Learning how to learn

Khoa Pham
Khoa Pham
Dec 1, 2018 · 5 min read
Source: Kindergarten

Most of us spend some good time trying to learn new things, but actually how many of us have ever stopped to think about the key principles behind the learning process? ~ Gianni

I recently take a course about Learning How To Learn, in which I learn about how the brain works, how to apply learning techniques and tricks to get along well with your brain, and to learn more effectively. Here are some take aways


Metaphor and analogy help simplifying matters

Focused vs diffuse mode

You’re either in the focused mode or the diffuse mode of thinking. It seems you can’t be in both thinking modes at the same time.

  • Focused: intense thinking, uninterruptedly
  • Diffuse: leave what you’re doing and relax. Here you can look at things broadly from a very different, big picture perspective

Have you ever had a problem that you couldn’t find a solution and then suddenly after a good night of sleep you woke up with a brilliant idea? That’s because sleeping is another moment when your brain naturally falls into the diffuse mode.

Thomas Edison knew the importance of the diffuse mode. When faced with a problem, Edison would sit and relax in his chair, holding ball bearings in his hand. He would then relax away letting his mind run free until fall as sleep. Once he felt as sleep, the ball bearings would drop and make him wake up with the noise. He would then get back to his work and take advantage from the ideas he got while in diffuse mode

Deal with procrastination

People tend to procrastinate, because our brains tend to turn away unease new things to something more pleasant and familiar

Use Pomodoro technique, set a timer of more than 25 minutes, uninterruptedly. Then promise to give yourself a reward

Practice Makes Permanent

When facing new and abstract concepts, like Monad :P it’s important to practice with ideas and concepts to help enhance and strengthen the neural connection your making during the learning process.

Checking if you have any holes in your understanding of the material is a good first step. Create a test checklist where you can go from each point and recall everything you learned. If there’s something that is not 100% clear yet, then you probably still need to spend time on it.

Prefer spaced repetition

If you want to move that information into your long term memory, it often takes time and practice.

Spaced repetition involves repeating what you’re trying to retain, but what you want to do is space this repetition out, daily, over a number of days


Plain being awake creates toxic products in your brain, and sleeping remove these toxic. Sleeping is also when you go into your diffuse mode.

Sleep has also been shown to make a remarkable difference in your ability to figure out difficult problems and to understand what you’re trying to learn.


Chunking is when you grasp and master various bits and pieces of the skills you need. You’re creating little neural mini chunks, that you can then gradually knit together into larger neural chunks

Forming initial chunk by going through examples, creating a road map of what you need to go through

  • Focus your undivided attention on the information you want to chunk
  • Understand the basic idea
  • See the connection between the basic elements
  • Practice and repetition


Recall instead of reread. After you’ve read the material, simply look away, and see what you can recall from the material you’ve just read

Concept mapping, drawing diagrams that show the relationship between the concepts would be the best.

Avoid illusion of competence

Merely glancing at a solution and thinking you truly know it yourself is one of the most common illusions of competence in learning.

Test it, recall it to see whether you actually grasp the idea.

By recalling and thinking about the material when you are in various physical environment, you become independent of the cues from any one given location

Avoid overlearning

Continuing to study or practice after you’ve mastered what you can in the session is called overlearning.

Deliberate practice by focusing on the more difficult material.

Each practice session should be focused on one individual skill. Usually, each skill built upon the one before it

Remember Einstellung, a phenomenon, in which an idea you already have in mind or a neural pattern you’ve already developed and strengthened, may prevent a better idea or solution from being found

Can you recall a situation where you kept trying the same thing over and over again, even though it wasn’t working at all !!

Meaningful groups

It’s much easier to remember numbers by associating them with memorable events

Create meaningful groups that simplify the material. It takes a bit of time to conjure up a solid mental image. But the more you do it, the quicker it becomes


It is hard to learn when you’re not into it. But if it’s something you’re really interested in, learning is easy

Taking responsibility for your own learning is one of the most important things you can do

The big picture

Structure your learning before you get started

Spend some time planning and identifying the key parts of your learning


Khoa Pham

Written by

Khoa Pham

My apps https://onmyway133.github.io/



Simple apps that make sense

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