Wednesday Talk 1: How to design and run personal learning projects with Logseq

2022-07-13T14:00:00Z I gave a talk about how I use Logseq to learn new skills. This talk does not show anything query-related, but planning your learning project will help make most of our time together.

Outline of the session

  • Why plan your learning projects

    • Learning is hard.
    • You need to be deliberate about when you’re going to spend time on learning new skills
    • 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.
  • How to design a learning project

    The principles below are taken from Josh Kaufman’s book “The First 20 Hours.”

    • 1. Choose a lovable project

      • “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.

    • 2. Focus your energy on one skill at the time

      • 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).
    • 3. Define your target performance level

      • “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.
    • 4. Deconstruct the skill into subskills

      • 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).
    • 5. Obtain critical tools

      • Most skills need specific tools and resources 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.
    • 6. Eliminate barriers to practice

      • 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).
    • 7. Make dedicated time for practice

      • 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 pre-committing you’re much more likely to push through the most frustrating parts of learning any skill.
    • 8. Create short feedback loops

      • 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.
    • 9. Practice by the clock in short bursts

      • 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.
    • 10. Emphasize quantity and speed

      • 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.
  • How to schedule learning activities

    • How long will my learning project take?

      • 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 am I going to spend learning deliberately each week?

      • 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.
    • When am I going to study or practice each day?

      • 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.
    • Have I reserved my learning sessions in my calendar?

      • 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.
  • How to take smart learning notes

    • Throughout the day

      • Set up a template in your note-taking tool to quickly structure/tag/link your notes.
        • This will ensure you’ll be able to find back your notes, or directly feed them into a process (e.g. a query with a backlog of notes to turn into flashcards).
      • Write everything on the daily Journals page.
        • This takes away the question: “Where should I store this?”
    • One idea per note

      • Apply the principle of atomicity, meaning that each note contains exactly one idea.
        • This will enable you to link it to other ideas, but makes memorizing your notes also much easier.
    • Explain in your own words

      • Helps you to check if you understood the idea.
        • Two Richard Feynman quotes:
          • If you can’t explain something to a first year student, then you haven’t really understood.

          • The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.

      • Research shows that you’re more likely to remember notes in your own words.
  • Why use spaced repetition with your notes?

    • Don’t leave learning up to chance

      • We take notes because we want to avoid forgetting.
        • But only revisiting an idea repeatedly will help to make it your own.
    • Process knowledge much more deeply

      • When you write about something in your own words, you should:
        • Elaborate/expand on the topic, and
        • Connect it to what you already know (or your life in general).
    • Creativity stems from internalized knowledge

      • We can look up factual information.
        • But! You can’t look up what you don’t know.
  • How to write good flashcard questions

    • Only turn interesting and useful questions into flashcards

      • Flashcards will help you remember things, so only remember what’s worth it.
        • What you Ankify is not a trivial choice: Ankify things that serve your long-term goals. In some measure we become what we remember, so we must be careful what we remember. This is always true, but Anki makes it especially true.
          Source: Augmenting Long-term Memory

    • Ask one question per flashcard; create multiple flashcards per note if necessary

      • Atomic flashcards are easier to review.
        • You can focus on one idea, making it crystal clear where you stumble when you do.
          • Make most Anki questions and answers as atomic as possible: That is, both the question and answer express just one idea. … When I made mistakes with the combined question, I was often a little fuzzy about where exactly my mistake was. That meant I didn’t focus sharply enough on the mistake, and so didn’t learn as much from my failure. When I fail with the atomic questions my mind knows exactly where to focus.
            Source: Augmenting Long-term Memory

    • Treat writing good flashcard questions as a skill, so practice and refine a lot

      • Whether you learn with flashcards or not all depends on how good your questions are.
        • [C]ards are fundamental building blocks of the mnemonic medium, and card-writing is better thought of as an open-ended skill. Do it poorly, and the mnemonic medium works poorly. Do it superbly well, and the mnemonic medium can work very well indeed. By developing the card-writing skill it’s possible to expand the possibilities of the medium. … It turns out that answering the question “how to write good cards?” requires thinking hard about your theory of knowledge and how to represent it, and your theory of learning. The better those theories, the better your cards will be.
          Source: How can we develop transformative tools for thought?

  • Next: Execute and reflect on your plan

Use these questions to reflect on your progress, for example to review after learning sessions or during a weekly review session.

  • Focus

    • 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?
  • Drill

    • 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?
  • Retrieval

    • 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?
  • Feedback

    • 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?
  • Retention

    • 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?
  • Intuition

    • 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?
  • Experimentation

    • 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?
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