Learning difficult things quickly and efficiently is a skill. Yes, yes, we can learn to learn, and then learn any business – whether it be any language, statistical analysis, or the organization of parties – it will become easier.
Scott Young, the author of Ultralearning, has devised a plan that will help turn instruction into a project and complete it step by step. Choose a business that attracts you, but seems too complicated, and try this plan in action.
Step 1. Do your research
The first step in any project is a preliminary study. Do not immediately grab onto textbooks or start exercises. A preparatory study is like packing a suitcase for a long trip: properly packed luggage, you will avoid many troubles. Here is a checklist of the “necessary” things for training.
1. What topic are you going to study and how deep?
No, a training project can be started without figuring out what you want to know. If your goal is instrumental (starting a business, getting a promotion, doing research for an article), it is also important to understand the width and depth of immersion in the subject.
It is better to start with a narrow area, which can then be expanded. “To master Mandarin Chinese at a level sufficient for a fifteen-minute conversation on simple topics” is a much narrower task than “Learning Chinese,” which involves reading, writing, studying history, and much more.
2. What resources are you going to use?
Resources can be books, videos, courses, tutorials, guides, and even people who act as mentors, trainers, and colleagues. Decide what your starting point will be: “I’m going to read and complete the exercises in a Python programming book for beginners” or “I’m going to practice drawing by sketching.” Determine what you need and find, buy, rent, reserve tools before you start.
3. Find a suitable example
For any popular skill, there are online forums where masters share their techniques. Find out what others have done to master the skill you need. This does not mean that you need to exactly repeat their path, but this way you will not miss something important.
4. Practical activities
Think about where and how you can apply the acquired skill, and start this as soon as possible. If this is not possible in full, find options that involve the skill at least partially.
5. Additional materials and exercises
Think about what exercises and additional materials you can add to the main ones. For example, if you are learning a language with a tutor, you can watch movies or listen to songs in that language in your free time.
Step 2. Plan the time
It is not necessary to devote whole days and weeks to training – the project can be successful, even if it does not turn out to be hyper intensive. But it will certainly require some time expenses, therefore it is better to decide in advance how many hours you are ready to devote to training.
There are at least two good reasons to schedule ahead of time. First: you will prioritize training over other activities. Second: training is often disappointing, provoking a glimpse into Facebook or Netflix. If you don’t take a specific time for classes in advance, it will be more difficult for you to form a motivation.
When are you going to study? On Sundays? On workdays before work, setting an alarm an hour earlier? In the evening after work? During lunch breaks? Establish a permanent schedule, and do not rush “to study” as soon as you have free time. Of course, casual activities are better than nothing, but organizing them will require more self-discipline.
Determine the duration of your project. Give preference to short obligations: the project is one month less dependent on unexpected changes and weakening motivation than the annual one. If the goal is so grand that it obviously cannot be realized in a short time, break the project into several smaller ones.
Step 3. Complete the plan
It’s time to start implementing the plan. None of the invented options can be perfect, and the result of your efforts in any case will be far from the ideal established by the principles of super-training. It may seem to you that you forget what you have already learned or remember, not understanding what you read. Everything is fine. Having felt that the result is far from ideal, you can find and make the necessary changes to the plan.
These are the questions you need to ask yourself to determine whether you are moving away from the ideal.
1. Meta-training. Have I previously learned typical ways to learn this subject or learn a skill? Did successful students ask for an opinion? Did about 10% of the project’s time be spent on preliminary research?
2. Focus. Am I focused when I practice, or am I often distracted? Do I have to skip or postpone classes? When I start a lesson, how long does it take for me to work out? How long have I been able to maintain focus? How sharp is my attention? Should it be more concentrated for intensity or more defocused for creativity?
3. Focus. Am I building a skill the way I intend to use it ? How to transfer what is known to real life?
4. Exercises. Am I focused on the weakest points of my activity? What limits my speed and slows down progress? How to work out the most difficult skills?
5. Fastening. Do I have any way of self-testing, or do I just assume that I remember everything? Can I successfully explain what I learned yesterday, last week, a year ago?
6. Feedback. Do I get honest reviews about my work or try to avoid criticism? Do I know what I have mastered well and what not? Am I using feedback correctly?
7. Remembering. Do I have a way to remember what I learned in the long run? What do I do to keep information in my memory longer?
8. Intuition. Do I deeply understand what I am studying, or am I just learning? Can I teach the ideas and procedures that I study to someone else? Do I understand why what I am studying is true, or does it all seem random and unrelated?
9. Experimentation. Am I stomping in one place? Do I need to try new approaches to achieve the goal? How to go beyond mastering the basics, create a unique style of creative problem solving and do things that others have not explored before?
Step 4. Analyze the results
After the project is completed or during a pause, spend some time analyzing. What was right? Something went wrong? What should be done next time so as not to repeat the previous mistakes?
You should analyze both successful projects and those that did not live up to your expectations. The purpose of super-learning, like any self-education, is not only to study one subject but also to improve the overall learning process. Each project can be finalized to improve the next one.
Step 5. Support What You Learned
If you do not start using the skill or knowledge in practice, they are likely to be quickly lost. How are you going to apply this skill? Decide on this immediately after graduation and practice to consolidate and improve new knowledge.