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Learning How to Learn by Barbara Oakley

  • Link to course
  • Pomodoro can fight procrastination and aids in learning, learn in intense focused mode (prefrontal cortex) and then give yourself break so you go into diffuse mode.
  • Diffuse mode: helpful for learning new things, go for walk, take shower or nap
  • Working memory, “inefficient mental blackboard”, can only hold four slots of information, need to constantly repeat things to keep it here, may even close your eyes to avoid other things taking slots up
  • Long term memory, “storage warehouse”, billions of items
  • Spaced repetition, repeating things over number of days, works to move things into long term memory much better than cramming
  • Learn by doing and through experts
  • Exercise increases neuron creation and survival rate
  • Success is staying the course
  • Leadership is ability to disguise panic
  • Creative achievers, openness and negative correlation with agreeableness
  • Zoom by powers of 10 both in and out to get different perspectives
  • Mind mapping for writing inspiration, don’t edit while you write!
  • A “chunk” is a network of neurons that are used to firing together, focus, practice (especially of hard parts), and repetition help to create them
  • Worked out solutions are similar to listening to song before learning to play on guitar, it helps you pick out key features of problem and work out why different steps were taken
  • Creating chunks
    1. Focus, need all slots of working memory aka octopus tentacles
    2. Understand basic idea, “closing the book” and attempting to DIY can speed learning in this stage
    3. Practice to gain big picture context so you know when and how to use and not use new chunk, skim to get big picture
  • Recall and test yourself, especially in different environments, is better than rereading material, write on piece of paper as if you’re explaining it to someone else
  • Important: find metaphors for abstract thoughts (i.e. gravitational potential for voltage, pretend YOU are the concept you’re trying to learn)
  • Gets more interesting and you gain motivation the more you know
  • Deliberately focus on what you find difficult
  • Interleave problems in one session, know why certain technique is used and then when to use it
  • Habits
    1. Cue (time, location, how you feel, or reactions to others or something that happened)
    2. Routine (zombie mode, only use willpower here to control reaction to cue, come up with plan, may need to start with Pomodoro until you’re better at task and it becomes more fun)
    3. Reward (delay until after task completed)
    4. Belief
  • Focus on process over product
  • Plan your to-dos the night before so your sub-conscience can think through them
  • “Eat your frog in the morning”, do one Pomodoro of your least favorite task right away
  • When building images to remember something, try to evoke other senses as well, hear and feel the wind, smell the mule
  • To move from working memory to long-term, must be memorable and repeated sporadically over multiple days, Memrise can help and writing things down on notecards helps more, say things aloud, practice again before sleep
  • Create sentence with first letter of each word corresponding to what you’re trying to remember (like with medical terms), create memory palace for unrelated items
  • Brain health: Diet, exercise, keep brain active (learn new skill/memorize), social
  • Explaining to someone else is a great way to learn
  • For writing: think about your readers, what are they going to picture in their heads when they read this?
  • Read hard questions, then jump to easy on tests so your brain has time to process it in diffuse mode

Rocky Warren's blog. Principal Architect, Tech Lead, Product Manager. I do other stuff too.

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