Fighting Palace Fatigue with Interleaved Practice

This question comes a reader who's in nursing school. He's enjoyed using memory palaces to learn for school, but had a question about study strategies:

It takes a lot of effort and time to visualize every piece of material. Do you have any recommendations or suggestions that may have helped you go long periods of studying without depleting your energy and motivation?    

You might not need to work as hard at visualizing as you might think! Here's a post where we discuss how visualizations don't need to be crystal clear. You could also try spacing out your images over more loci to lower the burden of recall per locus.

If you're retracing your steps through each palace day after day, try creating a flashcard deck with questions that prompt you to access different palaces (e.g. cardiology palace, nephrology palace, pharmacology palace). We've found that hopping from palace to palace can keep things punchy and interesting. This is actually a known study technique called interleaving, where you shuffle together the review of information from many subjects. Interleaved practice is great for making sure you can do a quick mental jump to the relevant locus. Research has shown that training this way can improve learners' problem solving abilities.

Lastly, try the Pomodoro Technique (Alex discusses it at length here). The main idea is focused work for short periods, followed by short breaks. We use an app on our phone to help us implement the technique. We're planning to write a longer post about this later. Stay tuned!


For more on interleaving: Check out First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, the most popular USMLE Step 1 review book for medical students. Alex and I wrote a section for the book entitled "Learning Strategies," which overviews which learning strategies are supported by research (eg, interleaving, spaced repetition) and which aren’t (eg, rereading, highlighting).