Another Fluent Forever learner had this great answer:
"Unfortunately, while the prefixes follow some patterns that you can pick up on as you go, they have way too many subtleties for there to be a big benefit to memorizing them individually. If you think about it, English is the same. The prefix “re” appears a lot, and students of English quickly learn that it often means “do something again”. This works great for words like “reread”, whose meaning is obvious. But what about “restore”? The logic is kind of there, but if you think about it as “store again”, then that’s a really lousy definition that misses the real meaning of the word.
We'd stick to the 2000 word frequency list and learn each verb with an example sentence (you should actually have one for the perfective and one for the imperfective, unless you already have verbal aspect mastered). There are many prefixed verbs there, and that will be a good introduction that will help you with more advanced prefixed vocabulary later on. If you’ve already done this and are obsessed with the prefixes, then you can go through some common words like “думать” or “брать” and start searching for prefixed (and reflexive!) versions like “обдумать” and “разобраться”. If you learn the meanings of these prefixed verbs well, then the Slavic roots will start to feel more intuitive to you, and you’ll be able to guess the meanings of new words when they have familiar stems and prefixes.
One big exception is verbs of motion. If you learn how ходить and идти work with most prefixes, you’ll find that the meanings transfer in a straightforward way to other verbs of motion. For example перейти, переехать, and перелететь all have the same idea of пере-, meaning “cross a street, cross an obstacle,” etc. So you can translate them as “cross by foot”, “cross by car (or other transport)”, and “fly across”. Still, we think the best approach here is to use lots of examples, and then you’ll come to see how the prefixes work in a natural way.
TLDR – if you try to use prefixes as a cheat code where you memorize each one and then decode other words, your Russian will be crappy. Learn many examples of prefixed words in context and all will be well. :)"
To add to that...
We have one other thing to add that’s suuuuuuuuuuuper helpful: prefix mnemonics!
Add mnemonics for every single prefix. You can base your mnemonics off of their ROUGH meanings so that you’re more likely to make meaning connections when they actually apply to a verb you’re using. Here’s what we mean:
(Prefix info from: https://therussianblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/russian-prefixes-derivational-morphology/ )
в(о) in; into вход “entrance” – вперёд “straight ahead” – въе́хать “to enter”
Mnemonic: Awl (goes into things)
вз/вс/воз/вос upwards; re- взгляд “glance” – взлета́ть “to take off” – возрожде́ние “rebirth” – воссозда́ть “to re-create”
Mnemonic: I might go for “egg” here, since that’s a common symbol for rebirth and it has a bird reference, which might fit well with ‘upward’
вы outwards вы́ход “exit” – выходно́й “day off” – вы́дохнуть “to exhale”
Mnemonic: Alien chestburster.
—– etc. —–
Make mnemonic flashcards for each of these, then when you make a MISTAKE on remembering a verb/prefixed noun in a particular sentence, incorporate the image into your memory of that sentence.
“Когда мы выходим?” – when are we leaving? [Pic of a door on your flashcard]
- Make Когда мы __? flashcard
- Review the flashcard
- If you don't remember the word, now picture yourself and a bunch of people trying to get out of the house, chased by someone who has an alien chestburster coming out of them.
- Review the flashcard again, and remember that image. Now you know your target word starts with вы.