Before we get started learning everything about Logseq queries, I thought I’d first share how to tackle personal learning projects like this.
Because of my job (and my curiosity), I’ve had to learn many topics quickly. If you’re a programmer or work in any unstructured domain, constant learning will be part of your day-to-day as well. If that’s the case, it’s less likely you’ll need my help (although you may pick up a technique or two). But for people who aren’t used to constant learning, I think my frameworks will come in handy.
Below you’ll find three recordings of talks that I gave earlier. I’ve also added the outline of each talk. I hope these will be useful and help you properly plan the weeks ahead.
Please share your own notes, frameworks, and templates for learning below!
4:15 Why become better at learning?
- If you’re a knowledge worker, you’re likely to face information overwhelm.
- Most skills are now digital, and technology moves fast.
- Using new technology, you can automate much of what you do repeatedly.
- When you know how to learn, you’ll have more fun—even when the going gets tough.
7:10 Why deconstruct the skill of learning how to learn?
- Knowing how to learn is a skill in itself.
- The learning process leans on subskills like note-taking, reviewing knowledge, memorization, and deliberate practice—among others.
- As many courses are lacking, you need to take ownership over your learning process.
9:21 How to deconstruct a skill
- Deconstruction — What are the minimal learnable units, the LEGO blocks, I should start with?
- Selection — Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?
- Sequencing — In what order should I learn the blocks?
- Stakes — How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantee I follow the program?
20:24 The subskills of learning how to learn
21:22 Defining desired outcomes
- For everything we do, we should have a clear goal in mind: an understanding of problems and being able to solve them.
- Only when you understand what problem you’re trying to solve can you become an effective learner.
- Before you can master a skill, you need to know how to perform the individual steps.
- Being a knowledge worker means that you consume information to solve business problems.
- As businesses become more complex, you encounter problems for the first time.
- Even when you know how to solve a skill, deepening your understanding and practicing makes you better and faster.
- Twitter has a low bar of entry, forces you revisit your notes, and serves a serendipity vehicle to meet like-minded people.
- Emails and memos help you describe problems, think of possible solutions, and gather feedback.
- Blogging help you to reflect on lessons learned and establish you as a thought-leader.
- When you write guides you become intimately familiar with the problem and solution.
- Courses help you to digest the concepts and skills to such a level that they become part of you, effectively making you an expert.
32:55 Choosing the right learning materials
Aligning goals and materials
- Visualize your vision for the future.
- Identify your roles and corresponding responsibilities.
- Spot the skills that will bring you closer to your vision while helping you now with your roles and responsibilities.
- Choose the materials that will help you learn the 20% of ideas for 80% of the results.
- Find the community of learners and experts that you can turn to when you’re stuck.
Finding your preferred formats
- Limit the formats you learn from, as it makes mastery of each more likely.
- Books are cheap and condense hundreds of hours of research. But: cut out the fluff.
- Articles can contain gems, but you need to be able to spot the ones worth reading.
- Videos are useful to learn motor-skills, but you need to become an expert note-taker to fully learn from them as they’re difficult to skim.
- Podcasts are great when batched to break into a domain, but difficult to learn from directly.
- Courses can take you from beginner to pro and give you access to an expert, but they tend to be costly and inefficient.
- Social media like Twitter can be a great place for (free) ideas and materials and to find your community of fellow learners
- Aligning goals and materials
42:00 Selecting the tools to learn
- Without technology, a learner’s mission becomes more complicated than is necessary.
- Don’t nerd out over tools because of the tools. Use the tools that help you solve a problem. Ask: does this tool make my life easier or more complicated?
- Use read-it-later apps and (web) highlighters to easily extract ideas and explanations from articles and books and process them later.
- Use tablets and e-readers to comfortably consume large amounts of information and process them.
- Use note-taking apps to capture your questions and insights. See it as taking care of your future self.
- Leverage integration services to let your highlights and notes flow into your second brain (likely your note-taking tool).
46:35 Leveraging tool-agnostic techniques
- See reading as an investment; you trade time and energy to become better in the future.
- Know why you’re reading. What information are you looking for?
- Have a fixed way of approaching articles and books; don’t figure out your approach as you’re reading.
