How to Start Your Own Ultralearning Project (Part One)

Ultralearning is deep self-education to learn hard things in less time. I’ve written before about how I’ve used this approach to learn MIT computer science, multiple languages and cognitive science.

I’ve touched on some of the aspects of ultralearning in previous articles. It focuses on learning depth-first, breaking impasses down into prerequisites you can finish step-by-step, creatively using resources and balancing theory with practice.

In this article, I want to show you how to start your own ultralearning project. To make things easier, I’ve split this article into two parts: the first part, explaining why you should start an ultralearning project and how to design it. The second part, available here, will tell you how to find time to work on it and how to improve your ability to focus.

Why Ultralearning?

Ultralearning projects are hard work. Not only do they require you to take time out of your life, but they’re also mentally demanding. Given this, a good question to ask might be, why bother ultralearning at all?

The opposite of ultralearning is dabbling. This means playing around with something and eventually learning it. There’s no commitment. No time put aside. And if it becomes too mentally difficult or boring, you stop.

There’s nothing wrong with dabbling, and often it’s by dabbling that I first explore whether I’d like to learn something through an ultralearning project. However, despite the investment of time and energy, ultralearning projects can help you achieve breakthroughs in whatever you’re trying to learn.

Reason #1: You Can Learn Much Faster

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.

My language learning project was a good example of this. Yes—the No-English Rule and intensive study did require a lot of effort. But the advantage was that I reached a level in three months that often takes a year or two of more typical study.

Reason #2: It Gets to the Fun Part of Learning Faster

Many learning opportunities become more interesting when you get better at them. Languages are much more fun when you can actually hold conversations. Work skills are more useful when they actually help your career. Drawing, sports and music are all more fun when you’re good at them.

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.

Reason #3: Ultralearning Projects are Interesting

When I told someone I was about to take on the MIT Challenge, they said, “You must really love studying.” But the truth was, I didn’t actually enjoy most of the classes I had in university. I found many of them simultaneously boring and frustrating. I hated the busywork, the group projects, the classes where the professor didn’t say anything useful and I had to struggle to stay awake. Traditional learning involves long stretches of boredom peppered with random frustration.

When I did the MIT Challenge, however, almost all of my classes were interesting. I think the reason was that 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.

Reason #4: The Opportunities for Quick Learners are Ever Increasing

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. The economy is hollowing out the middle. 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.

Practicing on ultralearning projects gives you an edge like almost nothing else will in skilled professions.

How to Design Your First Ultralearning Project

Designing your own ultralearning project has three parts:

  1. Figuring out what you want to learn deeply, intensely and quickly.
  2. Choosing which format you want for your project.
  3. Preparing to start learning.

Step #1: What Do You Want to Ultralearn?

What would you like to learn? It could be a subject—say you want to quickly learn a lot of history, business or math. It could be a career skill—you want to master Excel or JQuery. It could be something you’ve always wanted to learn for fun—guitar, French or painting.

What you want to learn doesn’t matter and I can’t choose it for you. But I can suggest a couple things to keep in mind when picking the subject:

  1. Only pick one thing. Ultralearning projects need specificity. Saying you want to learn guitar, French AND cooking is a recipe for a mess of a project. Instead pick one thing and save the other things you want to learn for a later project.
  2. Shorter projects need more constraints. The smaller your project is, the more it needs to focus on something specific to make progress noticeable. If you’re only going to spend a month, one-hour a day, then don’t make your project “learn programming” or “learn Chinese”. Instead make it more focused: “learn to make text-only games in Python” or “learn pinyin and master set phrases in Mandarin.”
  3. Avoid overly specific goals and deadlines. For first-time ultralearners, I don’t recommend setting a particular goal and deadline, like I did with the MIT Challenge. The reason is that once you start learning, you’ll quickly realize whether your goal is realistic, too easy or too hard. If it’s too easy, you won’t focus. Too hard, you’ll probably give up. That means you have a fairly narrow range to shoot in order to be successful. A better approach is to pick the direction you want to learn and choose a target when you’re about one-third to halfway done the project. So a good approach might be that you’ll learn the MIT computer science curriculum, but once you start you can decide how far it is realistic for you to get in the time you have.

Step #2: Choose the Project Format

There’s a lot of different ways to do an ultralearning project. Which you use will depend heavily on your schedule and the importance of the challenge to you.

