I have just finished a very successful study day. Therefore, I would like to pause for a second and reflect on the factors that might have had an impact on the study session today going as well as it has.
The last times of studying I had struggled to make progress, had procrastinated for long periods of time and had resorted to simply get whatever exercise was in front of me done instead of understanding what I was doing. Today, I tried to approach learning with a renewed mindset. Here are some of the factors that could have had a positive impact. I am trying to incorporate them into my study sessions more intensely in the future to see if the improvements persist. Also, I am providing links for further insights on where I might have picked up those ideas.
- I had a restful night.
This is a no-brainer. In the night before waking up, I have had what probably is critical to good sleep (also discussed here): I had more than 7.5 hours of sleep, the room was completely dark, I had no electronics in the room besides an e-reader that is not connected to the Internet and I had the window open to let some fresh air into the room.
- I have mostly left electronic devices turned off.
This goes along the lines of deep work, as explained in this TEDx-talk and further discussed in this book.
- I have focused on the learning goals themselves (i.e. concepts etc.) opposed to other metrics (hours studied).
This can be loosely traced back to Tim Ferriss’ advice in his podcast with Terry Laughlin.
- I have approached the problems at hand with a genuine curiosity and inner urge to understand the concept.
To focus on the inner curiosity is emphasized in Andy Puddicombe’s training in meditiation headspace. Also, this approach is mentioned by Terry Laughlin in the above mentioned podcast on carrying through a progress plateau.
- I have simplified problems and rephrased them with my own words for as long as I needed to understand the concept. I have focused on weak spots that I couldn’t understand and observed where I was making mistakes.
This approach is based on the Feynman technique as explained in this video.
On top of the points mentioned above, there are two more concepts I would like to point out:
- Letting concepts settle down and actively and passively making connections.
Actively making connections is one of the main ingredients to how Scott Young finished MIT’s computer science curriculum in less than one year. Passively letting your brain take his time making connections through sleep and sports is discussed in Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski’s Coursera course “Learning how to learn“, which is also discussed in this blog post.
- Getting immediate feedback.
Increasing the exposure to immediate feedback is crucial to learning, as also pointed out in the Scott Young’s strategies mentioned above.