How to absorb information faster and retain for longer
The following is a compiled set of tools that I have gathered from various sources to help in the process of learning. You can
use it as a framework to tackle any learning assignment. There are a ton of material out there and I have included only the
ones that have helped me immensely.
Design a near-optimal environment that you're comfortable with.
- Try Airplane mode on phone.
- Try noise-cancelling headphones.
- Try ambient background music to help in concentration (noisli, brain.fm, freecodecamp's code-radio).
Design the study sessions along the lines of Deliberate practice.
- Find material which is not too easy, nor too hard but at a level that pushes you to exercise your brain without requiring advanced skills.
- Model your self-education around these principles. Diversify your resources.
- Focus on applications first when starting out, then learn the theory as and when needed. Example: If you're trying to learn Deep Learning, try building some models first and then learn the theory behind it, as taught in the excellent Fast.ai course. Another example: If you're trying to learn a second language, try speaking useful phrases before learning grammar.
- Learn by doing. Build things. Get actively involved in the process.
- Divide your study sessions into chunks of 25 minutes of focused work followed by 5 minutes of break. See Pomodoro method, Forest app.
- Take notes while you study. Type/write the words out in your note-taking app/notebook instead of copy-pasting or capturing images.
- Simultaneously create flashcards to use spaced-repetition. This website on learning quantum computing incorporated spaced-repetition into the learning material. You can use Anki for your personal notes. The app would take care of your repetitions.
- Try to incorporate visual mnemonics while learning. Nelson Dellis' excellent book and his youtube channel will get you covered.
- Most importantly, Pause and Ponder (a phrase taken from videos by Grant Sanderson). Think in analogies and reflect on the intuitive meaning to deepen the conceptual understanding.
- Review often. If you use Anki, this will be taken care of automatically. See this and this. If you don't use Anki or any spaced-repetition software, schedule your reviews in 1, 3, 7, 21, 45, ... days. This is what I used before moving to Anki. You can try your own schedules. See this and this.
- Recall trumps re-reading. When you're reviewing, try to recall the material instead of just reading/watching/listening it again. Familiarity gives us a false sense of knowledge. Test yourself while reviewing to help in retention. Barbara Oakley's book and course are amazing resources which delve deep into this concept and other study techniques.
- Use the Feynman technique for reinforcing what you learned:
- Pretend you are teaching it to a student.
- Identify gaps in your explanation; Go back to the source material, to better understand it. Also, see this.
- Try to apply what you've learned to concrete problems to help cement your concepts.
Have fun learning!!
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