Here’s three different styles for an ultralearning project:

  1. Full-time projects. These are the most intense, most costly and fastest projects. The advantage of a full-time or nearly full-time project is that you can really get learning done in incredibly short time periods. Good if you’re between jobs, classes or otherwise can devote yourself to the project.
  2. Fixed-schedule projects. These are projects which have concrete hours you’ll devote to them every week. One example could be spending an hour each day before work, two hours before bed, or two 5-hour bursts on the weekend. The amount of time isn’t too important (although less weekly investment = slower progress) but I wouldn’t recommend putting in chunks of time less than 30 minutes. Fracturing the time over too many spots in the day doesn’t enable the focus required.
  3. Fixed-hour projects. These projects don’t have a particular schedule, but they do have a number of hours (3, 5, 20) that you’ll put in each week wherever you can find time in your schedule. This is the hardest type of project to successfully execute, but it may be the only feasible way to do ultralearning for some people.

In general, I recommend an ultralearning project be your principle goal during the period you’re doing it. It’s okay to keep working on other things and maintain habits. But ultralearning projects don’t work well if they’re just one of many things you’re simultaneously trying to achieve.

Once you’ve picked a format, you need to select a length of time. In general, if your weekly time investment is low, you’ll need either a long project or a more severely reduced scope. If I wanted to learn programming, but was only putting in 3 hours per week for ultralearning, I would either need a long time horizon (say 6-12 months) or reduced scope (a particular language, type of program, etc.)

Step #3: Preparing to Learn

I actually don’t recommend starting right away when you have an ultralearning project. The reason is that the intensity of learning can make it very easy to quit if you haven’t planned it properly.

A good ultralearning project starts with some amount of time in preparation. This allows you to gather material, research different learning strategies for your particular skill or subject, plan out your time and conduct a pilot test of the schedule.

My rule of thumb is that preparation should be no less than 50% of the length of the project itself with full-time hours. So when I did the MIT Challenge (a full-time project over one year) I would want six months minimum of low-intensity preparation. If you’re doing five hours per week over 8 weeks, I would want to spend at least a week doing preparation.

Here’s what you need to do in that preparation time:

  1. Research how learning works best for that particular domain. Hunt around for all the possible learning methods, strategies and recommendations. Note common themes and complaints people make. Note also alternative strategies that differ. This should give you a good idea of how you want to learn, as well as backup options in case your first approach fails you.
  2. Gather material and design a preliminary attack plan. Order books online if you need them. Sign up for online courses. Get tools, material and equipment if you need any. Then create a simple plan for approaching them to learn. This doesn’t need to be complicated. For the MIT Challenge it was: (1) Watch/Read, (2) Practice Questions, (3) Feynman Technique. For the Year Without English it was: (1) No-English Rule, (2) Tutoring, (3) Book Study.
  3. Conduct a pilot week of the schedule. Before you fully commit to starting the project, test it out. See how it fits into your life and get a sense of how difficult it will be. If it is too hard, or your schedule is unrealistic, now is the time to adjust it.

Now It’s Your Turn

If you’ve followed this far, I’m assuming you’re at least somewhat interested in starting your own ultralearning project. So why not just do it?

Write in the comments here below what ultralearning project you want to tackle: what you want to learn and the format you’re going to use to pursue it. In response, I’ll try to reply to as many people as possible offering advice on how to make their ultralearning projects a success!

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  • Shiv Prajwal

    Hi, Scott! It’s a great initiative on your part, offering to interact with and guide your readers in this way. Kudos!
    My goal is to learn to invest in the stock market.
    I have a reasonably good hold over statistics, mathematical modeling and interpreting results. I’m confident I’ll be able to learn the necessary concepts of finance if I work hard.
    Could you please help me in sketching out a plan?

  • Alex

    Hey Scott, wanted to post a question for you. What do you think a good approach is if you are working a full time job and a lot of overtime? I am currently working 10 hour day averages as a visual effects artist, but I would really love to tackle Python. My issue is that I usually spread myself too thin on too many things and not much gets done, so I think tackling python for scripting in visual effects and making small programs seems like a good goal.

  • Alex

    Hey Scott, wanted to post a question for you. What do you think a good approach is if you are working a full time job and a lot of overtime? I am currently working 10 hour day averages as a visual effects artist, but I would really love to tackle Python. My issue is that I usually spread myself too thin on too many things and not much gets done, so I think tackling python for scripting in visual effects and making small programs seems like a good goal. The problem I see with this is I know you can learn python endlessly, and even get into some deep math like calculus, but I don’t think that is entirely necessary as I am not developing renderers or anything like that, just tools for artists.

