I was recently at a preparation course for my strategic leadership program and the instructor had highly recommended the use of flash cards to mentally exercise with during “dead” time. I have never in my life used flash cards (but I have heard and seen other people use them) but since the instructor seem highly knowledgeable and reputable I decided to do some more research online on the merits of flash cards. And what I found surprised me. There’s actually a science behind it AND it is particularly effective when used with spaced repetition.
I won’t spend too much time explaining what flash cards are but the basic premise is that you take cue cards and on one side you write a topic subject or key word and on the other side you write the full explanation. During “dead” time you flip through the subject side and try to answer or que up your responses and see how its lines up with your answers/explanations on the flip side.
Now naturally I began to question, that’s great but any form of repetition will allow you to memorize items to a certain extent. The crux is how do you do it effectively and efficiently. For example, do you review your cue cards twice a day? once a day? every other day? once a week?
This is where I came across something called spaced repetition which allows for the most efficient use of one’s time. The process I have been following involves the use of 5 step intervals. So on day one all flash cards are 1’s, if i recall the subjects successfully, they move on to 2’s. If I am not successful, they remain 1’s. I have chosen 1, 2, 3,4, and 5’s to represent days. The premise I am working with is I only want to recall items often enough to retain it in my long-term memory but not to recall it so often as to “waste” my time or inefficiently use my time when it could be allowed to other items or study topics.
I encourage any readers that are curious to google some examples and read more about the topic.
There are also a flurry of applications you can download that make the tracking and recall much easier but I have decided to go the old fashion route as I prefer physically touching and writing my cue cards/notes.