- Don’t reread the same materials over and over; you won’t learn more and only have the illusion of knowing.
- Sönke Ahrens: "Most organizational decisions can be made up front, once and for all, by deciding on one system. … That leaves us with much more mental energy that we can direct towards more useful tasks, like trying to solve the problems in question.”
- Daniel Doyon (founder Readwise): If you highlight everything, you highlight nothing.
- One of the most common mistakes learners make is highlighting material without knowing why they do it.
- Take out the guessing; have a pre-defined way to highlight and limit yourself to one idea per highlight.
- Cultivate the mindset of a curator and ask yourself: “Am I highlighting this because it truly resonates with me, or because I think ‘I should know this’?”
- Do several passes of materials by skimming, reading and noticing interesting bits, before you highlight.
- Make highlights understandable out-of-context (i.e. when exported).
- Only capture the highlights that are most relevant to you.
- For every highlight, make a note in your own words.
- Explain ideas in your notes as if you’re explaining them to someone else (you future self is also someone else).
- Use as little words as possible.
- Note-taking is just as much as about what you keep as what you choose to ignore.
- Tiago Forte: “By standardizing and streamlining both the format of our notes and the steps by which we process them, the real work can come to the forefront: thinking, reflecting, writing, discussing, testing, and sharing. This is the work that adds value, and now we have the time to do it more effectively.”
- The key: multiple passes. Ask about your highlights and notes: “What did I think was important and cool and is actually not important or cool?”
- To reinforce learning, allow for forgetting by keeping some days between highlighting and note-taking and reviewing them.
- Highlight the best parts of your highlights and notes (i.e. progressive summarization) and only save the ones you’ve marked up.
- Use a networked note-taking tool so you can link your notes and see where ideas transfer to other domains.
- If you want to have a conversation with your notes, start a Zettelkasten.
- David Allen: “Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
- Only memorize what you need to know in an instant and have no time to look up when you need the knowledge.
- When you make practice active and spaced, allowing for some forgetting, you’ll remember much more than when you’d cram.
- Use flashcards to program your attention using algorithms, taking out the guess work.
- Don’t like flashcards? Test yourself with writing prompts to revisit ideas. Bonus points when combined with a spaced repetition algorithm.
1:09:20 Deliberate practice
- Ask yourself: “What’s my biggest sticking point with skill x?”
- Design exercises that take you out of your comfort zone.
- Create something useful, repeatedly.
- 47:23 Reading
- How to Choose Your Next Skill
- How to choose skills worksheet
- The DiSSS framework by Tim Ferriss
- The First 20 Hours book
- How I take smart digital notes—Part 1: A map for the journey
- How I take smart digital notes—Part 2: Highlights and reading notes
- Starting a Zettelkasten in Roam Research
- Roamkasten - a practical how to guide to optimize Zettelkasten in Roam Research
- Learning a Language with Deliberate Practice
- Sunday School #21: Deliberate practice
3:10 Why plan your learning projects
- Learning is hard. It’s easier to distract yourself with social media or television than to sit down and study. That’s why you need to be deliberate about when you’re going to spend time on acquiring the skills and knowledge that you desire.
- When you reserve time and put it on your calendar to learn something new, you will subconsciously prioritize it.
- When you plan for learning a skill, you can cut out the fluff and find the 20% of knowledge that leads to 80% of the results.
- New to the skill? Prevent overwhelm by doing a short project of 20 hours of focused, deliberate practice. You’ll go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well.
5:07 Drawing from Ultralearning and The First 20 Hours
- Aggressive self-study strategy as described by Scott Young.
- Applying the universal principles of learning to any skill.
- Not meant to learn fast, but to reach your desired level of proficiency in the shortest time possible (be it a hacker or a master).
- From How to Start Your Own Ultralearning Project (Part One):
“Ultralearning projects are hard. But the trade-off is that intense focus enables rapid learning progress. Eliminating distractions, learning the hardest parts first, driving at your weaknesses and investing concrete chunks of time all enable you to take a learning endeavor that you might normally imagine learning over a few years and compress it into a few months.”
“Ultralearning can allow you to push faster through the frustrating parts and get more quickly to a level where continuing mastery is enjoyable and fun.”
