If you’ve been following my writing for any length of time, you know I write about learning…a lot. I’ve written hundreds of essays, done in-depth personal projects and reviewed countless research-based books on how learning works.
One part that can be missing from simply following my regular writing is how it all fits together. For instance, perhaps you’re convinced now that retrieval practice works better than review. But how should you actually implement this over the duration of a semester-long course? How should you apply it to learning languages, programming or investing?
Developing a learning system, and not just a collection of tips is essential for a few reasons:
- The advice interacts. Retrieval practice is better than review. But guessing your way through problems is less effective than studying the solution. Variable practice leads to better transfer, but not always in the beginning. Advice can’t be considered in isolation, but as part of a broader goal.
- Practical nitty-gritty often trumps big principles. Deciding to use flashcards to learn words in French is good. But exactly how should you do it? What makes a good flashcard? What makes a bad one? Getting the details wrong can override any noble intentions to learn better.
- You need to sustain your motivation toward big goals. A lot of learning tips are on the small end — how to remember facts, understand concepts or practice procedures. But ultimately, we don’t care about facts or concepts. We care about things like getting a better job, acing a difficult exam or launching a new business. Being able to see the big picture is essential.
Join Me in Building a Learning System
On Monday, I’m going to reopen my six-week course, Rapid Learner, for a new session. Unlike my essays (or even my book), this course represents a guided, hands-on experience for developing not just a collection of learning tips, but a learning system. Throughout the course we’ll cover:
- How to design a learning project — converting big goals into concrete actions.
- Developing a productivity system — so you actually get the studying done as you plan, instead of just thinking about it.