I am doing a 5-course specialization on Coursera and I finished almost 6 weeks’ worth of material in 3-4 days. Impressive, no?
Actually, not – in fact, I am regretting it.
Initially, I was jotting down the key points and recapping as I learned. But I was in such a rush to finish off these 5 courses that I soon started binge-watching the videos passively, like a Netflix series.
And now, I don’t remember all that much – I will now have to go through some of the videos again. What I did is dumb and violates my own advice – please don’t do that.
And on that note, let me share six specific ideas on how to make your learning effective:
- Take notes using active recall: When we passively read a book or watch a video lesson, we don’t retain much. Therefore, stop every 5-10 minutes and jot down the key points from the material you just learned. And on that note, let me share six specific ideas on how to make your learning effective:
In essence, you are forcing your brain to actively recall the material it just learned, solidifying your understanding and memory. When you try doing this, you will often find that you are not clear at all about what you learned. In that case, revisit the learning material and repeat this process.
But won’t this slow you down? Not really – you will avoid multiple rounds of revision and save a lot of time.
- Feynman technique: Imagine that you are teaching the material to someone who has no idea about the subject, maybe a 6th-grade kid. Teach what you just learned in simple language. If you find yourself fumbling, your understanding of the material is not good enough – revisit the material, learn again, and retry.
Combined with the active recall technique, this will make your understanding truly bulletproof.
How often should you do this? Maybe every hour or two, after you have consumed a decent chunk of material.
- Create curiosity: One reason we absorb so little is that our mind is not curious about the learning material – it is not seeking anything. To change that, our minds should be seeking answers to some questions.
If you are reading a book and there are end-of-chapter questions, go through them first and ponder over what the answer might be – it will make you much more curious.
Also, you can read the topic heading and think about what the upcoming section or video might be about.
- Spacing: Instead of doing one long learning session, do multiple short sessions (say an hour long each). Every time you start a new session, it will force you to recap what you learned last time. Also, your mind won’t become dull and non-receptive.
Furthermore, don’t do one long marathon – do smaller focus sprints. We do that as part of our Deep Work and Flow bootcamp, and it really works.
- Interleaving: Mix subjects instead of just learning one subject for a very long time.
- Get the structure before diving in: Before you read a new chapter, just skim through all the topic headings and get a sense of the overall structure of the chapter – create a kind of mental map.
When you have an overall idea of what each chapter will cover, you will easily slot in the material and understand much better
Of all these ideas, if you can ONLY pick one – pick the first one.
That’s it for today.
None of the ideas I shared are revolutionary, and probably they are already familiar – but the key is to translate them into action. Let us do that.
Thank you for reading this. I truly value your readership.