The linking method and the memory palace are the most widely used memory techniques. They both have their place and here I give you the pros and the cons to each strategy.
Linking Method aka The Story Method:
The best time to use the linking method is when you have to memorize a series of 10-20 words. You link them together in a story to help you recall them. I like to use the linking method to remember my grocery list. Say I need cat food, apples, shampoo, oranges, fish, and a cutting board. I would make up a sentence such as; the cat juggled apples while shampooing an orange fish on a cutting board. It may sound silly sometimes but that’s okay.
The strength of the linking method is that it is quick, very easy, and you can incorporate any list of words into a song or story.
The downside to this method is that if someone asked you to recollect the 12th word in a 20 word sequence you wouldn’t be able to. You would end up going through most of the story counting each word until you got to the 12th word. This is very time consuming and you will not be able to give a quick answer when you need to.
Memory Palace aka Method of Loci
In the mind palace method, what you do is use landmarks. For example, think of a room in your house such as the office, which I will use in this example. The first landmark I notice is the door, the second is my bookshelf, the third is the chair, the fourth is a poster of a man holding a gun, and the fifth is a bleacher seat, which was won in an auction.
On the door, imagine that you are looking at a photo album. You have the photo album up against the door and you are flipping through the pages looking at all the pictures. On the bookshelf, imagine an ice cube melting onto the books. Imagine the water from the cube dripping on the books and getting them wet. On the chair, imagine that you try to sit down but you quickly jump out of your seat because there is a cactus on the seat.On the fourth, imagine the man in the poster is climbing into an arc ( boat). Imagine he steps one foot into the arc and then the other. Finally, on the fifth landmark,the bleacher, imagine you are sitting at a baseball game with a handful of gold bars, so many gold bars that they are overflowing, surrounding you.
Now you take whatever it is you are trying to memorize and you see it in the picture on the landmarks you chose. So for the photo album on the door you link Alabama to it, get it? Album…Alabama. The ice melting on the books symbolizes Alaska for its icy environment. The cactus in the seat is for Arizona, the man stepping into the arc for Arkansas, and the gold in your hands for California, like in the California gold rush.
The strength of the memory palace is that you can pick 1,000 landmarks in different homes and remember 1,000 different pieces of information. With the memory palace you can remember more information than you can with the linking method and you can recite that information forwards and backwards.
The downside to this method is that it takes time to build. It can take a few days or a few weeks depending on how much information you need to recollect.
Both methods are beneficial but in the long run the Memory Palace method will allow you to remember a lot more information and it will allow you to recall anything quickly when you are put on the spot.