My One Trick to Minimize Procrastination in SuperMemo

2019-08-02 2020-02-28 2020-11-16

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

TL;DR: Alt + V --> O: Click the green icon to start reviewing only topics (articles).

Green Icon For Review Only

Everyone has this experience: that first step or initial momentum is always the hardest. Relying on willpower is not going to lead to consistent success and results. Sometimes the negative feelings are so overwhelming you’ll do anything except that one thing you should be doing. Yet once you get the ball rolling, sometimes you don’t even want to stop. It doesn’t just apply to studying but also all other areas, but I’ll focus only on studying with SuperMemo. So it’s worthwhile to ask:

How do I minimize the initial ball-rolling threshold (barrier of entry) in SuperMemo?

Review Debt

If you don’t always finish your outstanding queue or always postponing items, this review debt will pile up and they’ll show up very quickly the next day. One example might be that you use Ctrl+Shift+J - Later today, i.e. schedule the review of the element later today because you don’t know the answer at the moment yet don’t want to rate it 0, so you schedule it later today to try again. However, you end up never reviewing it that day. Then it’ll likely to show up the first thing when you fire up SuperMemo the next day. It’s frustrating to start your SuperMemo session by racking your brains to recall answers for items (particularly the hard ones).

Solution: Hooking Yourself with Your Favorite Content

It’s a lot easier to just read articles than actively recalling answers for items. If you start by reviewing articles, you’ve effectively lowered that mental agony of “I DON’T KNOW!” Failures don’t hit you right in the face the first moment when you fire up SuperMemo.

If I’m feeling particularly lazy, agitated, deep in the procrastination rut while knowing deep down that I should be studying, I just View --> Outstanding (shortcut Alt + V --> O) —> Click the green icon to start only reviewing topics (articles).

If I see something I don’t want to read, I just skip it until something could hold my attention. Usually the joy of learning (reading) will resurface quickly enough. Then I will exit this subset review (by pressing Esc a few times) and follow back the default outstanding queue.

So this trick is simply hooking yourself with passive review and easier content in order to stay in SuperMemo to get the ball rolling rather than quitting.


It’s without question that reviewing items should take priority over topics (articles). But “what should be” doesn’t always align with “what is” in reality. Simply, I should be exercising more but oh well. Reviewing articles is better than quitting SuperMemo altogether and going online checking social media. Speaking from experience, in most cases, after say, 20 or 30 minutes of reading, I’ll be in the “SuperMemo flow” enough to get back to the default outstanding queue. I see this as a means of gradually easing my way towards a SuperMemo flow session.