6 Reasons Why you Shouldn’t Retire an Anki Deck

One of the most interesting features of Anki is that the more you do it, the less you have to do it. Your goal is to continually push back all your cards further and further into some future void. Until you wake up one day fluent, and see 0 reviews due for weeks on end, and ponder whether you should delete the app from existence…

While this day is far away, a more imminent question appears. Do you keep reviewing decks when they get old. More specifically, should you keep reviewing a kanji deck, or a J-E deck once you are already deep into J-J. In J-J, the goal is to remove English from your life completely, yet English will keep popping up for months and years to come through your reviews.

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Should you continue to review old material forever, or get rid of it eventually?

If you started studying J-E today, in 3 years do you really want to waste your time reviewing a こんにちは – Hello card?

First, the fact that there is English shouldn’t concern you. You aren’t learning anything new. This isn’t accidentally seeing English while you are in J-J mode. Your flow will not be interrupted.

But more importantly, Anki and its spaced repetition system magic work by continually increasing your intervals. You can expand the amount of time between reviews because that’s how your memory works. So your review streak may look like:

1 day
4 days
2 weeks
3 months
1 year
3 years
8 years

When you finish that 1 year review, and the next time you’ll see it is in 3 years. By then is it necessary anymore?

Maybe not. There is a good chance you have already mastered it. With immersion, you indirectly review your Anki cards hundreds or thousands of times in different scenarios. Even if you don’t ever see it in Anki again, you probably won’t forget it. So why bother?

I find 6 reasons for not deleting old material, and letting it run its course.

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1. Memories and Reflection

I’ve talked about how Anki is like time travelling. Reviewing old cards takes you back in time to when you first reviewed those cards. You remember where you were, what you were doing, and what your life was like. It’s a nostalgic trip.

When you are currently frustrated, hitting a hurdle, you lose sight of things and how far you’ve come. Looking back at your progress helps you remember that your Japanese has improved significantly.

2. Deeper understanding of the basics

You review. You understand. You move on. But some of this understanding is shallow. Seeing the basics years later makes you gain new appreciation for it.

3. Fix old hidden mistakes

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Sometimes you think you understood something. And since that point have kept that understanding. But when you return to that card months or years later, you realize you were wrong.

4. Fix new mistakes

You learned something correctly. You used it correctly. But over time, it started to evolve into something wrong. Now that you review it at it’s original form, you can fix your current problem.

5. Victory lap

Am I the only one who takes pleasure in seeing high intervals? I have cards now on 18 year intervals. To me that’s nearly never-will-see-again territory. I said the same thing when I reached my first 6 year interval, but here I am…

Catapulting your cards into oblivion feels like a final victory lap. You’ve won. Don’t you want to bask in that moment?

6. Minimal Commitment

Older cards are put on giant intervals. To continue to review an old card, it may take you only a few seconds to keep it gone for decades.

Do you need to keep going?

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No, you don’t. If I quit Anki completely today, things wouldn’t change. I haven’t added new cards in a long time. I do reviews maybe once a week now for about 10 minutes at a time. It’s nothing. Sure, I forget stuff. But I forget stuff in my native language.

Eventually you may want to delete the app. If you had been doing it for years, you may have already. I may eventually as well.

But I’m an extreme case. If you are only a few years into it, and are already considering knocking out your first deck, think a little bit about what you would gain vs. what you might lose.

Will you retire Anki?

Have you ever deleted old decks (or Anki entirely) because you feel you don’t need/want to review anymore? Is there a point you feel you will stop?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

6 Reasons Why you Shouldn’t Retire an Anki Deck — 16 Comments

  1. I’m about 21 months into Anki now, and already seeing the effects described in this article.

    It is now clear to me both that the cost of maintaining solidly learned vocabulary is minimal, but also that it is critical to keep reviewing them, because sometimes even cards I thought I would never forget suddenly lapse after all. By continuing to review all my cards and trusting the spaced repetition, my study time is very efficient, and it is virtually impossible to permanently lose something once learned, because Anki ensures that lapses are recovered quickly and efficiently.

    Yay for Anki! … Never delete decks! (you will lose precious statistics)

  2. I don’t plan on ever stopping Anki either. I’m already sending cards 3 years into the future, which is kind of crazy since that’s longer than I’ve been studying. I find these easy cards inspiring. I actually laugh at some of them since the seem so mundane.

    An 18 year interval is insane. I guess if you go long enough, you’ll be sending cards so far in the future that you will have died of old age before seeing them.

  3. I must admit I have deleted Anki decks.

    There I said it. But… For there is a but ;)… only when I was in the process of figuring out how to format my study materials. I have done different types of Kanji review decks and I have deleted the old ones.

    I started out with reviewing directly on Koohii but I stopped studying for a while and when I restarted I never returned to my Koohii deck. At that time I found the lazy RTK method which goes story with keyword in cloze -> kanji. I used that for a while and got pretty far, but then I found Jalup. I found the RTK mod deck with fewer kanji and the Kanji Rider challenge started. I switched to RTK mod but decided to keep up with my reviews for the lazy kanji deck since there were fairly few of them.

    Now I am in the process of going from RTK mod to Kanji Kingdom. I have merged my RTK mod and lazy RTK decks and am gradually suspending cards from those decks as I learn them in Kanji Kingdom. Eventually I will delete the deck completely when I have finished the transition. For now I’m not in a hurry to do that though, so I keep up reviews split between the decks until I’m done.

    I made around a hundred cards myself before trying out Jalup Beginner and those I still review. It is only a couple of reviews a week for that deck so it doesn’t really cost me much to keep it up.

