How To Learn Skills Faster & Retain More of What You’ve Learned | Scott Young on The Reader’s Journey

Check out The Reader’s Journey Episode Page & Show Notes

Key Takeaways

  •  One of the best ways to learn a skill is to practice it as close to the real thing:
    • Instead of practicing language vocabulary on an app like Duolingo or creating flashcards, hire someone from italki.com you can have conversations with
  • The paradox of learning is that sometimes the learning techniques that make us feel worse can be the most effective ones
    • “The techniques that we use that make us feel worse, that make us feel like we don’t know anything, are often the things we avoid and yet they’re the very things that we need to do to learn” – Scott Young
  • One of the best ways to learn is to test yourself even if you don’t feel prepared:
    • “It doesn’t matter whether you’re ready or not, doing the test is going to help you learn better than reviewing your notes again”Scott Young
      • It may feel counterintuitive, but it works
  • Apply spaced-repetition to your learning:
    • You’re going to have better long-term memory if you expose yourself to information over a period of time than you would if you expose yourself in a short-burst (like a cramming session)
  • To remember more of what you’ve read, try to recall what you learned in your last reading session or practice recall after finishing a book chapter 
  • It also helps to write essays about the books you’ve read
    • “In me writing this essay I have to practice recall, I have to synthesize, I have to make sure I understand the ideas, and so writing is often a very good tool” – Scott Young

Intro

Books Mentioned

What Is Ultralearning?

  • Ultralearning is a term coined by Scott to describe people who take on ambitious, aggressive, and self-directed learning projects
    • Examples: Scott passed 4 years of MIT classes in 12 months
  • Why is ultralearning an important skill to have?
    • The world is changing faster than ever and those who know how to learn quickly will thrive
      • “We live in a world that is constantly changing, demanding more and more of us and often demanding stuff from us that we don’t learn in school or we didn’t learn in school” – Scott Young
  • To do an ultralearning project:
    • Have an end goal in mind (learn a new language, code an app, etc.)
    • Schedule time throughout the week to work on it
    • Reduce friction by starting small
    • Use the Pomodoro technique (work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break)

Direct Learning > Indirect Learning

  • The skills you learn tend to be more precise and narrow then we think and don’t always transfer over
    • E.g: Lifting weights will help you carry more groceries but carrying groceries won’t exactly help you lift more weights
  • One of the best ways to learn a skill is to practice it as close to the real thing:
    • Instead of practicing language vocabulary on an app like Duolingo or creating flashcards, hire someone from italki.com that you can have conversations with

How To Learn Better & Remember More

  • In one study, students were split into three study groups:
    • Repeated review: Rereading the text
    • Concept mapping: Writing the main idea and connecting it with subideas
    • Free recall: Write down everything you can remember about the text without looking at it 
      • The results?
        • The repeated review students believed they would do the best on the test but ended up doing the worst, while the free recall students believed they would do the worst on the test but ended up doing the best
          • “Doing this free recall is much, much more effective than rereading your notes for studying” – Scott Young
  • The paradox of learning is that sometimes the learning techniques that make us feel worse can be the most effective ones
    • “The techniques that we use that make us feel worse, that make us feel like we don’t know anything, are often the things we avoid and yet they’re the very things that we need to do to learn” – Scott Young
  • One of the best ways to learn is to test yourself even if you don’t feel prepared:
    • “It doesn’t matter whether you’re ready or not, doing the test is going to help you learn better than reviewing your notes again”Scott Young
      • It may feel counterintuitive, but it works
  • Apply spaced-repetition to your learning:
    • You’re going to have better long-term memory if you expose yourself to information over a period of time than you would if you expose yourself in a short-burst (like a cramming session)
  • “If you understand how learning works, you understand spacing’s better than cramming, that retrieval’s better than review, that direct practice is better than indirect practice, I think you’ll be much better equipped to handle a lot of those problems” – Scott Young

How To Remember More From The Books You Read

  • To remember more of what you’ve read, try to recall what you learned in your last reading session or practice recall after finishing a book chapter 
  • It also helps to write essays about the books you’ve read
    • “In me writing this essay I have to practice recall, I have to synthesize, I have to make sure I understand the ideas, and so writing is often a very good tool” – Scott Young
      • You don’t have to write entire essays about the books you’ve read, writing an Amazon or Goodreads review about a book are also good ways to practice recall and improve your understanding of the text 
  • If you’re reading for fun or don’t have much time to read, it’s okay to not applying learning techniques 
    • But in general, the more valuable information a book contains, the more time you should spend using learning techniques like a free recall to remember what you’ve learned

Advice For Your Ultralearning Projects

  • Before embarking on your ultralearning project spend time planning what you want to learn, how many hours you’ll dedicate to it, what techniques you’ll use, etc.
    • “If you take the planning process seriously and actually structure your project and allocate time and figure out what methods you’re going to use and what materials you’re going to use. If you spend a bit of time in advance doing that, you’re going to be much more successful with your projects.” Scott Young
  • If your project is to learn a language, make sure to spend time practicing it occasionally so you don’t forget it
    • Scott sets up a 30 minute Skype tutoring session every month to keep his language skills fresh 
    • If you do forget part of a language, don’t worry, relearning it is easier than learning it from scratch

Books That Influenced Scott’s Life

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen had a big impact on Scott because it showed him the importance of optimizing systems to get better
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport was another book that had a big impact on Scott
    • The book shares advice on how to commit to doing hard mental activities
    • Cal and Scott have collaborated on multiple projects and are good friends
The Reader's Journey : , , , , , ,
Notes By Alex Wiec

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