Effective Learning

Making good links

The connections between events are just as important as the events themselves. It's these links that let us thread events together into a narrative, which our minds are better at remembering.

Two reasonable examples

You may have heard of Galileo Galilei, who dropped balls of different mass from the Tower of Pisa, exploring gravity.

I have that memory of him firmly in my mind - partly because I thought of it while visiting Pisa, while looking at the tower, and while looking at his telescope.

I know he studied physics, and eventually learned that he died in 1642.

Another giant of physics, is Isaac Newton, and I learned he was born in 1643, the year after.

That link is somehow enough for my brain, and all I need in order to remember both dates. It involves:

  • One event happening one year after another
  • Recognising that they're both about a similar "thing" in a sense - physicists
  • Having a personal connection to Pisa, and so to one of the events

For me, that was enough for me to create a useful connection. When I think of one (the death of Galileo, or the birth of Newton), I think of the other.

The link, which I created in TimeToTime.app, just reads:
Galileo Galilei [Death] one year before Isaac Newton [Born]

As another, simpler example, consider Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I had read that she started writing the story when she was 18. The story was published in 1818. While the link I created doesn't connect two events, it firmly establishes the date for me:
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley [published] in 1818 and written when she was 18

A bad example

Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519. Fran Hals died in 1591. I have seen paintings by both artists, and so I created a link in TimeToTime.app between each, which read:
Fran Hals [Birth]'s date transposes the last two digits of Leonardo da Vinci [Died]

It seemed like a good idea at the time. 1519 => 1591 => 1519

However, it didn't help me. I'm sure there are some people who will find that useful, but in my brain, nothing.

Even though the link is between two artists, and I've got a personal connection, the juggling of years didn't help me.

I eventually fixed this by deleting the link, and creating new ones - totally breaking the connection between Frans and Leonardo.


  • Linking two events is often deeply personal: what works for you may not work for someone else.
  • Make a link that's meaningful. The meaning could relate to the dates of the events, or to the people or other aspects of the events.
  • Look for patterns in the links that work for you.
  • When introducing a date for the first time, or when you have difficulty remembering a date, start adding or tweaking your links.
  • Do revise your Evening Summary, and when you do so, revise the links between the dates that you saw that day as well.
It takes time