Learning How to Learn
What is learning?
The brain operates in 2 modes: diffuse mode and focused mode. It is important to exploit both modes for efficient learning.
- When procrastinating, just start.
- When learning something new, take time to rest and come back to it. One effective method is to sleep right after learning something.
- Sleep and exercise are important.
Chunking is the act of grouping concepts into compact packages of information for easy access.
- Turn off distractions.
- Solve the problem yourself; avoid the illusion of competence.
- A chunk you have mastered in one area can often help you more easily learn other chunks of information.
- Learn the large-picture concept first, before diving into the details.
- Try to recall new material learnt, in different places.
- Test yourself.
- Don’t always trust your initial intuition.
- Interleave problems from different chapters. This helps connect different chunks of information.
Habit is an energy saver, it reduces the need for focus when performing tasks.
Getting rid of procrastination can be done by:
- Recognizing the trigger that launches you into a bad habitual routine.
- Actively focus on rewiring bad habits.
- Reward yourself for achieving step goals towards breaking the habits.
- Change the underlying belief that causes the bad habit.
- Visual memory is powerful. Images help encapsulate a hard to remember concept.
- Consider spaced repetition.
- Create meaningful structure to help remember.
- Numbers can be memorised by linking to events.
- Memory palace technique: use a familiar place, and associate visual images of things with physical places.
- Use metaphors and analogies to help memorise and understand different concepts
- Step back and check, to consolidate knowledge.
- Find focused people to analyse your work with.
- Don’t fool yourself.
- Did you make a serious effort to understand the text?
- Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution?
- Did you understand all your homework problem’s solutions?
- Take a quick look at the test.
- Start with the hardest problem, and look at it for a few minutes. Let the mind work on it while your work on other problems.
- Solve what you can, and move back to the hard problem.
Learning How to Do Hard Things
The key is to isolate one aspect of the problem that is difficult and work on it. This provides a direct feedback loop (David MacIver, 2019).
- Find something that is like the hard thing but is easy.
- Modify the easy thing so that it is like the hard thing in exactly one way that you find hard.
- Do the modified thing until it is no longer hard.
- If you get stuck, do one of the following:
- Go back to step 3 and pick a different way in which the problem is hard.
- Recursively apply the general system for learning to do hard things to the thing you’re stuck on.
- Go ask an expert or a rubber duck for advice.
- If you’re still stuck after trying the first three, it’s possible that you may have hit some sort of natural difficulty limit and may not be able to make progress.
- If the original hard thing is now easy, you’re done. If not, go back to step 2.
MacIver, D. R. (2019). How to do hard things. Retrieved from https://www.drmaciver.com/2019/05/how-to-do-hard-things/. Online; accessed 20 May 2019. ↩