I was a noob, not long out of the Air Force holding a newly-minted MBA. He was the wise and experienced CEO of one of the world’s largest computer chip companies. Somehow, I’d been selected to escort him through the world’s largest computer convention and brief him on competitors in one of the markets we wanted to enter.
The Ebbinghaus Curve shows how memory degrades over time.
I called him to see when we could talk for a few moments prior to the next week’s convention. He answered the phone himself and surprised me with, “I’ll meet you in the main corridor by the big philodendrons. We can walk to my next meeting at the far end of the fab (fabrication plant).”
As he walked toward me he smiled, and reaching inside his jacket he pulled out a thin stack of 3X5 cards. Each had a few concise handwritten notes. He pointed to my shirt-pocket. Reaching up, I pulled out an almost duplicate thin stack of 3X5 cards. “Memory joggers,” he said. I said, “The Ebbinghaus forget curve.” The convention the following week went well. And neither of us forgot the important points we jotted down on our cards.
I’m a SmartPhone cybernaut, but I still carry unlined 3” X 5” cards for quick notes and memory refreshers. Here’s why,
The Ebbinghaus forget curve established one of the first basic findings of human memory. If we don’t refresh what we learn, we forget it – rapidly. If we refresh “chunks” of memory by recalling them at increasingly longer intervals we cement that memory so the memory lasts a LONG time. You just have to know when and how to refresh. This graph shows how memory retention improves when you refresh at spaced intervals.
Testing yourself on “information chunks” at increasingly longer intervals dramatically increases recall.
Ebbinghaus did his research with chunks of nonsense letters, like CFQ or DTV, but his findings have been duplicated numerous times by more recent research.
We can stop this memory decay by,
Each time you refresh the “information chunk” the rate of loss decreases. Memory improvements techniques repeatedly show that refreshing memory at lengthening intervals significantly improves memory retention.
You have probably used flashcards when in school. These memory improvement cards are similar, but there are a few additions you might want to note. (Sorry for the pun. The brain works that way with topics.)
Here’s how you create 3” X 5” memory improvement cards,
“Scamper” is a method of generating innovations and ideas
Purpose, Put to a different use
You may want to put more than one set of chunks per card.
Different researchers recommend different refresh intervals. The refresh rate may also depend upon whether the information is short text, concepts, relationship to what you know, images, etc.
Here’s how to use the cards to refresh and extend your memory for most text information,
Refresh at the following intervals,
In the morning,
Here are a few power tips that have been proven to make this work even better,
I speak in front of thousands of people each year. I have found this technique works well for preparing yourself to speak so you don’t read from the PowerPoint. (A real audience killer.) Break your speech into chunks. Only “card” big pieces. If there are precise numbers or phrases include those, but don’t try to memorize your words or every detail. Put the cards in the order of your presentation.
When you review for a speech don’t always start at the beginning. Practice by starting at different points. That way you will be strong at all points in your presentation.
If you see people walking around mumbling to themselves and glancing at note cards, smile at them, they probably belong to Toastmasters, a great organization for learning how to speak.
By the way, this is an awesome technique to teach your kids. Once they are old enough they should create the cards themselves. Remember, it is more than just flashcards. Combine the flashcards with the refresh intervals.