    I agree that seeing high intervals feels really good :D currently my largest interval is 6.4 years. That is more than double the length of time I have studied (counting this attempt only, previous attempts I never got very far with but they go back quite a while).

    • You make a great point. Decks that no longer match the method you are using, or didn’t work for you, or worked for you but only marginally can be removed or modified. The decks that I am mostly referring to are the ones in the method you decide to continue for months and years.

      And 6.4 years is quite impressive already!

      • I agree that retiring decks you have been working on for a longer period of time is not worth it compared to the small amount of effort it is to keep them going.

  4. It’s been some 3 years since I stopped studying Japanese and, as a consequence, doing Anki reviews. Now I’m trying to get back at it but it seems like it’s going to be extremely overwhelming. I mean, I would have to go through about a thousand reviews (surprisingly low number actually, considering my card pool), which would make adding cards very difficult and would take by itself a couple of days of very boring effort. To make things kinda worse, some of the cards marked as correct are pushed up to 2 and a half years – thus making me feel like I’m surely going to forget said content way earlier than anki’s going to show it to me again.

    All of that, along with the fact that I just can’t figure out how to connect these decks to my mobile anki app (I used to use only the desktop program), is making me think about deleting everything and starting over with new and properly desktop-mobile synchronized decks.

    But starting over from scratch will also be a pain in the ass and I’m just wondering what would be the best path to follow… so I would very much appreciate some advice, as of course said problems will not keep me from getting back to studying japanese, but I get the feeling that this decision can heavily influence my produtivity, results and motivation on the months to come.

    At this point I just wish I had never stopped studying at all, but getting into college was a huge priority back then. I’m just glad I always kept JALUP in my browser favorites and am finaly back in the game.

    Thanks a bunch guys, and congratulations on the evergrowing site Adam!

    • Just an update: I tried (just now) setting all my cards to hard as suggested on a different topic and guess what? Some cards are actually postponed by 2 whole years even when I say it’s a hard one. 6 whole years if “easy” is selected. Maybe resetting the decks would be better but I feel like I’m going to waste too much time…

      • It’s not specifically “use Hard” that’s important, so much as the rationale behind that advice.

        When you press an answer button in Anki, the question you’re answering isn’t “did I get this card right?” but rather “when do I want to see this card again?”. In the case of people who struggle with a high number of daily reviews, using Hard instead of Again can help get those numbers under control, but your situation is a bit different.

        Ideally you could specify an arbitary interval on a per-card basis while doing reviews, keeping easy cards years away while resetting difficult ones, but since that’s not an option I think the advice from Chase below is probably your best bet. Good luck! =)

    • If you are going to restart, and I understand how painful that can feel… I would suggest you move right on to Jalup NEXT. You just need to send him your receipt for your Jalup decks and he will load your NEXT account right up with what decks are available at the moment.

      On another note, I don’t know about you, but I enjoy the feeling of being able to breeze through whatever it is I am learning. If you restart, every card is an easy card and I for me, an easy card is a fun card. For others, it may be a boring card, so I don’t know which one it would be for you.

      I don’t think I can give you any practical advice that will help you except this:

      in Anki,

      1. select all of your cards in the browser.
      You can do this by clicking on the deck you are studying in the browser, then press ctr + a or cmd + a. You will then see all your cards highlighted in blue.

      2. click on Edit, next to File

      3. Scroll down the Edit menu and find the option Reschedule.

      4. Click on Reschedule

      5. Make sure to click on “Place in review queue with interval between: ”
      You will see two boxes below this line. In the first one is the lower interval. The left one is the higher one.

      6. In the lower interval box choose the smallest interval you would like to see your cards be reassigned to.

      7. In the higher interval box choose the highest interval you would like to see your cards be reassigned to. Keep in mind, this means that a percentage of your cards will be assigned this highest interval, meaning that you won’t see it for x interval amount of time and when you do see it, its next interval will be even higher than the current one, just like usual. So if you choose a max of 90 days, then at least one card will be assigned the interval 90 days and when it appears in your reviews 90 days later, its next “Hard” “Good” “Easy” intervals will all be higher than 90 days.

      A percentage of your cards will be assigned an x interval time between your low and high, so 1 as min and 100 as max means that the n amount of cards you have will be distributed amongst all possible interval values in between 1 and 100. If you have 100 cards then I imagine that every interval value would be assigned to each card. Card 1 will have an interval of 1 day. Card 2, and interval of 2 days, etc. Keep in mind, this process is random. A card you find really easy might get an interval of 1 day and a card that is hard, a really large interval.

      The whole point of this though is so that your reviews become manageable and you can choose to do them over a span of time you choose. It is the next best thing to starting over in my opinion.

      • P.S. In the first one is the lowest box, in the second one is the highest box. lowest is on the left, longest is on the right. I got those mixed up. Sorry about that.

      • P.S. Also if you only want to select a portion of your deck, just select the relevant cards and follow the same steps I gave above.

      • I rescheduled the cards as suggested and it worked like a charm! This will surely make getting back on track WAY easier and fairly more organized.

        I seriously can’t stress enough how much this is going to help me. Thank you Chase!

        Also, thanks to Matt and Adam. This site has a very thoughtful and friendly community – truly amazing.

        • You’re welcome. Seriously, I’m glad my suggestion has helped you solve your problem. 頑張ってください!

    • Welcome back. Things happen, but you’re back in the Japanese game, and that’s all that matters.

      Matt and Chase provided good advice on what to do about Anki decks.

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