My Zen Mode In SuperMemo

Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

Create a new empty collection. Import the article and finish it. Then import the extracts back to your main collection.

There is no official “Zen Mode” in SuperMemo. I borrowed this term from VSCode:

Zen Mode lets you focus on your code by hiding all UI except the editor (no Activity Bar, Status Bar, Sidebar and Panel) and going to full screen.

Lately I’ve found myself getting distracted… even in SuperMemo. The tug-of-war between “what I want to learn” and “what I have to learn” is strong. Simply, I press “Next” when I see an article I have to but don’t want to read. It takes a lot of willpower to manually navigate back to it either instantly or at a later time. Even if I do so, I can easily switch to some other articles. rather than staying in it. The relief is just a few keystrokes away: Alt-C to navigate to something else.

Bad Habit Formation

This is a very typical case of bad habit formation [Atomic Habits]:

Cue: Getting frustrated with the learning material: in most cases it’s due to my lack of understanding (too difficult for me) or assigned readings

Craving: Alleviate myself from this frustration

Response: Navigate to some other elements

Rewards: Instant relief

Inspired by My philosophy: Optimize transaction costs, in particular:

Reduce transaction costs to engaging in productive behavior.

Erect transaction costs to engaging in counter-productive behavior.

Zen Mode in SuperMemo

I’ve created a new collection (called ZenMode). It’s just an empty collection to act as a temptation buffer. Simply, I import the article I need to read. I focus on finishing it. There is nothing to switch away from it because it’s an empty collection. It’ll always remain an empty collection.


The major benefit is that, since it’s an empty collection, there’s no nothing else for me to focus on except this article. Essentially I’ve created some extra transaction costs.

When I finished it, I export all the extracts as html:

Knowledge Tree: Process branch --> Export --> Document(HTML)

Then paste them back to my main collection.

I don’t use the merge collection function because I’m terrified of messing up my main collection.

I’m aware that I can always switch back to my main collection but now it’s a few more mouseclicks. It’s not a drastic measure but in most cases it’s enough to hold me accountable until I finish it and switch back to my main collection.