s well worth it.


For three to ten, think tree to hen

To complete the list of 10 images, you can use the suggestions below. Of course, if you’d like, you can replace these with your own images. Just make sure your “pegging” word rhymes with the number and you have a way to make the mental link.

Three—tree. Picture a Christmas tree (or any other kind of tree), and “hang” whatever you want to remember from one or more of its branches. Do you want to remember to take that mandatory online continuing education (CE) course before you leave work? Then in your mind’s eye, hang multiple computer screens on your tree, maybe with a CE certificate plastered across each screen.

Four—door. Picture a revolving door. You try to push on it but it won’t move; then you look down and see that something is stuck in the door. Whatever’s blocking the door is the image you want to “peg.” For example, to remember to give the patient a pain pill, picture a pile of pills blocking the door.

Five—dive. You’re springing on the diving board, getting ready to dive into the water. You look down to see… (insert an image of whatever it is you’re trying to remember).

Six—sticks. Imagine you’re in the woods, building a fire out of sticks. Place whatever you need to remember on top of the fire, then light it.

Seven—heaven. You’re standing on the steps below the pearly gates of heaven. You start up the steps to reach the item you want to remember, which is behind the gate.

Eight—gate. Picture a gate. It can be any kind of gate; just make sure it’s memorable. Hang what you want to “peg” on the gate handle.

Nine—wine. You’re in a fine restaurant with someone you love, enjoying a glass of wine. As you drain the glass, you look down to see the item you want to “peg” at the bottom of the glass.

Ten—hen. See the hen pecking at the ground out in the barnyard? It’s pecking at whatever it is you want to remember.

You could go on and on. Some “pegging” lists have up to 20 objects. But if you need to remember that many items, maybe it’s worthwhile to hunt down pen and paper!

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