Learn Faster, Smarter with Daily Spaced Repetition

I’m surprised by how many people I run into who don’t know what this is. There are ton of resources out there that go deep into the research and science behind it, so for details, look them up. The following is a pretty down and dirty primer to daily spaced repetition and how to utilize it. 

The nutshell is that you essentially have two types of memory – short term and long term. You sort of automatically store things in short term until your brain figures out that you actually need to hold onto that piece of information. That’s why when you cram for a test, that information quickly leaves your head. Daily spaced repetition is sort of a biohack for that issue. It helps to keep you studying your weak parts but also to not forget your stronger areas.

Many study resources such as Firecracker, Picmonic, ANKI, Amboss, etc, etc., etc., all incorporate spaced repetition into their programs. Pretty much anytime you take a daily quiz, you’re probably incorporating daily spaced repetition into it. That’s great and everything, but it only utilizes there content.

I’m still a fan of doing the old school flashcard approach. Resources are great, but until there is a meta-service that can incorporate information from all of them, they can never be quite as customized as you need them to be FOR YOU. So, let’s walk through a simplified version of daily spaced repetition that I used to help me stay on top of my game.

  1. Make Your Flash Cards
    Keep them short, and keep them sweet. They should be basically one fact per card. Anything that is basically just assumed knowledge, doesn’t need to go on a flash card. At this point, you shouldn’t need a flashcard to remind yourself that the right side of the heart pumps to the lungs and the left side to the body. Maybe during your first anatomy class, but let’s try to keep things manageable now.
  1. Run Through All of Your Flash Cards Once
    As you flip them over, you are going to set them down into one of three piles: 
    Super Easy
    Basically got it
    Didn’t know
  1. Set Your Schedule
    It’s important to make these flashcards a part of your daily practice. Again, each one represents a bite sized piece of knowledge that you need. We’re not looking for large concepts here, those operate under a different strategy. This is how often you should do each pile:

    Didn’t Know – everyday, at least once a day
    Basically Got It – Probably every other day, maybe 3 times a week
    Super Easy – I’d hit these about once a week or a little more 

    The schedule is a little fluid and up to your specific situation. If you have a deadline coming up, I’d maybe hit them a bit more and focus more on the “Didn’t Knows.” If you’re working with a HUGE stack of cards, I’d up the “Super Easy” frequency or maybe even make an inbetween category, to help ensure adequate coverage.
  1. Shuffle The Decks
    These decks are not static. If you find that you’re getting more comfortable with some, move them to the next deck so you lower the frequency. If you are struggling with some stuff you thought you knew, bring it up. Keeping things fluid like this will help ensure that you are constantly working on your weakest areas.

Again, down and dirty – there are lots of resources that get explore many of the aspects of this approach. It is a little bit to manage when you do it on your own, but it also allows for the most amount of customization. Try it out and let us know – did you like it? Not so much? What changes did you make to increase your productivity?

Keep at it – you’re going to make it through.