Many things need to be reviewed. Not everything fits into Anki

(Johannes Hörteis) #1

We learn from books or other forms of media, we write down what we’ve learned(right?), we have revelations…

The tricky part is to not forget them. To do something with the information or to remember it and use it, when it’s relevant.

I am using Anki and Memory Palaces and the Feynman Technique to try and achieve that.

And I hope you have some tipps for me, if you are experienced.

So over the years I have collected hundreds of notes. Using Evernote and Scapple. (Highly recommend the latter. It’s like a digital whiteboard and very efficient with shortcuts)

Many of these notes have collected dust since I wrote them. I often don’t remember writing them at all.

Now simply reviewing the notes is just training my recognition.

On the other hand, I truly don’t have the time to convert all notes into Q&A pairs for Anki. (Even if we’re just talking about future notes.)

And just rereading a lesson is sometimes all that needs to be done.
Note, that I’m not studying for exams, I mostly just want to remember ideas.

In essence I want the right balance between just looking at past notes to think about them and keep them fresh.
As well as specific associations I can create via Anki, adhering to guidelines like the minimum information principle.
And broader questions that get me to think about the big picture.

To boil it down, I have the following formats, that need to be reviewed:

  • text snippets and whole notes
  • short Q&A pairs
  • long Q&A Pairs where the answer is an explanation, that tests my understanding

But does it make sense to handle the review of all of these with Anki?
Anki is made for short Q&A pairs.
But I would like to simply open one (mobile) App, when I do my daily review. I don’t want to decide when to review something, I just want to be fed by an algorithm.

How would you use Anki to handle those different domains?
For the text snippets where I cant quickly come up with a way to convert it into one or more questions I could just have the answer empty.
For whole notes, I could paste the link to the note or ask a broad question like „What did I learn about user retention from Patrick“ and paste the note as an answer.
Similar with the „long Q&A pairs“.

(If you cringe while reading this, because you adhere to rules like these:
feel free to let me know.

Speaking of which, here is another post I made about one of those rules:
Critique on cloze deletion )

Would you use different decks with different review algorithms? Would you make other adjustments to Anki?

Or would you go about the problem in a completely different way?



Thanks for Scapple! Looks great.

I highly recommend Incremental Reading - with tagging - on SuperMemo.
Here is my current process:

Anki alone emphasizes card creation too much. If I rely on Anki - I feel the pull to memorize non-essential information. There is nothing else to do but make cards. I tend to make flashcards of information that really should be in reference material. When using SuperMemo - I mainly focus on building my reference material using tags and backing that up in Evernote.

Then I occasionally add new cards/items when needed.

All the while I watch my burden stat like a hawk.


I do not think you want to “formally memorize” everything. Part of the learning process is making reference material and synthesizing your learning. If someone spends years researching and writing a book - they know a lot about that topic. I would take that author of someone who downloaded a generic deck from Quizlet and imported it into Anki.

Thomas Jefferson thought the ideal education would be 50% memorization and 50% writing essays The idea behind the University of Virginia was to implement this philosophy - as opposed to the prevailing view of the day which was 100% memorization. (source: Thomas Jefferson Radical by Kevin Gutzman). Also, Notice how the US founders had all essentially memorized “The Spirit of Laws” by Montesquieu (which the US constitution is essentially xeroxed from).

Now we have an education culture that is actively hostile to memorization.

Books were expensive in the 18th century - so if you were lucky enough to get your hands on one - you would spend a lot of time making a “commonplace book” which was your own index of the best bits in your favorite books.

See this article:

To me, the modern equivalent is building well ordered, tagged reference material.

For my own studying:
3.) 5% of information becomes reference material
2.) 5% of that goes into SRS
1.) 5% of what goes into the SRS also goes into a memory palace.

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(Johannes Hörteis) #3

I actually have “well ordered, tagged reference material”.
But it’s just laying around.

Let’s just take an example, I’ve watched a talk about AI, learned a lot from it, wrote it down in a note, tagged it with “Video Notes” and “AI” and even made an exercise to explain it.

Fast forward a year, not having spent any thought on it.
Maybe I remember, that I have a note on this talk. But I don’t ask myself the question “What did I learn in this talk again?”. I just want to still know that information, when it could be useful in an essay I am writing or in a conversation.

Every night I sleep, my memory gets cleaned. The more intense a memory is(e.g by using crazy visualisations or by using the Feynman technique), the stickier it is, but eventually it get’s swept away.
That’s why I would like to have a system, that pulls up that note from time to time, so it is kept fresh.

The best solution I have is to convert the important parts of that note into questions for Anki.
But you know, that takes time. There’s a reason, why you only do it only for 5% of your reference material.

Supermemo is not an option for me, as I primarily use Mac and I also insist on a mobile version.
I’ve looked into Incremental Reading quite a bit though. I see many advantages, especially for longer and complex articles or books. Where you are presented with definitions, that need to sink in, before you can progress. But it also looks like a lot of work and I also see the benefit of staying on one topic, instead of switching around randomly. When I am reading something about AI for example, and then am confronted about something about increasing productivity, I might make a connection I wouldn’t have otherwise made about how AI can increase productivity. But when I continue reading about AI sometime later the neurons that were firing during my last reading aren’t activated anymore and I have to get back into it.


You can do this easily with “Incremental Reading” in Super Memo. After you passively see the information it will shuffle to give you a reminder in a year or so. You can also just manually set it to (remind me of this in a year). That is the default way to use it.

However, I prefer to have it lost to the ether. If I am ever doing some related to the subject matter, I prefer to be wildly surprised when I finally, at last, search the “A.I.” tag.

I have found incremental reading to be a lot of fun and not much work at all. However, if I rely on it too much it shortens my attention span. There is a lot to be said for having the focus to be able to sit down with a dry book for a long time - to follow a long argument. For me, I like to read books in Kindle and then import the highlights into Super Memo. If you find a better solution, please do let us know.

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