Memory is a fickle thing. One minute you’re leaving for work in the morning, the next you’re in a frantic panic desperately searching for misplaced keys.
With Google at our fingertips, there’s arguably less need for us to learn key facts and figures when we can just turn to the internet for answers.
However, adopting a simple memory technique could be a surefire way to help you memorise anything in as little as five minutes, which would definitely come in handy from time to time.
Michael Nielsen is an Australian quantum physicist, science writer and computer programming researcher.
A few weeks ago, Nielsen took to Twitter to detail a method that he uses in order to retain information indefinitely.
The technique that he uses is something that many of us will be familiar with from our school days of old: flashcards.
Now, before you scoff over the use of flashcards as an innovative memory technique, they seem to have paid off greatly for Nielsen.
Over the past two years he has allegedly managed to memorise around 9,000 cards, which has consequently benefitted his life on the whole.
Nielsen uses an app called Anki on his desktop and mobile, where he stores digital flashcards that he regularly reviews over the course of the day.
He spends approximately 20 minutes a day looking over them while he’s doing things like waiting in the queue for coffee.
Doing this has enabled him to grasp complicated topics such as AlphaGo, a computer programme.
The advantages of utilising spaced repetition as a learning technique has been explored in the past.
Spaced repetition involves taking a short break in between learning in order to retain information for a longer amount of time.
In 2016, Sean H. K. Kang, a cognition and education lab director at Dartmouth College, investigated how spaced repetition could benefit students in America who weren’t performing as well academically in mathematics, science and reading as students in other countries.
He concluded that incorporating spaced repetition into their education could improve the outcomes of their school examinations.
According to Nielsen, his increased use of flashcards over the past couple of years has helped him take control of his memory’s capabilities.
“The single biggest change is that memory is no longer a haphazard event, to be left to chance,” he tweeted.
“Rather, I can guarantee I will remember something, with minimal effort: it makes memory a choice.
“Rule of thumb: if memorising something will likely save me five minutes in the future, into the spaced repetition system is goes.
“The expected lifetime review time is less than five minutes, i.e., it takes less than five minutes to learn something… forever."
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