Using Anki to remember what we learn

We are a forgetting machine! I read books, articles, research reports and tons of other stuff. Sometimes I go deep into a topic to learn how something works. So many times I get a “wow” moment, like this is something worth remembering and applying. But it is all forgotten after few days. “Inspiration is perishable”.

I love Anki because it helps me remember of that stuff. When I find something really insightful, I try to create a one line note of it in Anki. This includes notes for frequently used commands, common stats or mental models on how to think about various situations.

Anki then revises me those notes at repeated interval. It shows the note, we say the answer and tell it whether we answered correctly or not. If we answer correctly then it shows that note again after a gap of few days. This gap keeps increasing as we keep answering the answer correctly. This method is called “spaced repetition”.

Though spaced repetition is commonly used by doctors and linguists, I like to use it for more general stuff. I use it for creating simple one-line notes about anything useful to me.

The whole process takes just 2 to 5 minutes a day. I schedule it using repeat reminder at 2pm after lunch. It is fun and rewarding.

is a software to remember notes through “spaced-repetition”. It asks questions at repeated intervals. The frequency decreases as the new ideas become permanent in memory.

We create notes in Anki in form of question and answer or fill in the blanks. It then asks that question next day. If we answer it correctly, it asks it again after 7 days. Correct answer, and it repeats the question after 14 days. Like this the gap keeps increasing as we remember the answer.

The daily review takes just 2-5 minutes of the day.

The official documentation is centered around using Anki for medical education and liguists. However, I find it useful for: - remembering new ideas - coding snippets and algorithms - new words from different domains

The benefits start

Example of how spaced repetition works:
1st review: after 1 day
2nd review: after 1 week
3rd review: after 1 month
4th review: after 3 months
5th review: after 6 months

Tips to use Anki

  • If you are new to Anki, start with a shared deck such as states in your Country. It will give you an idea about how Anki works.
  • “Cloze” notes, ie. fill-in-the-blanks styles notes, are easier to recall and also more fun to answer
  • Include a picture or screenshot of the reference material for remembering the context. I include pictures in the extra section.
  • Set a repeat reminder in your calender to do Anki everyday.
  • Try to add new cards everyday.
  • Bookmark Anki’s web-interface to add new cards. It comes handy for creating new cards while browsing.

Creating notes are helpful because we are able to connect dots when we remember the things we learn.

I have set a repeat-reminder to “Do Anki” after lunch everyday at 2pm. It takes less than two minutes and has proved to be one of the most valuable life-hacks.

Pratyush Mittal @pratyush