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Ayu Adiati
Ayu Adiati

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

Learning To Learn [Efficient Learning]: The Science

Hello Fellow Codenewbies 👋

What is the latest research tell us about learning and how to use the knowledge to improve efficiency in learning?
Here comes The Science.

The 🗝 icon is the takeaway note of each part.

The Science

Focus vs. Diffuse Mode

This idea is popularized by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D., in her book, "Learning How To Learn".

Focus mode:
Activate the front part of our brain.
All of our energy is focused on one activity.

Diffuse mode:
Activate all parts of our brain.
When our brain is thinking about different relaxing things, such as daydreaming or sleeping.

🗝 How well we learn depends on how well we are going back and forth between focus and diffuse mode.

The key is to be in one mode at a time and not multitask.

The Science of Sleep

Being awake creates toxic products in our brains. And sleeping may flush out toxins.

🗝 According to Matthew Walker in his book "Why We Sleep", sleep sometimes allows us to come up with a solution to our problems.

Don't sleep too much, don't sleep too little.

Brain Training

Every time we learn something new, our brain creates a connection.
🗝 Our brain can create growing muscles, or on the opposite, it can deteriorate when we don't use them.

Neurons will be linked together through repeated use.
So when we learn, we need to train our brain through repeated practice.

If we don't use it, we're going to lose it.

The Science of Feedback

🗝 Feedback is needed in learning for us to know what we need to improve or how close we are to achieving our goals.

Positive feedback, such as praise, is good at the beginning of learning because it gives a good feeling and motivation.

But when we become more advanced in learning, negative feedback is proven to be more effective for our progress. Because criticism gives a more actionable result, such as an effort to fix mistakes, etc.


When we learn and find that the topic is too difficult or tedious, we tend to want to put off what we are doing and do something else that makes us feel good.

🗝 Procrastination is an issue of managing our emotions, not our time.

To beat procrastination, as weird as it sounds, we just have to take the initiative and start the task.

Long And Short Memory

Long-term memory is formed by practicing and repeating.
It's crucial in learning because it's where we put our fundamentals and principles.

Short-term memory (working memory) only works in the front part of our brain. We usually can only hold 4 chunks of information when working with short-term memory.

🗝 In learning, we want to move our working memory to long-term memory by repetition for several days.

Active vs. Passive Learning

Active learning involves action, such as taking notes, practicing, etc.
While passive learning is the opposite, such as listening to podcasts, watching tutorials, etc.

🗝 Active learning is very efficient in achieving our goals.

The Science of Motivation

  • Intrinsic motivation

    Comes from ourselves

  • External motivation

    Comes from outside, such as salary, gifts, etc.
    This is good at the beginning phase of learning or when we want to reward ourselves for doing something rather than procrastination.

Decreasing external motivation can low down intrinsic motivation.

🗝 Based on a book by Daniel Pink, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us", we can get intrinsic motivation through:

  • Autonomy

    To do something that we have control over.

  • Mastery

    Wanting to master something to be recognized for our skills.

  • Purpose

    How it benefits ourselves and others.


Robert Maurer, in his book "Kaizen", offers solutions to accomplish our goals.

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means "improvement."

🗝 The idea is to take small steps towards a goal. We eliminate the fear of failure and desire to stop what we do towards our goal by taking small steps.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
There is a way to set one using S.M.A.R.T. method. Our goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

It Pays To Not Be Busy

New neurons are born every day in the hippocampus, which is very important for learning.
We don't let our brain pause and produce these neurons by being busy.
Being healthy and making time for leisure is the key.

🗝 Take enough break time to let new neurons be produced.


Bottom-up learning means to learn from the bottom all the way to the top.
It is a method where we combine chunks, connect the dots between them, and create a mind-map.

Top-down learning is the opposite of bottom-up learning.
We start with the big picture and break things into small chunks to see how they are connected.

🗝 The idea is to combine bottom-up with top-down learning
and gradually builds chunks and learns how to connect them in our minds.

How To Solve Problems

Solving problems is the most demanding skill of all time.
When we have unique skills to solve problems, that is when we are valuable to others.

🗝 Ways to solve problems:

  1. Focus mode

    The easier way to solve a problem that requires focus.

  2. Diffuse mode

    Sometimes we need ideas and creativity to solve problems.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice comes when we are on the edge of our limit, feel the frustration, and try to push through. It requires focused attention, and it can help us maximize our potential.

🗝 According to Anders Ericsson, we need these factors to get us into deliberate practice:

  1. Specific goals
  2. Intense focus
  3. Immediate feedback

Spaced Repetition

🗝 The idea is the opposite of cramming.

Revisiting and repeating something we learn for a few days is essential to retaining knowledge.

Habits As Energy Savers

🗝 Habits save our brain's energy from having to think hard because we don't need to be too focused when performing a habitual task.

Making a habit to write down the next day's to-do list before sleep at night, for example, can help us fall asleep and not worry about what we have to do the next day.

Be Adventurous

🗝 Become adventurous, such as learning a new topic or taking a different path to the office, can actually grow our brains.

Monotony is bad.

Have An Endpoint

🗝 By giving an endpoint when to finish a task in advance, we are helping our brain to stay more focused.

Be Bored

🗝 Being bored is actually quite important because it allows the diffuse mode to happen.

Thank you for reading!
Last but not least, you can find me on Twitter. Let's connect! 😊

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