How To Remember A Sequence Of Random Words

Remembering a 10-30 (or more)  item shopping list, without having it written down on a piece of paper? Or even more impressive: a list of words that have no explicit or implicit commonalities, say a list of absolutely random words!

This is actually possible! I’ve tried it this morning and although I had no repitition during the day, I could still remember my list of words now in the evening. I’m a bit surprised myself. The trick is to


1) Think of a routine that you’re familiar with, e.g. your morning routine or your routine getting the groceries etc. Give each step a name. For example

Waking up

Procrastinating getting up

Falling to sleep again

Waking up II. – “Only 5 more minutes, then I’ll… (snoring)”

Waking up III.

Getting up


Having a glass of water

Opening the blinds

Going to the toilet

Preparing breakfast

Eating breakfast

Having a shower

Brushing teeth


Getting dressed

Doing the dishes

Checking the backpack

Grapping keys, wallet, mobile

Get dressed for the road

Leaving home

Fetching bicylce

Riding off to work

…and so forth

2) Now get some random words with a random word generator (or a sequence of words you’d like to remember) and oppose them to your routine terms. It then looks somewhat like this:

Waking up ………….. moon

Procrastinating getting up ………….. tasteless

Falling to sleep again ………….. work

Waking up II. – “Only 5 more minutes, then I’ll… (snoring)” ………….. feeling

Waking up III. ………….. elbow

Getting up ………….. hanging

Hurrying ………….. great

Having a glass of water ………….. rotten

Opening the blinds ………….. frame

… and so forth

3) Subsequently comes the fun part! After each routine term has a random partner term you start going through your routine step by step, each time linking the partner term in the most crazy, exaggerated, memorable way you can think of to its routine term opposite… like this:

My alarm wakes me up from a nightmare. I touch my skin, my fingers, my face… no, I’m not a werewolf! I was just dreaming about that giganting full MOON. All the young blood I had this night… what a TASTELESS dream!  I need some time to contemplate the matter, yaaaaawwwwn… damn, I must have fallen asleep again! I mustn’t get to WORK late today! But only 5 more minutes in bed won’t do any harm. What a wonderful FEELING, it’s so warm and cosy in here… yaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwn… ough! Suddenly a violent pain through my stomach awakes me yet again. Someone hit me with an ELBOW. That someone must have been myself. Anyways, now I’m awake and get up. In my mind’s eye I see the picture of a HANGING. Yeah, that’s what I feel like this morning: walking up to my personal gallows. I’m late and need to hurry. This is gonna be a GREAT day… Following my daily routine I grap a bottle of water and want to pour some into a glass as I realize that some ROTTEN piece of meat swims in it! What?! But there really is no time anymore to worry about anything, so I quickly open the blinds and look through the window FRAME into a beautiful morning sun. etc etc

Your story may continue endlessly. Try making it even crazier and absurd than mine. The crazier, the better to remember. Next time I go to the supermarket I give it a try with my grocery list ;).



  1. That figures: almost everything we remember is basically stories in one form or another.
    Not sure how I’d do that for German though: I’d get too hung up on how to make the sentences work.
    So far the most effective way I’ve found is to make index cards with the word and a picture and stick them around the apartment at exe level.


  2. Yes, that’s one way to put it. You might also say: what we remember is a network of associations or associated concepts that are comparable to the elements of an artwork or a story intermeshing to form a bigger idea.
    I reckon learning the needed German vocabulary is a separate step, that is better taken before trying this exercise in your second (non-native) language. However, you might also tell the story in English/ your native language first, using English translations for the German words you want to remember and then, in a second step, when you reach those words in the story, you take a moment and translate them back into German. Is that comprehensible? It’s definitely more complicated.

    The index cards around the apartment is a good idea! It reminds me of a similar learning technique, called the memory palace technique about which I am going to write in the upcoming weeks.
    Look forward to that 🙂


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