  • Ana Paula

    Hi Scott,

    I already would have written for you to propose exactly this, one way for learning efficiently something. In my case, I would like to learning English. I know your project One Year without English, but this practice is not possible for me. Although at currently I am not working, but I can’t travel to 3 or 6 months. I am married and I am trying to back to work. I lost my job in part because the Brazilian crisis and I am not fluent in English. I can read with some queries in dictionary and I believe that my writing is intermediary, proving this I could write to you. I’m sorry my mistakes, (shy smiles). Anyway, my challenge is to hear and talk in English. This is my ultralearnig project.

    I am trying to watch sitcom series like Friends. But I have stopped many times, because I like to know the meaning of each new word. If I watch without stopping, I lost the focus. Other initiative that I made, I have installed some app in my cell phone to do exercises and review structures. At the moment, to pay courses and particular classes is expensive for me. I have thought in an exchange, I could teach Portuguese for someone and someone could talk with me in English for a determinate time, using some videoconference app. But, where does I find this guy? Who would interest in learning Portuguese? There’s is a site where I will can have this contact?

    Concluding, my Pre Project Ultralearnig is:
    1) Working in one Music for week, because I like.
    2) Watching one episode of my favorite series for day, with better instructions. Maybe with helping my “chance co-worker”, if I will get this guy.
    3) Training with an app for day. Like Duolingo, for practice grammar and structures.
    4) Meet someone fluent in English, as possible, via videoconference.
    I have not set hours and the time to each task, but I have defined some activities that I can do.
    What do you think?

  • Ana Paula

    Hi Scott,

    I already would have written for you to propose exactly this, one way for learning efficiently something. In my case, I would like to learning English. I know your project One Year without English, but this practice is not possible for me. Although at currently I am not working, but I can’t travel to 3 or 6 months. I am married and I am trying to back to work. I lost my job in part because the Brazilian crisis and I am not fluent in English. I can read with some queries in dictionary and I believe that my writing is intermediary, proving this I could write to you. I’m sorry my mistakes, (shy smiles). Anyway, my challenge is to hear and talk in English. This is my ultralearnig project.

    I am trying to watch sitcom series like Friends. But I have stopped many times, because I like to know the meaning of each new word. If I watch without stopping, I lost the focus. Other initiative that I made, I have installed some app in my cell phone to do exercises and review structures. At the moment, to pay courses and particular classes is expensive for me. I have thought in an exchange, I could teach Portuguese for someone and someone could talk with me in English for a determinate time, using some videoconference app. But, where does I find this guy? Who would interest in learning Portuguese? There’s is a site where I will can have this contact?

    Concluding, my Pre Project Ultralearnig is:
    1) Working in one Music for week, because I like.
    2) Watching one episode of my favorite series for day, with better instructions. Maybe with helping my “chance co-worker”, if I will get this guy.
    3) Training with an app for day. Like Duolingo, for practice grammar and structures.
    4) Meet someone fluent in English, as possible, via videoconference.
    I have not set hours and the time to each task, but I have defined some activities that I can do.
    What do you think?

  • Matthew Brown

    I’m actually starting coursework in a few weeks toward a degree in Entertainment Art (concept design for movies, games etc.) and I think I’m in a unique position to use this technique while attending. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on applying ultra learning toward a college curriculum?

    My plan is a fixed schedule, lectures are around 11am followed by study until 5pm on Mon/Tues/Friday. Sundays 1pm to 7pm Free days are 9am to 2pm. The overarching direction for my learning project is mastering the fundamentals of art and the industry specific skills of Entertainment art. I’m planning on finishing the degree in 2 1/2 years (transfer credits), though I don’t know how long it will actually take me to finish this project yet realistically. I will have a full time job but I work overnight so my daylight hours are all mine.

    I feel like I have less room to curate, but a lot of the the preparation has been done for me. Should my ultra learning project be my studies while I’m in school?

  • Matthew Brown

    I’m actually starting coursework in a few weeks toward a degree in Entertainment Art (concept design for movies, games etc.) and I think I’m in a unique position to use this technique while attending. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on applying ultra learning toward a college curriculum?

    My plan is a fixed schedule, lectures are around 11am followed by study until 5pm on Mon/Tues/Friday. Sundays 1pm to 7pm Free days are 9am to 2pm. The overarching direction for my learning project is mastering the fundamentals of art and the industry specific skills of Entertainment art. I’m planning on finishing the degree in 2 1/2 years (transfer credits), though I don’t know how long it will actually take me to finish this project yet realistically. I will have a full time job but I work overnight so my daylight hours are all mine.

    I feel like I have less room to curate, but a lot of the the preparation has been done for me. Should my ultra learning project be my studies while I’m in school?

