Introduction: Anki for College Students and Lifelong Learners

From here on out, what you’re gonna learn is a result of my praxis not just in Anki, but also in multiple disciplines — specifically, you’re gonna learn how you can apply the same principles that made Toyota one of the best manufacturers in the world, so you can:

  • Remember what you want from the books you read, lectures you listen to, or educational videos you watch by iteratively creating higher quality flashcards
  • Avoid procrastinating NOT by using willpower or motivation hacks, but rather by using persuasive design; and
  • Become more productive as an Anki learner by streamlining your workflow and eliminating “muda

But before that, let me start by saying what I’m going to show will NOT give instant results and may be hard to swallow.

They require mental heavy lifting not only to digest, but even to implement — so make sure you use Anki to remember the concepts I write here.

I’ll start with a bit of a background so you can understand what follows correctly and clearly.

That being said, if something in here seems confusing, you can always talk to me about it. 🙂

Of course, if you’re not one to apply what you’ve learned and you’re just one to skim pages rather than read intently, then the following lessons are not for you.

With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Just recently, I tried to make my approach to Anki a bit more explicit. So, I went back to the main principles that guided me to use Anki better.

After a couple of days reflecting, I realized there were only two principles — playing the Infinite Game (the best way to think about long-term thinking, in my opinion), and Lean thinking1.

I’ll talk more about Lean later, but if you’re not familiar with it, it is the major engine behind Toyota’s success as a manufacturing company, as well as the guiding light to many startup businesses in the world.

Coincidentally, aside from Lean production, playing the Infinite Game has allowed Toyota to continually improve as a manufacturer despite already being one of the best in the industry.

See how that works? Are you starting to see how powerful it is?

Image source: 1000 ventures

Unsurprisingly, the same principles responsible for Toyota’s success — Lean principles and playing the Infinite Game — also led me to my goal of achieving 99th percentile in the Engineering Board Exams in our country more than a year ago.

Now let me tell you something that literally changed my life…

When you adopt both modes of thinking, everything suddenly fits together!

Read that again — it’s pretty important.

You’ll realize won’t need to read a lot of “self-improvement books” or “read 52 books per year” like these productivity gurus on YouTube because you’ll gain a new lens at which you view the world.

More appropriately, a new thinking tool.

I want to share this to you because like I imply in the Start Here page, tips and hacks don’t serve your purpose very well.

Let’s talk about why.

The problem with “tips” and “hacks”

Back when I started my first blog, Improveism, I always focused on giving “tips” and “hacks” to get views. (In fact, you can see my older content in 2019 for that.)

While the information inside are actionable, they’re essentially useless because they don’t fit into a coherent system.

To demonstrate, let’s say you’re Mike and you wanted to solve a big (nagging) problem, like ‘not being productive enough’.

Let’s suppose you searched Google for a solution and hoped you’ll get a good answer.

You’ll get the following result:

As you can see in the first page of Google, it’s ALWAYS a bunch of lists with psychologically-designed headlines! Then, when you click on them, they’re always advice that you 1) can’t use in harmony, and 2) don’t even know when to use.

In other words, incoherent advice.

That’s not to say everything in Google in crap, but the majority sure is.

They only contain quick-fix techniques which are, of course, cookie-cutter.

They don’t give you tools for thinking.

In the short term, you can argue that sometimes techniques can work better. But that’s not the game we’re going to play here, so we’ll rule that out. We’re long-term thinkers and thus, won’t buy into that short-term, myopic crap.

Now then…

If you only relied on “tips” and “hacks” the entire time you’re using Anki, then what you’re going to learn may change the way you think forever — like what it did for me.

Enter the world of thinking tools — principles and mental models.

Specifically, Lean Thinking.


  1. Back then, I didn’t call them that way yet — it was “Pareto Principle” & “Time investing”. I thought every minute spent learning how to do the right things more efficiently gives back hours of my time in the future.