Anki & Spaced Repetition

Course Introduction

A gentle introduction to spaced repetition. What this course is, who it's for, and why it's useful.

Next: 02 – How does Spaced Repetition Work?

Welcome to the Panoply course on Spaced Repetition. I’m Terry and I’ll be your host. 

This is a course about memory. Specifically, it’s a course that is going to teach you how to remember things with ease. Along the way you’ll also learn a little bit about how memory works,  my system for figuring out what is worth remembering, and how to use my favorite tool for actually putting the system into practice, called Anki. 

This course is for everyone. I’ve been deliberate about making the material approachable where I can. In my mind, this course should be viable for anyone high school age or older. 

First, let’s start by answering the first question that you probably have: 

“What is Spaced Repetition?” 

Spaced repetition is a system of study that helps us remember things. Everyone remembers what it was like to study and cram for an exam back in high school or college, only to forget everything 15 minutes after the test. 

Spaced rep is totally different. You’re not brute forcing something into your short term memory, it’s much smarter than that.  If you do it right, the memories will last forever. It’s also a lot more fun. 

The basic idea behind spaced repetition is that the best time to study something is right before you’re about to forget it. 

When you think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to continue studying something that you already know — such as your date of birth, or phone number — so there’s also a component of spaced repetition that prioritizes information that you’re likely to be at risk of forgetting, just before you forget it. 

If you’ve used flashcards before, you can think of it like taking the easy flash cards out of your deck and putting them into another deck that you’re going to revisit next week. This is a good idea because your time is much better spent on learning the hard ones than spinning your wheels on the easy ones. 

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about any of this. 

For every individual thing that you want to remember, Spaced Repetition systems keep track of: 

  1. How often you’ve seen it
  2. How recently you’ve seen it
  3. How hard it was for you to remember it

The end result of this is that if something was hard to remember you’ll see it again sooner than something that was easy for you to remember. 

Once you get going it feels a lot like magic. 

Why should we learn about spaced repetition? 

Because human memory is imperfect. If you don’t do anything proactive about your memory, your brain is going to prioritize and hang onto the things that you do most often. 

I find that frequency is a very poor indicator of quality and usefulness, and I’d rather be hands on and proactive about forcing my brain to remember the things that matter to me. 

These can be things like friends birthdays, countries and capitals, or other general trivia — but they can also be far more useful… things that aren’t so easy to Google. 

  • Language learning
  • Book notes and takeaways
  • Personal stories
  • Presentations and speeches
  • Etc. 

Pretty much anything that you think you’d like to remember — that’s what you’ll put into the system. 

In addition to all of the personal benefits, there’s also a meta benefit. If you’re a marketer you can make your marketing better simply by understanding how other people remember things. 

More broadly, you should feel free to use what you learn here on the people around you. Need your kids to remember a few phone numbers for emergencies? Piece of cake, you’ll know how to get that done. Need to memorize a speech coming up for work? Sure thing. 

Having a bad memory is something that a lot of people complain about, but very few actually know how to work on. Your memory is something you can begin to use as a tool with some level of predictability. 

The magic of spaced repetition is that you get a say in all of this. You can choose to make certain things easier to remember. 

I’ll see you in the next video and we’ll get started. 

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