By Michael Nielsen | Full Article | 20000 words | Jul 6, 2018
2 minute read
The capacity of memory is extremely large; the bottleneck is retrieval/recall.
On average, it takes me about 8 seconds to review a card. Suppose I was using
conventional flashcards, and reviewing them (say) once a week. If I wanted to
remember something for the next 20 years, I’d need 20 years times 52 weeks per
year times 8 seconds per card. That works out to a total review time of just
over 2 hours for each card.
I’ll only need 4 to 7 minutes of total review time over the entire 20 years.
Those estimates allow for occasional failed reviews, resetting the time
interval. That’s a factor of more than 20 in savings over the more than 2
hours required with conventional flashcards.
First, if memorizing a fact seems worth 10 minutes of my time in the future,
then I do it. Second, and superseding the first, if a fact seems
striking then into Anki it goes, regardless of whether it seems worth 10
minutes of my future time or not.
Anki works much better when used in service to some personal creative project.
Include sources and citations with all of your Anki cards so that you can
identify misleading information
Another useful pattern while reading papers is Ankifying figures
Make most Anki questions and answers as atomic as possible
Anki isn’t just a tool for memorizing simple facts. It’s a tool for
understanding almost anything.
Put another way: to really internalize a process, it’s not enough just to
review Anki cards. You need to carry out the process, in context. And you
need to solve real problems with it.
One fun pattern is to go back to my old, pre-Anki notes on books, and to
Ankify them. This can often be done quickly, and gives me a greater return on
the time I’ve invested in now mostly-forgotten books
It’s like they’re trying to compose a beautiful sonnet in French, but only
know 200 words of French.
If people focused more on remembering the basics, and worried less about the
“difficult” high-level issues, they’d find the high-level issues took care
I now believe memory of the basics is often the single largest barrier to
understanding. If you have a system such as Anki for overcoming that
barrier, then you will find it much, much easier to read into new fields.
Ebbinghaus Forgetting curve and memory curve
“Distributed practice”, meaning practice which is distributed in time, ideally
in a way designed to maximally promote retention.