Using Todoist as a Scripture Memory Tool

Last time I posted about the many ways Todoist has changed me. One of those ways was by helping me build a Scripture memory system that actually works for me. Though Todoist is not set up with Scripture memory in mind, with a little creative experimentation, it is most certainly up to the task (pun intended).

Here is how I did it:

(1) I created a list of 28 verses

Under my project “personal” and sub-project “spiritual,” I created a sub-sub project called “Scripture memory.” Under this heading, I created 28 separate tasks, one per verse, per each day of the month.

Thanks to February, going over 28 poses the risk of throwing the schedule off. If you add a verse and set it for “every month starting Jan 31,” it is obviously not going to show up on February 31, since that day does not exist! Though people smarter than me could probably figure out how to work around this, it makes sense to just keep the list at 28.

By the way, if you need helping finding memory verses to use, look here. Plenty of other sites provide similar lists in various translations.

Since there are only 28 verses in the list, at the end of every other month besides February, I get a break from memorization until the new month begins.

Here is what the list looks like:

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 8.55.24 AM

Per Challies’ advice, I start all of my tasks with a verb, so each of these tasks begin with “MEMORIZE” followed by a number. These numbers correspond to the day of the month. So I assigned “MEMORIZE 1” to repeat on every first day of each month by typing, “monthly 8:05am starting Jan 1” (or whatever the upcoming month happens to be).

All of my memory verses are set for 8:05am so they appear close to the top of the list each day and so they stay together with other devotional activities (I only assign spiritually related tasks to 8:05am).

I also added a yellow priority to each verse. This also pushes them to the top of the list and catches my eye each morning.

As far using labels, I strongly suggest adding one or more. I use “spiritual,” and have set a filter called “Spiritual Today” which collects together all the spiritual disciplines I hope to accomplish on a particular day. The label makes this filter possible, as you can see:

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 9.01.38 AM

What about longer passages? If you have Todoist Premium (also required for filters), you can add a note to a task which allows you to copy longer texts there. This avoids having too many words on your daily list. I actually didn’t like doing this, however, because it requires the extra step of clicking in order to see the passage. Even if it’s longer, I like seeing that biblical text staring at me each morning, almost as if it is asking, “What are you going to do with me?”

Once this first list is created, you are in business! Each morning you will get your verse.

What do I do with the verse each morning? Typically, I read it several times slowly (trying to focus on sentences, phrases, cadence, etc.). Then I will look away and try to say it. When I fail I look back and re-read, then try to say it again without looking at it. I do this until I can say it with confidence.



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Jonathan Edwards
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Next, I bring out Open Office and try to type it. Of course, you can do this in any word processor, or Evernote, or anywhere. The point is, I type it out and then check my work. Then I re-type it several times until I build confidence (I focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, getting the reference right, everything).

Next—and this is key—I go back to the verse and think about its meaning. Prayer almost always erupts spontaneously here! At this point, I’m not thinking about punctuation, grammar, and all of that, but of what God is actually telling me in that moment through his word. This is what Scripture memory is all about! If you aren’t encountering God as you memorize his word, then why memorize it at all?

Each verse gets this type treatment once per month. After several months, the entire list of 28 verses starts flowing through the spiritual veins, popping to mind constantly.

(2) I created a second list of 28 more verses

By adding a second list, the total number of verses I’m working on now is 56. You can add as many lists as you’d like. Likewise, you can retire a list if you feel you’ve worked it into your soul sufficiently.

The verses in List 2 are set up a bit differently. The first task, for example, begins with “MEMORIZE 2.1.” This means List 2, first verse (which is set for the first day of each month).

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 9.15.09 AM

By putting the “2” before the verse number, I know each day which verse is from List 1 and which is from List 2, since in the filter view these are not distinguished. As far as date, time, labels, and yellow priority, these are all the same as List 1.

The result: Each morning, I have two memory verses staring me down (see the 2nd screen shot above—Romans 10:9-10 and Mark 11:17)! I work on both of these verses as I described above. Over the course of a month, I work all 56 verses, and the next month, repeat.

