Anki is an amazing tool, especially if you know how to set it up well for vocabulary learning. It doesn’t have the best user interface, though, so getting started and adding new words into it can be intimidating, but it’s worth it.
There are a few best practices when it comes to reviewing your vocabulary that make your learning as efficient as it can be. Let’s look at them.
When you’re reviewing, fail fast.
If you can’t think of the answer in 5 seconds or less, give up and hit “show answer”. It’s not like you lose anything: the word comes back in 30 seconds (if you’ve followed my guide on setting up Anki.
On the other hand, if you spend ages on every challenging word, banging your head against the wall going “oh, it’s at the tip of my tongue, tip of my tongue, I swear I know this!” you are losing a LOT of time that you could spend reviewing other words.
On the main screen you can see exactly how long you spent on each word (on average). This includes the time it takes to type the word, so expect it to be more than 5s. If you go over 10s/card, though, that’s a definite sign that you should fail faster.
When you fail a word, always read the correct answer out loud before moving on. This will help your mind retain the correct answer.
Consistency is key, so experiment to find systems and goals that work for you. I have some suggestions on where to start.
The important thing is consistency. If you always do your Anki at the same time, whatever time that is, it becomes routine. If it’s routine, it’s easier to stick to it consistently.
It’s easier to make something part of your routine if you connect it to something that’s already part of your routine. Maybe do Anki while you sip your morning cup of coffee, or on the commute to work. Or before your morning sacrificial ceremony. I don’t know your life.
Most people are too tired in the evenings after work to be productive, so I recommend trying to fit your Anki review into your morning routine.
Maybe you’re a night-owl, though; if you think it works better for you, try reviewing Anki in bed before sleeping, or some other time in the evening.
How long you do your Anki honestly isn’t nearly as important as consistency.
Make sure to aim for something that is actually doable for you. If you aim high and consistently fail, that’s demoralising and makes you likely to quit. If you aim low and consistently succeed, it takes you longer to get where you’re going - but you get there.
For most people, anywhere between 5 minutes and 30 minutes is a good amount of time for reviewing vocabulary. Start low and work your way up, rather than starting high and giving up.
Adaptive Time Management
Some days you have all the time in the world and 30 minutes of Anki is no problem, and other days you run out of energy before you finish brushing your teeth, and 5 minutes is the best you can manage
Adaptive time management allows us to capitalise on good days to learn more than usual, and minimise the stress on bad days by learning less than usual.
Set your “new cards per day” to 0. Then review whatever Anki throws at you (which is only old cards you’ve already seen). When you finish, you’ll see a “custom study” or “study more” option (depending on whether you’re using a desktop computer or a phone app)
Now you need to ask yourself two questions:
- Do I have the time to keep going?
- Do I have the mental energy to keep going?
If the answer is no, you’re done for the day.
If the answer is yes, use the “custom study” or “study more” option and increase today’s new card limit. 5 is a good number for most, but your mileage may vary.
Repeat until you run out of time and/or energy.
Consistency is what matters, so it doesn’t matter as much if you do your Anki 7 days a week or once a week, as long as you do it every week for a long time.
For most people, aiming for 5-6 days per week is a good goal.
Having the leeway to miss a day here and there is important. It means that when you’re forced to miss a day (and you WILL miss a day here and there, whether it’s due to sickness, travel, or interdimensional horrors from the abyss), it’s part of the plan, and thus less likely to feel demoralising.
To review, simply click on the name of the deck you’ve made, then click study now.
You’ll be greeted by one of your words and an open field. Type what you think the Icelandic answer is (don’t just think it, type it), then click enter; or just click enter to give up. Giving up is a valid option. Remember: fail fast.
You’ll notice 2 options at the bottom.
- If you’ve got the answer right, click “pass”. You can also hit “3”, it’s a shortcut key.
- If you’ve got the answer wrong, click “fail”. You can also hit “1”, it’s a shortcut key.
If you see 4 options instead of 3, it’s because you didn’t get the add-on that I recommend in Setting up Anki.
Reviewing (Mobile App)
To review, simply tap on the name of the deck you’ve made. You’ll be greeted by one of your words and an open field.
On desktop computers, I always recommend typing in the answer. On the phone, it’s often better to just speak the answer out loud.
Typing on phones is slow, so it can make the process too frustrating. Auto-complete and auto-correct also negate most of the benefit of typing the answer, so I wouldn’t bother.
Type or say what you think the Icelandic answer is, then tap show answer; or just tap show answer to give up. Giving up is a valid option. Fail fast, remember?
You’ll notice 4 options at the bottom: again, hard, good, and easy.
- If you’ve got the answer right, tap “good”.
- If you’ve got the answer wrong, tap “again”.
Don’t ever tap “hard”, and be very sparing with “easy”. They permanently affect your cards’ underlying algorithm, and it’s no fun to accidentally mess up your whole Anki for good.
If you’re consistent about reading and listening to lots of Icelandic and reviewing your Anki, you’ll go far, fast. Of course, things don’t always go according to plan and eventually, something will go wrong and you’ll fall behind on your Anki. That can be intimidating, but fear not: it’s easier than you think to catch up.