Management and Learning tips

Vrezh Oganisyan

Vrezh Oganisyan / May 11, 2020

8 min read––– views

Inspired by the Coursera course "Learning How to Learn" by Dr. Terrence Sejnowski and Dr. Barbara Oakley. Note, I’m not a scientist and all information below based on the researches mentioned in the course.


Table of contents

Part 1. How to cope with procrastination

Procrastination is the process when your brain tries to change the focus from the tasks that increase your anxiety. You should know that a lot of tasks at first make you feel bad and that’s okay, you should be okay with that and keep in mind that this sneaky feeling will go away as soon as you will make your first steps. To fight those feelings try to use tips below:

  • Divide and Conquer

    • Divide big tasks into small chunks (in the best case a lot of 30 minutes achievable tasks
  • Pomodoro technique

    • The technique is based on dividing your work into 25-30 minutes intervals when you’re concentrating on one thing

    • That’s why in the previous section I recommend dividing big tasks into small chunks. In the best-case scenario, you can use each timer for a sub-task that you’ve created in the previous step.

  • Reward

    • Use rewards after each complete Pomodoro. It’ll make you more comfortable with achieving tasks.

    • Keep a planner journal The journal will help you to track your progress. Note that writing down your work completion time is very important. It’ll help you to avoid overworking and burnout

    • Try not to fill your journal with a lot of tasks (4-7 is best) cause it may increase your anxiety level

    • Try to start each day with a hard task. Even if you procrastinate the remained task, at the end of the day it’ll make you feel better that at least you’ve done something

Part 2. Chunking

Chunking is the process of uniting bits of information through meaning. You can’t remember tons of information without understanding and creating a big picture that’s why you need to understand how to form chunks. Use tips below to improve your ability to create and maintain chunks.

  • Importance of context
    • You should understand the context in which the content you’re trying to “chunk” is going to be used. Use the top-down process (mentioned below) to make sure you buy into context.
  • Spaced repetition
    • You need to repeat the information that you need to “chunk” regularly to keep neural connections tight (see Chapter 3 for more information)
  • The bottom-up process
    • Is the process when repetition and practice can help you build strong chunks
  • The top-down process
    • Is the process of seeing the bigger picture to better understand the context in which the “chunk” is going to be used. For example, you can look through the whole book, explore chapters and images to better understand.

2.1. Illusion of competence

Sometimes when you’ve just read the material or watch the lesson and the material is in your working memory (see Chapter 3), you might be in a state called “illusion of competence”. It’s the state of mind when one might think that he mastered the topic. At the same time, you should understand that knowing and doing are different things. To avoid such a bias, use tips below:

  • Try to use the knowledge you’ve just learned by doing
  • Recall
    • The process when you’re trying to regenerate the material that you’ve consumed right before. (For example, try to close the book and recall everything you’ve just learned)
    • Retelling information and content to yourself or someone else might help you to be fluent in the topic and understand what parts you miss.
    • Mini-tests might help you to understand (Coursera’s tests after chapters do help to understand the material better and get back if you missed something)
    • Avoid highlighting a lot of content
      • Highlighting might give you the wrong assumption that you’ve worked with the material and mastered it. Try not to take a fancy to highlight (one for a chapter is enough), instead use recall techniques

2.2 Seeing the bigger picture

As I’ve mentioned in the ‘Top-down’ process, seeing a bigger picture of the material might help you to form a better understanding and create strong “chunks”. At the same time, you should be aware that there’s some biases that might disturb you.

The first bias that might disturb your learning process is the Einstellung effect. It describes the bias when the first idea on “how to solve a problem” might block other ones (even if they’re better than the first one).

Another bias is Overlearning. It refers to a state when some is practicing newly acquired skills more than it needs. It might lead to a state when you are focusing just on one point of view related to the topic.

If you want to really master the topic and avoid biases mentioned above, Interleaving technique might help you. It’s the process of jumping back and forth between different problems and situations. It gives your brain time to analyze the issue and come up with a better solution. A good sleep or walk might also help you to overcome overlearning and Einstellung effects.

Part 3. Explore memory: long and short term

Let’s review long and short term memories and understand the differences between them. First, we need to understand that memory is the faculty of the brain responsible for storing and retrieving information. They’re highlighting two kinds of memory: long and short term memories. The difference between them is in the capacity and duration. Some studies show that in the short term memory we might store from 4 to 7 chunks of information and they have time limits and if we aren’t careful of repeating and practicing them, they are going away. Meanwhile, the long term memory capacity theoretically is infinite.

If you’re interested in improving your memory and ability to memorize information, consider using following tips:

  • Spaced Repetitions
    • Is the technique of repeating information or practicing the skill regularly with some skipped intervals
  • Memory palace technique
    • The technique is based on the knowledge that (evolutionarily) we’re remembering places extremely good. So we can use this knowledge and connect the information we want to memorize in the context of places we know

Part 4. The importance of rest and mindfulness

Sometimes the only thing we’re concerned about is productivity and self-improvement. And if one continues thinking only about work or learning, it might lead to the point when some will have no fuel left to continue being productive or even worse it might lead to burnout. If you want to prevent yourself from being in a state when you can no longer work without the help of other people, you might consider the following tips.

  • Work-life balance
    • One should know that setting boundaries between work/study and life can really help you to achieve harmony and have a healthy state of mind. Try to set borders between working and resting hours. Elsewhere you might be in a situation when you have troubles in both areas.
  • Leisure time
    • Try to set a time when you’re done with the work and dedicate remaining hours on leisure. Sometimes you can even have a list of things you want to do (e.g. watching tv shows, reading fiction, etc.)
  • Physical activity
    • Studies show that some intervals of physical activity might improve your learning skills and help you to better solve problems.
    • At the same time, such physical activities as running, walking, and even lifting heavy weights will improve your health and give you more energy to face daily routines and problems
  • Mindfulness practices
    • Studies show that mindfulness practices are tightly coupled with switching on your brain’s default mode network which helps your brain to better process information that you consumed during the day.
    • Consider meditation, repeating mantras or even physical activities mentioned above as a way to practice mindfulness
  • Sleep
    • I guess I shouldn’t write that sleep is the most important part of rest and processing information, so I’m not going to tell you tales about profits of getting good sleep, I just want to ask you to get enough.

Thanks for your time and attention.

🎗 Support Author