  • Jonathan H

    Scott, when do you prioritize an Ultralearning project over a Top Performer type project, or are they even mutually exclusive?

    My current situation is that I’m on an assignment through the end of the year in a role that requires a skill that is relatively new to me, algorithm design. I’m the functional lead for a team that is creating an algorithm to predict what the next order might be in a fast moving CPG company.

    Should I view this role as one big Top Performer project, with bouts of Ultralearning thrown in when I need to go deep on a subject (e.g., to improve the algorithm by streamlining it or introducing more advanced methods)?

    I have basic programming skills (I’m learning R for this project), and much like other things I’ve needed to learn on the job, I am teaching myself as I go by sketching out pseudo code and then googling until I can stitch together the functions and methods I need to make it work. This is akin to the “bottom up” method in your “Balancing Theory and Practice” post from June 26th.

    I also want to incorporate more advanced tools like machine learning at a future date (although this would be going above and beyond what is expected on this project), which will require additional Ultralearning in my opinion.

    What advice can you give for designing a plan that is a bit more methodical than my current plodding headfirst method?

    Many thanks in advance.

  • Jonathan H

    Scott, when do you prioritize an Ultralearning project over a Top Performer type project, or are they even mutually exclusive?

    My current situation is that I’m on an assignment through the end of the year in a role that requires a skill that is relatively new to me, algorithm design. I’m the functional lead for a team that is creating an algorithm to predict what the next order might be in a fast moving CPG company.

    Should I view this role as one big Top Performer project, with bouts of Ultralearning thrown in when I need to go deep on a subject (e.g., to improve the algorithm by streamlining it or introducing more advanced methods)?

    I have basic programming skills (I’m learning R for this project), and much like other things I’ve needed to learn on the job, I am teaching myself as I go by sketching out pseudo code and then googling until I can stitch together the functions and methods I need to make it work. This is akin to the “bottom up” method in your “Balancing Theory and Practice” post from June 26th.

    I also want to incorporate more advanced tools like machine learning at a future date (although this would be going above and beyond what is expected on this project), which will require additional Ultralearning in my opinion.

    What advice can you give for designing a plan that is a bit more methodical than my current plodding headfirst method?

    Many thanks in advance.

  • Manisha Garg

    Thank you Scott for your reply. Can you please suggest some activities which can help me to focus on learning as actively as possible to reach my goal…

  • Manisha Garg

    Thank you Scott for your reply. Can you please suggest some activities which can help me to focus on learning as actively as possible to reach my goal…

  • Akash Kumar

    Hi Scott,
    I’ve just started my masters in computer science. I’m going to take a number of courses being offered at my institute.
    I want to do machine learning. But there are certain courses that I want to learn but either some of them are not offered or some I won’t be allowed because of lack of prerequisite.
    So my ultralearning project is about learning the stuffs that I want to learn but no option from my institute.
    Now, can you tell me how to proceed ahead with this ? How should I approach this project ?
    I hope you get my situation.

  • Akash Kumar

    Hi Scott,
    I’ve just started my masters in computer science. I’m going to take a number of courses being offered at my institute.
    I want to do machine learning. But there are certain courses that I want to learn but either some of them are not offered or some I won’t be allowed because of lack of prerequisite.
    So my ultralearning project is about learning the stuffs that I want to learn but no option from my institute.
    Now, can you tell me how to proceed ahead with this ? How should I approach this project ?
    I hope you get my situation.

  • Madison Pinchot

    Hi Scott,

    I have a whole month free now, I’m going into my second year of college studying Business. What’s a skill that you think I would really benefit from by doing a 1 month ultra learning project?

  • Madison Pinchot

    Hi Scott,

    I have a whole month free now, I’m going into my second year of college studying Business. What’s a skill that you think I would really benefit from by doing a 1 month ultra learning project?

  • Caleb Iott

    Greetings Scott!

    I’ve recently completed your Learn More, Study Less course, and I plan to start an Ultralearning project.
    My goal is to complete a math textbook called “How To Prove It.” It was recommended to me by some math folks over at Reddit as one of the best books to learn how to do mathematical proofs. The book covers mostly discrete math topics, and it is a relatively small read: only about 300 pages long.
    My plan is to apply a Fixed-Project Schedule to the endeavor, and, for materials, I plan to use the book, another Discrete Math textbook, and Youtube videos for lectures. Regarding Youtube, I plan to use the subtopics in each chapter in the book as search terms to find the videos I need.
    I also hope to use the book and video lectures as a testing ground for some 30-Day-Trials on the topics you presented in Learn More, Study Less. Therefore, I hope to complete the challenge (hopefully) in about 30-40 days. I am currently planning more details for the project now, and hope for next week to be my first pilot week if all goes well!
    Thanks for writing this blog post. It has been very useful for me.
    Also, any ideas or critiques on how I can go about my project in a better manner?
    Thanks.

