‹ Geoff Ruddock

Tags / learning

As a subscriber to the Farnam Street newsletter, I enjoy reading Shane’s articles about using various mental models from other disciplines to improve our decision-making. Reading about these mental models is fun, but I am cognizant of the fact that reading about them did not equate to learning them. I have been using Anki flashcards in language-learning and technical contexts for a few years now. So the question is: what is the best way to use Anki to facilitate learning mental models?
I was looking at my Anki deck stats the other day and realized that I have been using it for just over three years now. During that time I have added 20k cards and reviewed 140k. On average I spent 17 minutes each day to review 130 cards. Since this amounts to over 300 hours of my life at this point, I figured it would be worth reflecting on this habit and deciding whether it is a worthwhile investment of time going forward.
I’m a big fan of Blinkist, which is a subscription service that provides really well-written summaries of popular non-fiction books. These aren’t the SparkNotes you remember from your high school days—each summary is split into thematic bites, and the information is presented in a form that is already partially synthesized. Each day Blinkist offers free access to one of their new summaries through Blinkist Daily. I find that the curation of books they use for Blinkist Daily is very high-quality, and I can usually find at least 2 summaries per week that I am interested in.
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