How to Learn

[Last Updated: 2020-05-03]

Based on the Learning How to Learn Coursera Course

Thinking Modes

Focused Diffused
Activated by paying attention to what you are trying to learn. In this mode familiar thought patterns are used which can lead to “thinking inside the box” and not seeing the overall big picture. Is a relaxed thinking style which allows you to look at things more broadly. Get into this mode by taking breaks, doing mundane things like cleaning your room or meditating.

You can’t be in both modes at the same time!

When learning something new and difficult, the mind needs to be able to go back and forth between the focused and diffused mode. This helps learning effectively.


Mental leaps that unite scattered bits of information through meaning

How to form a chunk?

  1. Focus on new Material!
  2. Understand the basic idea
  3. Practice to gain context
    1. Learn when and when not to use the chunk
    2. See the bigger Picture

Chunks play a vital role in information retention. They effectively compress and connect several areas of your study. They massively help build a bigger picture and may help you learn something in a different area faster due to small similarities.

Avoid the Illusion of Competence

Simply understanding the solution doesn’t mean having a solid grasp

Study, don’t just look at it!

Several steps can be taken to ensure you don’t fall into this trap:

Also be aware of your Einstellung (Mindset). This is your initial Intuition that can hinder you from finding other solutions. Try and keep an open Mind!


A little bit every day, that’s the trick

Keep up with everybody and avoid last minute cramming!

The enemy and close friend of every student. Procrastination actually activates areas in your brain associated with pain and has similarities to addiction. It is a automatic habit we are mostly unaware of.

Habits are essentially energy savers, they “automate” tasks and free up mental resources.

The habit of procrastination (and habits in general) consists of the following steps:

  1. The Cue (e.g. cellphone, noise, open youtube tab) => APPLY WILLPOWER HERE
    1. This is where you may get into your habit of procrastination
  2. The Routine (What your zombie brain likes to do)
  3. The Reward (Why are you Procrastinating? What do earn from it?)
  4. The Belief

Key aspects of tackling Procrastination


Working Memory Similar to a chalkboard that can fit around 4 items.

Long-Term Memory Analogous to a warehouse. Information can be retrieved when needed.

By retrieving long-term memory, the memory itself changes and strengthens through a process called Reconsolidation.

Humans are outstanding spatial and visual learners. Use this to your advantage by mapping things to remember to memorable visual cues. Make sure to make the visual cue as vivid as possible and include as many senses as possible.

You could also make use of the Memory Palace. With this strategy you place items to remember in a well known location you can traverse in your mind. Make sure to implement the last paragraph and place the items in memorable and silly situations.