Spaced repetition is a study technique that dramatically improves learning outcomes. It strengthens memory by using flashcards to show new and unlearned information more often than older, already learned topics.

“Rote” memorization isn’t in fashion anymore since we all have Google in our pockets, right? That’s the problem.

Google undermines learning and memory.

A recent study suggests what we intuitively already know: our use of search engines strengthened our ability to remember where to access information but weakened our ability to recall the data itself. Use it or lose it, right? Our brains adapt quickly and seek to avoid difficult “tip of the tongue” experiences. One sec… let me just Google that…

Subject mastery isn’t mastering lookup skills. It’s having fluency over a vocabulary, an understanding of fundamental concepts, and an ability to actively recall critical subject matter.

Spaced repetition makes active recall easy.

There are dozens of apps that make SR easy: create cards, commit to a daily review habit, and in time you’ll have the mastery of an expert. Here are some guidelines for making effective flashcards:

Make it funny.

Memory athletes use absurdity, humor, and storyline to make the forgettable memorable. Make your flashcards funny, and you’ll be happy to see them again and remember them more quickly.

Involve all the senses.

Memories are composed of many associations: smell, feel, taste, and emotional state are all interrelated. Build flashcards that involve more than the linguistic component, and you’ll recall them faster and more easily.

Focus on an atomic idea.

Build flashcards that express a single, core concept: it can be complex and built from prior knowledge but should highlight a single idea.

Make it a daily habit.

Your daily review might take seconds or minutes, but it must be consistent.

Try it out: you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can learn a new topic!