"Self-education is results-driven. It doesn’t matter which resources you use, as long as you get to the point. I could skip assignments I didn’t think would help me master the material. I could watch lectures faster if they were boring, rewatch them if I was confused. Optimizing for faster learning, in turn, also optimized for being completely engaged with learning.
Ultralearning is more interesting because everything you do feels like it actually matters."
“Ultralearning is a skill. Once you’ve mastered the process you can repeat it again and again on anything you want to learn. It’s also a skill that’s becoming increasingly valuable. Workers are expected to adapt faster and faster to new ways of doing things. The best in the profession are earning ever more than the average. Flexible, rapid learners have a golden opportunity, while those who struggle to keep up are going to find it harder and harder to survive.”
- From How to Start Your Own Ultralearning Project (Part One):
- The principles to decide your wanted outcome(s) with a skill.
- An approach to deconstruct any skill and learn it in logical order.
- Concrete examples of how to deconstruct skills.
12:40 How to scope a learning project
The principles below are taken from Josh Kaufman’s book “The First 20 Hours.”
“The best things that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears.” —Karl Popper
- The more excited you’re about your desired skill, the more work you’ll put in, the more quickly you’ll acquire the skill.
- Constant switching between learning different skills slows you down.
- Focusing on one skill at the time means saying no to learning other skills—for now.
- Put other things you want to learn on a someday/maybe list (GTD style).
“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” —Charles Kettering
- What does “good enough” look like? Or: How well must you be able to perform your desired skill?
- Write a single sentence description of what you want to be able to do when you’re done with your prioject. The more specific, the better.
- Visualization helps to discover your wanted outcome.
- Important: Mastery is not the goal of rapid skill acquisition. Shoot for capacity, not perfection.
- Deconstructing a skill helps to reduce overwhelm.
- Break down your desired skill into the smallest possible parts.
- Foundational subskills emerge as you deconstruct the main skill. Make sure you focus on those first.
- Select the 20% of foundational skills that give 80% of the desired result (again, don’t aim for perfection).
- Most skills need specific tools to practice and perform well.
Ask yourself: “What tools, component, and environment do I need to have access to before I can practice efficiently?”
- Follow-up question: “How can I obtain the best tools that I can find and afford?”
- Preparing your tools and (practice) environment before you start learning a skill will save you a lot of time so you can maximize practice time.
- What barriers (time, equipment, environment) are there that could get in the way of practice?
- Potential barriers and how to solve them:
High prepractice effort, meaning that it takes a lot of time of effort to set up your tools and/or environment.
- Potential solution: keep your tools in a specific place, together, and easily accessible. Optionally dedicate a room (or computer) to your learning project.
Limited resource availability, for example because you have to rely on borrow tools or practice environments.
- Potential solution: Acquire the equipment yourself, or make appointments way in advance so there’s less up to chance (also acts as a forcing function).
Distractions, like the television, your telephone, other notifications.
- Potential solution: dedicate a room/computer to your learning project or use apps that turn off any potential distraction.
Emotional blocks, such as fear, doubt, and embarrassment.
- Potential solution: connect with fellow learners and talk about your emotional struggles while learning. Chances are, they experience the same challenges. Alternatively, push through fear for embarrassment with deliberate practice (embrace discomfort).
- High prepractice effort, meaning that it takes a lot of time of effort to set up your tools and/or environment.
- Nobody finds time; you need to make time. If you rely on chance to learn, it will never get done.
- Set aside large, dedicated blocks of time to learn and practice. The more time for deep learning, the better.
- Spend at least 90 minutes per day learning by cutting low-value activities—like consuming (social) media.
Precommit to complete at least 20 hours of deliberate practice, or choose another skill you do want to spend the time on.
- By precommitting you’re much more likely to push through the most frustrating parts of learning any skill.
- Fast feedback = getting accurate information about how you’re performing, as quickly as possible.
Short feedback loops make it easier to connect the feedback to your actions, meaning it’s easier to make adjustments.
- Skills like programming have short feedback loops because of the errors that computers spit out.
- If the skill itself doesn’t give accurate feedback, coaches can give you immediate feedback and recommend adjustments.
- The faster you can integrate feedback in your practice, the faster you’ll learn the skill.
