Have you ever wondered…
… “How can I remember what I read in books?”
… “How can I add new words to my vocabulary?”
… “How can I remember quotes?”
… “How can I remember people’s names?”
… “How can I remember [fill in the blank]?”
If you’re like me… you’ve had that problem. Gosh, how many times have I failed to increase my vocabulary! Alas, how many books have I read… and… how little knowledge ended up in my long term memory!
Does that sound familiar to you?
Maybe you’ve tried taking notes in some shape or form. The problem with most default approaches is you’ll have a hard time to (1) organizing your know-how and (2) memorizing the the accumulated information (especially in a way that you’ll remember it for good).
Now, I’ve discovered (about 3 months ago) the perfect solution to the overwhelming default learning strategies:
Drip feed learning with flashcards
Since then, I’ve…
… added almost 900 new words to my active vocabulary (English, since German is my mother tongue)
… stored about 200 know-how nuggets to my memory (extracted from books, articles, daily conversations, etc.)
… memorized more than 30 new names and facts of people I met
… memorized 3 letters verbatim (about 2,500 words)
… memorized 15 quotes
… memorized about 20 idioms
How can you do this?
Basically you “drip-feed” any new information to your long-term memory… with a special ‘commonplace system’ which I like to call…
Anki Brain Fodder Box
Whatever it is you want to absorb… you can (almost) always use this method to sculpt your own Knowledge Fort Knox.
You can use any flashcard tool you prefer (digital or non-digital). In my case, I chose Anki as it’s amazingly powerful and, I still wonder why, absolutely free. (Works on all systems and you can synchronize between devices.)
As you might know, if you want to gain the biggest benefit of flashcards, you should use the “Leitner System”. In other words, you’re rehearsing your information automatically in perfectly timed intervals. (More about Leitner on Wikipedia here.)
OK, let’s get cooking…
How to create smart flashcards?
Vital to your learning success is to:
– Break your information down into small digestible info-bits.
– Create multiple cards for difficult information (each card from a different angle).
– Create multiple cards for information that you want to highlight mentally.
– For each card, always think about its application. Think about practical examples.
Let me give you some specific examples of some knowledge categories:
How to Remember Quotes
If you want to remember quotes verbatim, I suggest you create multiple cards for a single quote. For example:
Questions (front of card):
1. “You can’t _____ _____ with a clenched fist” — Indira Gandhi
2. “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” — Indira Gandhi
3. “You can’t shake hands with _ ________ ____” — Indira Gandhi
4. “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” — ______ ______
5. Quote about conflict between attitude and coming to an agreement — by Indira Gandhi.
Answer (back of card):
“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist” — Indira Gandhi
How to Remember Insights, Book Know-How, etc.
In this example, I chose something I got from a marketing book from Jay Abraham:
“Your greatest asset in your marketing endeavors is __________”
“Your greatest asset in your marketing endeavors is the list of your existing customers”
How to Remember Names and Facts about People
I love this one. If you’re like me, you’re terrible forgetful when it comes remembering names and facts about people. (And you know how important it is to remember people’s names… or rather how embarrassing it can be to forget names!) Using your flashcards will make this fun and easy:
Guy met in Starbucks. Brown hair, lawyer, 3 kids.
What if you want to remember Stan’s hobby or the name of his wife (or kids)?
What’s Stan Smith’s wife’s name?
This is almost too easy… but still, viciously effective.
How to Remember Vocabulary & Idioms
This is a big one for me, and perhaps for you too. You can explode your vocabulary in no time. As a native German, I like to add new English words to my vocab on a daily basis.
Please note that I’m not using isolated words. If you want to be able to get the most of your card reviews, you should work with full sentences. Like so:
“Really ______ ____ the main and difficulty that the problem causes, and then pivot to say that you’ve got a solution.” — Fig. to try extremely hard to make someone understand or realize something
“Really hammer home the main and difficulty that the problem causes, and then pivot to say that you’ve got a solution.”
Then, take it from a different angle to gain a better understanding of the meaning:
“I tried to ______ ___ to Anne the fact that she would have to get a job.” — to keep repeating an idea or opinion so it is understood
“I tried to hammer home to Anne the fact that she would have to get a job.”
Strengthen and interconnect new words, by quizzing yourself for synonyms and antonyms:
These are just some of the colossal changes. – Give 3 synonyms for “huge”
gigantic, monumental, massive, …
Here’s example for an idiom:
1. “She is ______ as a picture”
2. “She is pretty as a _______”
“She is pretty as a picture”
How to Remember Poems, Long Texts, Speeches
Do you have a favorite poem you’d like to remember? Or how about some text you want to remember for good? For instance, you can create flashcards with text parts as simple memory triggers like:
“Cleaning Service Sales Letter – Paragraph 01 – Jay Abraham”
“Dear Mr. Customer,
I’ve been thinking about you a great deal and I’ve decided to do something a little bold but perhaps very much appreciated by you once you understand the method behind it.”
(To find out how to memorize long texts, poems, speeches, … go here.)
Using Flashcards as
Reminders, a Source of Motivation and Inspiration
Now, this is a special category and in my opinion the most interesting one. Here we won’t merely store pure facts to the memory, but we put in thought provoking material or ideas that you want to mull over at a later time again.
For instance, as a sports enthusiast, I found following idea brilliant (Posted on Quora)… so I put it into my Brain Fodder Box with the idea of trying it out soon:
“At work, take each hour 5-10 off to make 3 times 50 squats.”
You don’t really need an answer here. But you can add any additional ideas or thoughts. If you use Anki, you’ll be reminded of your ideas in the future again (and you can determine the interval).
The next one serves as a reminder and a source of inspiration.
“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the possessing entity – the thinker. Knowing this enables you to observe the entity. The moment you start watching the thinker, a higher level of consciousness becomes activated.”
“The Power Of Now – Eckhart Tolle”
As you can see, like that, you can absorb whichever info you want.
When’s the best time to go through your flashcards?
Personally, I go through my cards every single morning while having my coffee. This process gets my synapses firing and helps me to pry my eyes open in the early hours of the day.
Naturally, you could go through your flashcards while sitting in the bus or train… or… while waiting at the cashier… or… during your lunch break.
But you also want to feed your hungry Fodder Box with new nuggets. You can feed your Fodder Box the moment you come across new information or you can use a notebook and transfer the info into your system later that day.
The reason I wrote this article is… because this simple method is a major breakthrough to my learning curve. A small twist to the often underrated flashcard system proves to be invaluable for accelerated learning… and (this is the most important aspect)… it keeps new knowledge actively available in your memory. This means, you don’t just file stuff away in a locked ‘memory drawer’ but you can actively avail yourself of the nuggets you collect in your flashcard commonplace.
So, if you’re an avid learner, a seeker for knowledge, an English student or you want to grow your mental library in any way… then… why don’t you give the Brain Fodder Box method a shot? See if it works for you. Download Anki, or get a bunch of 3×5 cards and start feeding…
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