Why You Should Memorize Phone Numbers (and How to Do It)

Be retro, memorize phone numbers.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #483

picture of person entering a memorized phone number

Today’s tip is about memorizing phone numbers. Yes, phone numbers. Hear me out.

I worry a lot about the zombie apocalypse. Imagine what it will be like:

The apocalypse is in full swing, power systems, internet connections, all are starting to fall apart. You decide to call your friends and loved ones, to arrange a post-apocalyptic place to meet up and fight off the zombies. Like a bowling alley.

Unfortunately, your cell phone is out of power, so you can’t dial your friends from there. You run to your desktop computer, launch a Voice over IP phone call, but the power dies, because that’s what always happens in zombie scenarios.

Fortunately, your roommate has a landline, which as I’m sure you know, is powered from the phone line and will often work in emergencies. You pick up their phone…and have absolutely no idea what anyone’s phone number is. The zombies shamble closer, and swipe left. On you. 

Connection is Key in Emergencies

This isn’t hypothetical. Category 5 hurricane Maria totaled the American territory of Puerto Rico, leaving millions of people with no power, cell phones, computers, or social media access. And in what seems to be 21st-century American tradition, rather than coming to the aid of our citizens, we’ve basically collectively left them to die and struggle to rebuild on their own. But hey, otherwise we’d have to put down our mobile devices and maybe miss Game of Thrones, so it’s definitely worth it. 

The lesson for us is that if the zombie apocalypse hits our city, it’s entirely possible we’ll be left to our own devices. And if our devices are out of power, we’ll need to use someone else’s. And their devices don’t have our phone books built in. 

Memorize Important Phone Numbers

This is why you need to memorize your most important phone numbers. You want to have them available whether or not you have use of your own phone, your own computer, or access to the “cloud.” 

At the very least, memorize these numbers:

  • Your shmoopie’s phone numbers. Shmoopie managed to escape the zombies and has now teamed up with a secret military force that’s the last bastion of resistance. One phone call and shmoopie will come to your rescue! You just need shmoopie’s phone number.
  • If you have many shmoopies, memorize all of their phone numbers.
  • Your parents and siblings.
  • Your financial advisor, bank manager, or anyone else who can help you get to your assets remotely.

Memorize Phone Numbers by Chunking

One of the weird things about brains is that they are efficient. If they know something is stored elsewhere, they don’t bother committing it to memory. If your brain knows your phone has your phone numbers, it won’t even try to remember. So here’s the best way I’ve found for remembering.

Your brain remembers things best in chunks of three or four. Phone numbers were designed to be put in those chunks. So the number 301–555–1212 can be divided into area code, prefix, and number: 301, 555, and 1212. Start by dividing the phone number into those chunks.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.