    -Caleb

    PS: Right now, I am also doing Kalid Azad’s textbook/video course. If I continue with his course while I do my Ultralearning project, will it interfere with my abilities to better grasp the subject of said project?

  • Caleb Iott

    Greetings Scott!

    I’ve recently completed your Learn More, Study Less course, and I plan to start an Ultralearning project.
    My goal is to complete a math textbook called “How To Prove It.” It was recommended to me by some math folks over at Reddit as one of the best books to learn how to do mathematical proofs. The book covers mostly discrete math topics, and it is a relatively small read: only about 300 pages long.
    My plan is to apply a Fixed-Project Schedule to the endeavor, and, for materials, I plan to use the book, another Discrete Math textbook, and Youtube videos for lectures. Regarding Youtube, I plan to use the subtopics in each chapter in the book as search terms to find the videos I need.
    I also hope to use the book and video lectures as a testing ground for some 30-Day-Trials on the topics you presented in Learn More, Study Less. Therefore, I hope to complete the challenge (hopefully) in about 30-40 days. I am currently planning more details for the project now, and hope for next week to be my first pilot week if all goes well!
    Thanks for writing this blog post. It has been very useful for me.
    Also, any ideas or critiques on how I can go about my project in a better manner?
    Thanks.

    -Caleb

    PS: Right now, I am also doing Kalid Azad’s textbook/video course. If I continue with his course while I do my Ultralearning project, will it interfere with my abilities to better grasp the subject of said project?

  • As it happens I am about halfway through my own ultralearning project. My goal for 2016 was to learn as much computing, electronics, mechanics, and robotics as I possibly could within given time constraints. I call it The STEMpunk Project [1].

    I have two primary motivations for taking this on: first, I find myself increasingly enchanted with the technology and systems powering the modern world, and second, I want to build a foundation that will allow me to go on to asymptotically approach Elon Musk’s levels of awesomeness [2].

    Structurally, each area of The STEMpunk Project is designated as a ‘module’ and subdivided into a handful of stages [3]. Generally speaking stage I consists of tinkering and playing around with kits and toys to gain a general feel for the subject, stage II moves into theory, and stage III resumes hands-on work with actual working systems. This iterative practice-theory-practice setup was designed to give me as much exposure as possible to actually tinkering with things while also accommodating the fact that I don’t know what I don’t know [4].

    Needless to say this setup has broken in all sorts of interesting ways[5][6], but I have learned well more than enough to have made it worthwhile so far!

    [1] https://rulerstothesky.com/the-stempunk-project/
    [2] https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/03/01/the-stempunk-project-introduction-and-motivations/
    [3] https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/03/10/the-stempunk-project-goals-and-how-to-achieve-them/
    [4] https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/03/25/the-stempunk-project-structure/
    [5] https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/02/25/what-to-do-when-you-feel-inadequate/
    [6] https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/08/06/the-stempunk-project-fifth-months-progress/

  • Trent Fowler

    As it happens I am about halfway through my own ultralearning project. My goal for 2016 was to learn as much computing, electronics, mechanics, and robotics as I possibly could within given time constraints. I call it The STEMpunk Project [1].

    I have two primary motivations for taking this on: first, I find myself increasingly enchanted with the technology and systems powering the modern world, and second, I want to build a foundation that will allow me to go on to asymptotically approach Elon Musk’s levels of awesomeness [2].

    Structurally, each area of The STEMpunk Project is designated as a ‘module’ and subdivided into a handful of stages [3]. Generally speaking stage I consists of tinkering and playing around with kits and toys to gain a general feel for the subject, stage II moves into theory, and stage III resumes hands-on work with actual working systems. This iterative practice-theory-practice setup was designed to give me as much exposure as possible to actually tinkering with things while also accommodating the fact that I don’t know what I don’t know [4].

    Needless to say this setup has broken in all sorts of interesting ways[5][6], but I have learned well more than enough to have made it worthwhile so far!

    [1] https://rulerstothesky.com/the
    [2] https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [3] https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [4] https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [5] https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [6] https://rulerstothesky.com/201

  • Mark Lancaster

    Thanks for the feedback Scott. So say I have 25 study blocks 1 per week over 32 weeks which includes 4 break weeks and two revision weeks then exam week. Each week should be 16 hours but I just about manage 12 with life commitments. So what is a typical contingency. i could probably start 2 weeks earlier than official start date. Do you add 10-15 % to schedule plans?

