The ability to retain information is important both for your career and for your personal life. Here’s a tool that I found which will help you remember anything that’s important to you.
This used to happen to me all the time.
I’d be out with friends and someone would bring along their cousin from out of town. Even though I’d met the cousin five or six times before, for the life of me I could never remember their name. When I learned it again (for the seventh time,) I was sure that this time I’d remember. But the next time around, I’d have forgotten again.
Does this sound familiar?
Retention is a useful ability, especially in the IT world. But a lot of us struggle to remember things that we don’t need to use daily. Search engines only make things worse – we know we can easily look up that PowerShell command, so there’s no need to memorize it, right?
So you end up looking up the same thing over and over again. And you never quite manage to remember it the next time.
But rejoice! I found a tool that has really worked to improve my memory, and I want to share it with you. It’s called Anki.
Think of Anki as flash cards on steroids. When there’s something you want to remember, you simply create a card for it. You can create old fashioned flash cards with a question on the front and an answer on the back, or you can get fancier and include screenshots and videos too.
But the real power of Anki is spaced repetition – it will show you your flash cards exactly when you would start forgetting the information.
It works something like this: you create a card and add it to a deck. When you review your cards, Anki will show that card to you and ask you how well you remembered the information. If you couldn’t remember the answer, you’ll see the card again before you’re done for the day. If you remembered but it was hard, Anki will show you the card again soon. If you remembered and it was easy, it will be much longer before you see the card again.
These time frames change. For a newly created card that was easy, you may see it again four days from now. But for a card that you created a year ago, if you mark the card as easy you may not see it again for four months.
This cadence makes it easy to review your cards every day or two because you’re not reviewing everything every time you study, which would be pretty time consuming. You’re only reviewing it when you’re getting close to the point that you would be forgetting the information.
This has been a game changer for me! I’ve started creating cards for everything: that nmap command I could never quite remember, that person’s name I’m tired of forgetting, notes on an interesting book I’m reading, and anything else I don’t want to forget. I simply review my cards three or four times per week, and each time takes four or five minutes max.
Anki is free to download and use on the PC and on Android phones. On iPhones, the app costs $25, which is pretty steep for an app. However, the tool was so useful to me that I ponied up the money. If you have an Android, you have no excuse not to use this right away! If you’re on an iPhone, play around with the program on your computer and make sure you like it before you plunk down $25.
You can create cards on both your computer and on your phone and then sync them, so you won’t lose any work you did on your computer if you only decide to get the app later on.
If you have an hour of free time today, I recommend watching this YouTube video explaining the theory behind how Anki works and some additional tricks you can do with Anki.
Now, enjoy never forgetting things again!
With each post, I cover a new topic to help you get your start (or keep progressing) in your IT career. If it’s your first time visiting this blog, start here. And make sure to check out these top interview questions before you start interviewing!