By the way, you do not have to add the entire 28 verses at the beginning when you start a new list. Maybe you are reading the Bible and a verse hits you that you want to memorize. Just start a new list with one task. Maybe a week later, another verse hits you. Add it to the list. Over time, the list will be populated.

(3) I created a task to review verses in the evenings

One day it dawned on me that it might help solidify the verses in my mind if I had a chance to look at them one more time before bed. So I created this task (highlighted):

Highlighted

But there was a problem with this idea. I had already checked the verses off my list when I worked through them that morning. After checking them off, Todoist automatically moves them ahead to the following month. So how I could review them quickly without having to fish around for them?

One solution was to search for the label + whatever day of the month it is + the next month. So if today is March 8, I type “@spiritual Apr8.” Boom! There they are.

But to streamline this process, I created a filter called “Spiritual: Bible Memory Review (Don’t check off!!)” using this query “@spiritual & one month from today.” Now all I need to do is click that filter and there are my verses for the day.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 9.46.11 AM

The reason I made the note to myself not to check these off is obvious. If I do they will be moved to the next month and the cycle will get knocked out of whack.

In this evening review, I don’t work the verses like I do in the mornings. I simply read them a couple of times and say them out loud without looking. This brief little exercise has a way spurring evening prayers and planting what has been memorized even deeper in my mind right before heading off to sleep.

(4) I created monthly reviews for the whole lists

As good as this system works, it has the flaw of only focusing on each verse once per month (or twice if you count the evening reviews). Though this is sufficient to get each passage well-rooted in the mind over time, I decided to come up with a way of seeing each verse at least one more time per month. This is where the monthly review comes in.

I created a separate task for each list:

Reviews Screenshot

The task for List 1 is set to repeat every first Thursday of each month. The task for List 2 is set to repeat every third Thursday of each month. When these tasks roll around, I go over to my projects, and click on the list. Then, I read through all 28 verses nice and slow. (Actually now I have the verses set up on Keynote slideshows that allow me to focus on each verse individually. But just reading down the lists works too).

This is simply one more way of making sure my mind is receiving ongoing exposure to the verses.

I don’t put a lot of work in here, but rather just read. Since there are 28 verses, it would take too long to really focus on each one. Remember, the real work comes each morning when each verse receives a lot of special focus. This step is a solidification and review step.

(5) I created bi-monthly tests

How can I determine if all of this is really resulting in me retaining God’s word? The best way is with a test. Hey, it works in school! In my view, this step is critical, because it adds an element of competition (can I score better than I did last time), which can be strong motivation.

I administer the test for each list to myself on a bi-monthly basis. So I take one test per month. When more lists are added, this pattern will need to be adjusted.

Here are the tasks I’ve created to remind me to take the tests:

Tests

And here is a portion of one of the tests (which I have stored in Evernote):

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.16.33 AM

Simple enough. After I finish the test, I grade myself ruthlessly against the verse list in Todoist, taking off points for grammar, punctuation, missing words, wrong words, etc. Here is my basic grading method:

Grading: Each verse is worth a total of 4 points. Every error (commas, misplaced words, spelling, etc) is a deduction of .5 points up to 4 points. This means there can be up to 8 errors per verse.

This method is strict and requires near perfection. But that is exactly what I want. When I quote these verses out loud (in conversation or a sermon or wherever), I want to say them exactly as they are printed in the good ole ESV!

Finally, I record my grades in Evernote (at the bottom of the test pages) in order to track my progress.

CONCLUSION

Well, that’s it in a nutshell. I hope this information helps you use Todoist as a powerful Scripture memory tool. Likely, you can come up with your own system that works better than this one! One of the best things about Todoist is how it can adapt to your style and desires.

I want to finish by reminding readers that whatever system you use to memorize Scripture, it’s truly a nitty-gritty process, and there really is no tool that will make it easy. It’s just not easy! Sinful as we are, we virtually have to beat God’s word into our brains!

A system can help, but without the desire to draw near to God by having his word deeply implanted into your heart, Scripture memory will not happen. Desire and hunger for God is much more important than any system.

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.