  • Mark Lancaster

    Thanks for the feedback Scott. So say I have 25 study blocks 1 per week over 32 weeks which includes 4 break weeks and two revision weeks then exam week. Each week should be 16 hours but I just about manage 12 with life commitments. So what is a typical contingency. i could probably start 2 weeks earlier than official start date. Do you add 10-15 % to schedule plans?

  • Jamie Banks ’13

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for emphasizing the need to do one project at once – I have ADHD, and by nature plan to do too much than is possible and dabble a lot!

    I would like to do an ultralearning project in history over the next 3 weeks, specifically the history of the Arab Peoples and the Middle East, focusing on the Ottoman Empire, through the 19th century. I’ll do a fixed-schedule project, since my job is part time and I have clearly delimited times when I’m free during the day, not cutting into my social time.

    My main issue is where to begin to find resources and set a syllabus of sorts… I never took a single history class in uni, so I know neither the methods and debates in historiography, how to think like a historian, or the basic facts and narratives. I think I should start with the latter, even though it makes me queasy. But history is so interconnected that it’s hard to know when to jump in, how far back to go, and what to focus on. It’s also been hard to determine what good quality resources are versus quite biased ones, especially in regards the Middle East and Arab peoples.

    Any advice much appreciated!

  • Jamie Banks ’13

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks for emphasizing the need to do one project at once – I have ADHD, and by nature plan to do too much than is possible and dabble a lot!

    I would like to do an ultralearning project in history over the next 3 weeks, specifically the history of the Arab Peoples and the Middle East, focusing on the Ottoman Empire, through the 19th century. I’ll do a fixed-schedule project, since my job is part time and I have clearly delimited times when I’m free during the day, not cutting into my social time.

    My main issue is where to begin to find resources and set a syllabus of sorts… I never took a single history class in uni, so I know neither the methods and debates in historiography, how to think like a historian, or the basic facts and narratives. I think I should start with the latter, even though it makes me queasy. But history is so interconnected that it’s hard to know when to jump in, how far back to go, and what to focus on. It’s also been hard to determine what good quality resources are versus quite biased ones, especially in regards the Middle East and Arab peoples.

    Any advice much appreciated!

  • Scott Young

    Look for uni courses online and see which textbooks they recommend. Another solution is to pick an intro book and then browse through and pick 5-10 books from the bibliography and read the best ones.

  • Scott Young

    Look for uni courses online and see which textbooks they recommend. Another solution is to pick an intro book and then browse through and pick 5-10 books from the bibliography and read the best ones.

  • Scott Young

    Sounds very cool!

  • Scott Young

    Sounds very cool!

  • Scott Young

    Sounds like you’ve got a lot of resources. My only advice would be to bias your time in favor of actually working through proofs instead of reading how to do proofs. Maybe 60% proofs, 40% reading theory. Too many projects like these suffer from too much reading and watching, which feels easier and doesn’t really test your knowledge.

  • Scott Young

    Sounds like you’ve got a lot of resources. My only advice would be to bias your time in favor of actually working through proofs instead of reading how to do proofs. Maybe 60% proofs, 40% reading theory. Too many projects like these suffer from too much reading and watching, which feels easier and doesn’t really test your knowledge.

  • Scott Young

    What would you like to learn? Really there’s no rules.

    I don’t usually do a cost-benefit analysis for ultralearning projects. Instead it’s more of–oooh that would be cool, I wonder if I could learn that–and then the gears start churning to think of a project.

    If you want something useful, you can limit your search to professional skills or other useful projects, but ultimately I think it’s best to start with projects you’re really passionate about.

  • Scott Young

    What would you like to learn? Really there’s no rules.

    I don’t usually do a cost-benefit analysis for ultralearning projects. Instead it’s more of–oooh that would be cool, I wonder if I could learn that–and then the gears start churning to think of a project.

    If you want something useful, you can limit your search to professional skills or other useful projects, but ultimately I think it’s best to start with projects you’re really passionate about.

  • Scott Young

    MIT OCW might have what you’re looking for. Or EdX or Coursera. Heck, you could even check which textbooks are recommended by the classes you can’t take, buy used editions and study from there.

  • Scott Young

    MIT OCW might have what you’re looking for. Or EdX or Coursera. Heck, you could even check which textbooks are recommended by the classes you can’t take, buy used editions and study from there.

