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Learning how to learn

By breaking down a complex skill into individual components, you could design bespoke drills to rapidly improve your weaknesses.

Shamay Agaron
Shamay Agaron
. 1 min read

Scott Young is a well-known blogger in the space of learning, productivity, and habits. Ultralearning is the playbook for the aggressive, self-directed learning - bridging the science of learning with case studies of people who have accomplished incredible learning feats.

Scott argues that you should invest approximately 10% of your total expected learning time into research. It’s a mistake to rush into the process.

“Most people fail to do a thorough investigation of possible learning goals, methods, and resources. Instead they opt for whatever method of learning comes up naturally in their environment.”

Research also involves looking at how the knowledge in the subject is structured and anticipating the major learning bottlenecks ahead of time. This dramatically reduces the chance that you encounter a major roadblock and fall short of your learning goals.

Another unconventional idea of Scott’s is to be ruthless in improving your weakest points. By breaking down a complex skill into individual components, you could design bespoke drills to rapidly improve your weaknesses. He also delves into tactics for designing drills:

  • Time slicing. Isolate a slice of time of a longer sequence of actions and repeatedly practice just that.
  • The Copycat. In many creative skills, it’s impossible to practice one aspect without doing the rest. Use other’s work as a starting point, and copy the parts of the skill you don’t want to drill.
  • Prerequisite chaining. Start with a skill you don’t have all the prerequisites for. When you inevitably do poorly, drill the more foundational topic, and try again.

I also really like what Scott has to say about retrieval and feedback in his book. If you’re curious, check out this great summary of Ultralearning.

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