Memorizing a Deck of Cards
I just memorized a deck of cards, because I was told doing so would improve my focus.
The process took 2 hours and 13 minutes, including breaks. I used 20-5 pomodoro at first, and switched to 25-5 in the middle.
I initially wrote a script to simulate a randomly shuffled deck. After memorizing the first 18 cards, I switched to a physical deck (putting the same cards on top).
I chose not to use any strategy from an outside source (e.g. memory palace), because I wanted to see what I would come up with on my own, and I thought that using an external strategy might make it too easy.
I began by memorizing cards in groups of four. After memorizing a group, I would go back to the previous group and see if I still knew all of the cards in both groups. Then I would go back an arbitrarily far amount (wherever I cut the deck), and begin from there. Occasionally, I would go back to the beginning and go through the deck up to the point I had memorized to. If I messed up in an earlier group, I would repeat the process for that group.
However, after three such groups (12 cards), it became clear that four was too many to memorize at once, so I switched to groups of three. I then ran into another problem-I could memorize individual groups fairly easily, but I would have trouble remembering the order in which the groups themselves came. I was able to solve this problem by “linking” the groups together—memorizing the last card of the previous group along with the next group.
A few attributes of groups made them easier to memorize:
two or more cards in the group share a face or suit
fortunately, this is true for most groups
the group is monotonically increasing or decreasing
two consecutive cards in the group numbers which are related to one another
one is a factor of the other (e.g. 3 and 9),
they are consecutive (e.g. 10 and jack)
The easiest group was 4 of spades, 7 of spades, 8 of spades—increasing and all of the same suit.
Some of my most common mistakes were:
mixing up suits of the same color
getting the order of the groups wrong
mixing up aces and queens
About three hours after my first success, I went through the deck again, with no practice in between. I only got three of the cards wrong, though I frequently had to think for a while.
Sometime into the task, I grew anxious that I was wasting my time, or that it wouldn’t help, or that I should be working on something else. There were times when I felt an urge to stop and do anything else. I often get such urges when doing other activities, but this time I was able to resist them. I think that this might be because there was also a clear next step in this task, and also because I knew that the point of the task was to train my focus.
Did this activity improve my focus? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. I was able to write this post, which isn’t something I would normally have the willpower to do, but that may have been me riding on the high of memorizing the deck (It felt so good when I finally memorized the whole thing). Maybe I’ll post an update next week.