  • Scott Young

    I don’t really see them as being different. Top Performer projects are just a subset of Ultralearning projects which happen to focus on my career.

    I wouldn’t worry about being too methodical. Just focus on having a concrete direction and goal and then learn as you go. Sometimes setting a very rigid plan can make it obsolete as you learn more about the subject.

  • Scott Young

    I don’t really see them as being different. Top Performer projects are just a subset of Ultralearning projects which happen to focus on my career.

    I wouldn’t worry about being too methodical. Just focus on having a concrete direction and goal and then learn as you go. Sometimes setting a very rigid plan can make it obsolete as you learn more about the subject.

  • Scott Young

    I think you can do an ultralearning project for school. The difference is that you’ve already been given a fairly fixed curriculum so you don’t have to innovate quite as much. Still, you can spend time thinking about what you really want to get out of your education to optimize it in ways that maybe aren’t serviced as directly by the curriculum you’ve been given.

  • Scott Young

    I think you can do an ultralearning project for school. The difference is that you’ve already been given a fairly fixed curriculum so you don’t have to innovate quite as much. Still, you can spend time thinking about what you really want to get out of your education to optimize it in ways that maybe aren’t serviced as directly by the curriculum you’ve been given.

  • Scott Young

    Since your English is clearly above an intermediate level right now, I think you’ll need to make a decision about where to focus, or if you’re going to split your focus, do so deliberately.

    Reading, listening, speaking are all good splits to work on. So you might want to read English books in the field of your focus to improve reading, listening to sitcoms, podcasts or other material to improve listening ability and having conversations with speakers on iTalki could be a good method to improve conversation skills.

  • Scott Young

    Since your English is clearly above an intermediate level right now, I think you’ll need to make a decision about where to focus, or if you’re going to split your focus, do so deliberately.

    Reading, listening, speaking are all good splits to work on. So you might want to read English books in the field of your focus to improve reading, listening to sitcoms, podcasts or other material to improve listening ability and having conversations with speakers on iTalki could be a good method to improve conversation skills.

  • Scott Young

    You can focus it by narrowing your progress to work on exactly your end goal–writing scripts for visual effects. Start there and then learn the necessary python, math, concepts only as necessary.

  • Scott Young

    You can focus it by narrowing your progress to work on exactly your end goal–writing scripts for visual effects. Start there and then learn the necessary python, math, concepts only as necessary.

  • Scott Young

    Get some basic books on finance and economics to understand the theory. Then read investment books to get a grip on the common investing strategies.

    Personally I’m a EMT fan, and I lean towards diversified index funds, but there are other styles of investing from value-investing, penny stocks, forex, etc.

    I’d probably put some time into getting grips on the theory first, since it can help you avoid some of the plentiful nonsense that exists in this space, written by people with little understanding of how investing works.

  • Scott Young

    Get some basic books on finance and economics to understand the theory. Then read investment books to get a grip on the common investing strategies.

    Personally I’m a EMT fan, and I lean towards diversified index funds, but there are other styles of investing from value-investing, penny stocks, forex, etc.

    I’d probably put some time into getting grips on the theory first, since it can help you avoid some of the plentiful nonsense that exists in this space, written by people with little understanding of how investing works.

  • Juli

    This summer, I realised that I want to become a hippologue (a unique horse-program that combines studies and science with horses). But, to get in, I have to take a riding test and even if I’m a good horse back rider I’m not nearly as good as I have to be (especially in the show-jumping).
    Since I’m very ambitious I’m certain I can make it either way. I’ve set up a plan to take lessons 2 times every week at my trainers where I will ride different horses, ride my own horse 4 times a week (I would ride him more but he’s just a little baby), ride my mum’s horse 1-2 times and maybe find some other horse I can ride sometimes. I have my mum’s friend who I know has a horse I can probably lend 😉
    Not only that, I need to work on the muscles in my core and my legs and of course, READ READ READ READ. And watch, watch, watch, watch and listen, listen, listen, listen. Thankfully I’m very good at all of these things and I’m very good at dedicating my whole self.
    However, next week school starts up again and I have a big workload since, of course, I do take the hardest courses at my level in Sweden. But, I’m positive I’ll find the time, since I always do, and I’m happy, focused and prepared for this journey!
    I’ve already bought a few new books, will start rereading a few old ones, bought a mental-training cd for riders and talked to my trainer. I’m sooo pumped!

