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[Learning Notes] Learning to Learn: The Science

Now that we have our pillars erected, it is time to learn *The Science * behind efficient learning.

  • Focus vs Diffuse Mode These are the modes of thinking that our brains cycle through in our daily lives. Focus mode is when we are concentrating and diffuse mode is when we allow our brains to wander. A good analogy would be to compare the lights from a laserlight and a flashlight. When learning, the smart strategy is not choosing between focus or diffuse mode, but being able to move between these two modes efficiently.
  • The Science of Sleep There is no way around it: sleep is important. Everyone already knows that, but if you still do not acknowledge it, know that a new scientific study has positively shown that the body flushes out harmful toxins from the brain during sleep. That is, among other things that your body does for you during sleep, of course.
  • Brain Training The brain is quite literally like a muscle. It can grow and improve the more you use it, but it can also atrophy due to lack of exercise.
  • The Science of Feedback Feedback is an integral part of learning. Both positive and negative feedback can be good, but it has been found that positive feedback is better at the start, while negative feedback works better at higher levels. Immediate feedback, whether positive or negative, is best.
  • Procrastination The way to beat it is really to just get started. Not the best advice, but there are things that can help like improving your mood before getting to a task and making it as easy as possible to get started.
  • Short and Long-Term Memory When learning new things, you'll want to be able to put those things into your long-term memory. Two of the ways to do this are spaced repetition and association.
  • Active vs Passive Learning Passively consuming information is not the best way to learn things. It's easy, but it doesn't work. The best way to learn is still being involved. e.g. writing actual code instead of watching a whole bunch of tutorials. Also, recall is better than re-reading.
  • The Science of Motivation Intrinsic motivation (personal will, drive, etc.) vs External Motivation (rewards, etc.) The latter can be good at the start, but the former will push you beyond it.
  • Goals They are important in that they provide you with a roadmap in your path. However, they don't always have to be big. Starting small can take you a long way. For instance, you can start with saying that you would run for five minutes a day for five days.
  • It Pays to Not Be Busy Being busy might be taken as a "badge of honor" by some people, but it really isn't any good. If anything, it only shows a lack of time management skills. Taking a break is good, so always take time to pause.
  • Chunking Also called bottom-up learning or top-down learning. Learning the small bits and pieces, i.e. "chunks", is made more efficient when, at the same time, you know the bigger picture of what you are learning.
  • How to Solve Problems This goes back to the focus and diffuse modes of thinking. It is still important to use both when solving problems.
  • Deliberate Practice Specific Goals + Intense Focus + Immediate Feedback These three things are what constitute better practice. Always be at the edge of your limits, then break past them. This means that deliberate practice is not meant to be fun and is always at the point of struggle.
  • Spaced Repetition Repeating things every few days improves neural connections in your brain when it comes to those things. The repeats inform your brain that this is important, so the brain works to enhance those connections. Spacing them, so that you are at the point when you are about to forget things, further strengthens these connections.
  • Habits as Energy Savers Habits are like pre-loading things into the brain. When things are already pre-loaded, they become easier, thus saving energy and brain power, e.g. putting your workout clothes next to your bed at night, enables you to exercise more as they are already plainly visible when you wake up in the morning as opposed to having to pick them out from the closet every time.
  • Be Adventurous Monotony is bad. New, different, exciting things grow our brains better. Don't avoid new stuff.
  • Have an Endpoint Know your productivity hours and make sure to schedule and keep breaks and stop times.
  • Be Bored Being bored is just as important as being focused because this is when the brain is able to go into diffuse mode where our brains can think through things and strengthen neural connections.

The main idea is to remember that the brain is fluid. It can be changed and improved, so you better take advantage of it.

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