10 Minutes The Next Day Keeps The Forgetting Away

The Forgetting Curve

For the articles that aren’t just an addition to our living database on Delicious or Diigo, but something we really want to remember, we should add them to a calendar. A calendar? Yep. I’ll get back to the calendar in a minute, but are you familiar with the forgetting curve?

German psychologist, Hermann Ebbinghaus, published findings in 1885 called Über das Gedächtnis (“On Memory”, later translated to English as Memory. A Contribution to Experimental Psychology). Ebbinghaus discovered an exponential decline of memory recall over time that he dubbed, the forgetting curve.

[box border=”full”] Ebbinghaus made several findings that are still relevant and supported to this day. First, arguably his most famous finding, the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve describes the exponential curve that illustrates how fast we tend to forget the information we had learned. The sharpest decline is in the first twenty minutes, then in the first hour, and then the curve evens off after about one day.  —Wikipedia[/box]

There are dozens of factors that influence memory and recall such as association, use of senses, mnemonic devices, context, application, difficulty of material, etc… so let’s keep things simple for times sake and just focus on repetition.

Spaced Repetition and the Forgetting Curve

Some people enjoy taking tests. Me, not so much. Too much studying. I wish we were taught about the forgetting curve in school all those years ago! By spacing out brief study periods, we all could have saved ourselves from the torture of cramming.

So the formula is simple: The day after the initial learning, spend 10 minutes reviewing. A week later, spend 5 minutes. A month later, spend 2-4 minutes. We can always review more than this, but that’s all the recipe calls for.

Remembering to Remember

We can make reviewing actually happen by using the forgetting curve and using a Google Calendar, Email, and some additional tools.

The Set-up

  • Create a new calendar in your Google account.
  • Create a new event on today’s date and ‘Edit event details.’

Event Details

  • Give the event a title and add your notes to the ‘Description’ section. There’s no limit to how much information you can put in the description (which is amazing!).
  • Set the event to ‘Repeat’ Daily, repeat every 1 day that starts today and ends tomorrow.

Forgetting Curve - Calendar Repeat

We’re dealing with an exponential curve so unfortunately we can’t make use of repeating this event for more than a day.

  • The most critical part is the Email reminder. Definitely make sure that that’s set and at a time that you know you’ll have 10 minutes to spare.

When the Email reminder goes off, you’ll get an Email that contains the entire description. You can do your review from your Email client or your phone or iPad or anywhere you have your Email set up. No need to go into the calendar until you set up your next set of events.

  • Once the first event is finished, create an event one week after the initial date and one more event three weeks later (a month total). The description stays the same and both events do not repeat (unless you want even more review).

And that’s it!

Additional Tools

Not everything we want to remember comes from a blog or website. It might be a book or an offline conversation or lecture.

Paper book: Transcribing book notes is a great idea because we’re now using touch as well as sight for memory encoding.

Evernote: Allows you to create a text, audio or photo note. Using Google labs Calendar Attachment, you can attach any document that your phone or computer can read.

Kindle Highlights: Copy and paste highlights from your Kindle device. It’s way faster than transcribing!

Here’s a sample Calendar to check out. Click through below.

Forgetting Curve Calendar