  • Juli

    This summer, I realised that I want to become a hippologue (a unique horse-program that combines studies and science with horses). But, to get in, I have to take a riding test and even if I’m a good horse back rider I’m not nearly as good as I have to be (especially in the show-jumping).
    Since I’m very ambitious I’m certain I can make it either way. I’ve set up a plan to take lessons 2 times every week at my trainers where I will ride different horses, ride my own horse 4 times a week (I would ride him more but he’s just a little baby), ride my mum’s horse 1-2 times and maybe find some other horse I can ride sometimes. I have my mum’s friend who I know has a horse I can probably lend 😉
    Not only that, I need to work on the muscles in my core and my legs and of course, READ READ READ READ. And watch, watch, watch, watch and listen, listen, listen, listen. Thankfully I’m very good at all of these things and I’m very good at dedicating my whole self.
    However, next week school starts up again and I have a big workload since, of course, I do take the hardest courses at my level in Sweden. But, I’m positive I’ll find the time, since I always do, and I’m happy, focused and prepared for this journey!
    I’ve already bought a few new books, will start rereading a few old ones, bought a mental-training cd for riders and talked to my trainer. I’m sooo pumped!

  • Kit Ng

    I would like to learn how to conduct a successful 20-min workshop in 6 week’s time with each week 6 learning hours. I only did one workshop before. But it was awful. So I deem myself a newbie. My learning plan includes:
    – read how-to books
    – watch videos on youtube
    – join a few workshops in person to get the feel of being in a real workshop
    – practice speaking
    The difficulty is that doing a successful workshop requires a lot of things (e.g. interaction with audience, use of the right tools, master of games, good use of ppt, mastering of the environment) that can only be learned by being a workshop speaker for many many times. Let’s say I can get three speaking opportunities within 6 weeks before I do that 20-min workshop (each 10 mins, but note that they are only speaking opportunities, not workshop opportunities). Without real (workshop) experience, how can I make sure I can make it after 6-week’s time? I can practice delivering a workshop at home, but nobody can be my audience? Any thoughts?

    If my project is learning public speaking, things might be a lot easier, because we speak all the time, but we don’t do workshop all the time. There are some common things between the two, but they are not exactly the same. How can I find more (not just the end-of-the-six-week 20-min workshop) practice opportunity (within 6 weeks)? Any thoughts will be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Kit Ng

    I would like to learn how to conduct a successful 20-min workshop in 6 week’s time with each week 6 learning hours. I only did one workshop before. But it was awful. So I deem myself a newbie. My learning plan includes:
    – read how-to books
    – watch videos on youtube
    – join a few workshops in person to get the feel of being in a real workshop
    – practice speaking
    The difficulty is that doing a successful workshop requires a lot of things (e.g. interaction with audience, use of the right tools, master of games, good use of ppt, mastering of the environment) that can only be learned by being a workshop speaker for many many times. Let’s say I can get three speaking opportunities within 6 weeks before I do that 20-min workshop (each 10 mins, but note that they are only speaking opportunities, not workshop opportunities). Without real (workshop) experience, how can I make sure I can make it after 6-week’s time? I can practice delivering a workshop at home, but nobody can be my audience? Any thoughts?

    If my project is learning public speaking, things might be a lot easier, because we speak all the time, but we don’t do workshop all the time. There are some common things between the two, but they are not exactly the same. How can I find more (not just the end-of-the-six-week 20-min workshop) practice opportunity (within 6 weeks)? Any thoughts will be appreciated. Thanks!

  • Scott Young

    I would say if you typically manage 12 with life commitments, but need to invest 16, you have only two options:

    1. Figure out how to cut more from your life to focus more on studying. This could mean giving up other tasks, work, extracurriculars. Better if the sacrifices come from other work than from leisure. It’s too easy to say you’ll sleep less or watch less TV, but that approach quickly becomes self-defeating. Easier to cut from non-essential work.

    2. Stretch the project out longer so you only need 12 to finish it successfully.

  • Scott Young

    I would say if you typically manage 12 with life commitments, but need to invest 16, you have only two options:

    1. Figure out how to cut more from your life to focus more on studying. This could mean giving up other tasks, work, extracurriculars. Better if the sacrifices come from other work than from leisure. It’s too easy to say you’ll sleep less or watch less TV, but that approach quickly becomes self-defeating. Easier to cut from non-essential work.

    2. Stretch the project out longer so you only need 12 to finish it successfully.

  • Scott Young

    Learning actively just means learning via using the knowledge in a way that is closely related to what your eventual end-use is. If that is writing articles, that means probably a good way to learn material would be to write about what you’re reading. Maybe keep an informal blog where you write/summarize research findings to show you understand them.

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