30: Memory games

November 03, 2023


In my reread of The Thursday Murder Club, I discovered this interesting memory test system that one of the characters set up for herself. Elizabeth would write a question on the bottom of a diary page dated a few days in the future, and write the answer on the current page. When she got to that future page, she’d try to answer the question without looking back at the answer. Funnily enough, a couple days after reading that bit, I came across the Shopify director of production engineering’s approach to remembering facts. When he comes across a fact he wants to remember, he creates a flashcard on Anki. That’ll use spaced repetition methods to bring up flashcards that he’s likely to forget just before he’d otherwise forget them. Kinda like Elizabeth’s trick, but more tech-first.

I exchanged voice notes with Derek Sivers after ages, and we realised we were breaking them up just like we would chapters of a book. It was interesting that we both defaulted to that, instead of rambling on about multiple things in the same voice note. It wasn’t about length, either — one voice note from Derek was 10 minutes long, but it was nicely focused on one topic. People should write more books like this. Morgan Housel agrees.

My plants, few as they are, are thriving. The pink bougainvillea got a little haircut, so new buds are showing up. The white one returned from the threshold of death and is now nicely coming along. The ZZ has two new shoots and is virtually spilling out of the pot it’s in — it may need a bigger home very soon. The fiddle leaf fig, which I was most worried about, has sprouted 4 (!!) shiny new leaves since it was brought to the new house two months ago, and now peeks over the arm of the sofa. The rosemary is… around. We don’t speak about the thyme.

I’ve slightly revamped my note-taking system. Earlier, I would open up a new file and type all my notes about one topic into it, then name it something broad. Like, if I was reading This is Marketing by Seth Godin, I’d make one page for all my notes from it and title it “This is Marketing”. While that’s a great way to document notes, I started finding it extremely hard to connect ideas between topics, which is the whole point of a networked thought tool. I went back to the Zettlekasten documentation and realised I missed one critical piece of advice: each idea gets its own note. That’s then linked to other notes, and tagged appropriately to form that nexus of ideas. I took this for a test run with Seth Godin book’s, creating a new file for each new idea even if it was linked to or was a part of a larger concept. So far it’s helped me think of ideas individually, which might make it easier to carry across to another domain or line of thinking.

What you can read next…

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