- To avoid overestimating how much you’ve practiced or giving up too early, set a timer and practice until it runs out.
- If you use a pomodoro timer, strive for 3-5 practice sessions every day.
- Don’t aim to be perfect. Instead, focus on practicing as much as you can as fast as you can, while keeping “good enough” form.
- Aim for 80-90% accuracy compared to your target performance level before increasing your practice speed.
33:10 How to choose learning materials
- Before you can learn anything, you need to be clear about what you’re going to learn and why you’re going to learn it. No plan fails faster than one that has no motivation behind it.
- You first need to gain a clear picture of your wanted outcomes before you can decide what you will precisely learn. The more specific your learning scope, the better.
- Look on online forums or in your circle of friends and family for people who have already learned what you want to learn, and see what approach they used.
- You don’t need to emulate others, but as you speak to more experts you’ll see patterns emerge of things you should learn.
- Define the books, videos, tutorials, classes and teachers you’re going to use. Also define your starting point.
- The more specific you are about what resources you will use when, the better.
- Example: “Do three exercises every day from the book Python Crash Course”
- Try to identify how you can use your new skill or knowledge as soon as possible in a real setting. If direct practice isn’t possible, look for activities that mimic reality as much as possible.
- To start off, it’s good to select a narrow set of materials to learn from so you don’t get overwhelmed. But, it’s wise to have backup materials in case your primary materials don’t cut it or don’t cover something that you found to be important.
47:59 How to schedule learning activities
- It’s important to determine the length of your learning project. How long will it take to reach your goals? Be realistic.
- It’s generally better to keep your learning projects short; between 4 and 12 weeks.
- Short, intensive learning projects have a higher chance of success, as there are fewer potential interruptions.
- If you want to build a large skillset, break up your learning project into smaller projects of a month each.
- How much time you can spend on your learning project is often dictated by your schedule.
- Nobody has time, so you need to make time.
- Take a careful look and see how many hours you can spend on the project, each , taking into consideration the total length of your learning project so you don’t burn out.
- What days and times can you consistently dedicate to learning? It’s important to make learning a habit, so find the same recurring spots in your schedule.
- Adapt your learning moments to the type of learning tasks you’ll be doing. Some skills benefit from short, spaced repetition. Other skills, like writing and programming, benefit more from longer sessions.
- Think of specific days you have more time, or if you can reserve time for learning at the beginning or end of you days.
- When you schedule the hours of learning work you’re going to put in, you get a sense of what’s ahead. It’ll help you see potential scheduling conflicts, and it will prime your mind to learn.
- If you’re willing to reserve time in your schedule, you’re more likely to put in the time to study.
54:59 Next: Executing and reflecting on your plan
- When am I focused, and when am I multitasking and distracted?
- When am I skipping learning sessions or procrastinating?
- How long does it takes to get into a flow state during a learning session?
- How long can I sustain focus before my mind starts to wander?
- For the type of learning activity I just did, should I be more concentrated for intensity or more diffuse for creativity?
- What are the weakest points of my performance I should spend time focusing on?
- What’s the step in the skill that’s holding me back?
- When I feel my progress is slowing down and I feel that I need to learn too much, what are the smaller parts I can split the skill into?
- How much time do I spend reading and reviewing, and how much time solving problems and recalling things from memory?
- How do I test my skill or understanding to avoid the illusion of competence?
- How can I make sure I can explain what I learned in a day, a week, or year from now?
- How do I get feedback on my performance?
- What did I learn well during this learning session?
- What did I not learn well during this learning session?
- What 20% of the feedback am I going to use to improve next?
- How will I remember what I learn now for the long term?
- How have I spaced out reviewing what I learned now in the future?
- What factual knowledge have I learned and how will I apply it?
- What foundational part(s) of the skill should I practice more, even if I’d overlearn it?
- What parts of the new knowledge do I have to memorize, and how can I understand it more deeply?
- How would I explain what I just learned to someone else?
- Why is what I just learned true?
- How does this knowledge relate to what I already know?
- Where am I getting stuck with my current resources and techniques?
- Where would it be beneficial to branch out and try new approaches to reach my goal?
- How can I go beyond the basics and try out stuff others haven’t explored before?