How to Start Your Own Ultralearning Project (Part Two)

Last week I wrote the first part of this two-part series on how to start your own ultralearning project. I wrote about why you should take on an ultralearning project and how to design the project to maximize the chance of success.

Ultralearning projects, like the MIT Challenge or Year Without English, are goals to learn something concrete in an intense, aggressive way, so as to make rapid progress. They are the opposite of dabbling in something, where you learn without a firm direction and intent.

Learning through low-pressure dabbling is great. But it’s like floating along a river—you can get stuck in rocks or rapids if you’re not careful. Through ultralearning projects that you can paddle forward and make progress.

In today’s article, I’m going to explore the two most common barriers to doing an ultralearning project: finding time and being able to focus.

How Do You Find Time to Ultralearn?

I occasionally get emails from people who’d like to do the MIT Challenge themselves. Strangely, one of the big questions I get asked is whether I think you could the challenge in one year while also working a full-time job.

Although I wouldn’t rule it out, my guess is that if you’re emailing me asking for help you won’t be able to. I spent about 50-60 hours per week to complete the challenge on time, and I only worked one day per week on my business. If you know how to finish the challenge while also putting in 40 hours/week on a full-time job, I should be the one emailing you for advice!

This, of course, raises an obvious question: how are you supposed to do ultralearning if you do have a full-time job? Most people can’t take a year off to pursue self-education.

Part of the answer to that is in designing your project. While I don’t think completing the MIT Challenge in one year is feasible with a full-time job, you might be able to complete it over a longer period of time, or focus on a subset of classes that really interests you. I like to choose projects with a grand scope because they make for interesting material for my blog, but smaller, narrower projects can also be quite successful. For instance, here’s one approach that cuts 2/3rds of the curriculum I took, but preserves essential computer science education.

But let’s say you’ve winnowed down your project to a narrow scope and decide to take on a fixed-hours or fixed-time schedule to tackle it, putting in 7 hours per week, let’s say. How can you find that time in your schedule?

1. Time is Abundant, Attention is Not

If you conduct a timelog of your activities throughout the day, almost everyone could find at least a few hours of time that doesn’t feel particularly useful. Many people, especially the busiest among us, are often shocked by how much of their day is occupied on things they could probably eliminate without much negative impact: television, Facebook, random web surfing, emails, etc.

Even if you don’t have large chunks of time wasted during the day (a rarity), you might find your time is more fractured and messy than would be ideally productive. Sometimes just by organizing your time better and eliminating interruptions in your work can save a few hours of productive time.

Given this assessment, I don’t think it’s reasonable for the 95%+ people here to say they couldn’t spend 5 hours per week on an ultralearning project that’s truly important to them. Time isn’t what’s in short supply.

What is in short supply is attention and coordinating your focus to accomplish something. The biggest barrier to doing an ultralearning project isn’t that there’s no time to work on it, but that you’ll always be forgetting to put in work on it, getting distracted by other things.

The solution? Make working on your project a habit. Set up a concrete time to invest in your project every day. Even if it’s not a lot of time, try to make it as consistent as possible with your schedule so that working on the project will be relatively automatic.

2. Choose Projects that Really Matter

Ultralearning projects are hard work. If they’re going to compete for time in your schedule, they better be at least as important as the other things you regularly give time to. Given their intensity, it’s probably good that they be at least as important.

I can’t say what matters to you, or your priorities for life. But if you’ve never done an ultralearning project, you need to dream up one which would have major benefits to you if you could complete it. Luckily, for a lot of people who don’t regularly do this, there are usually dozens of ultralearning projects that could easily have a better return on investment for their time than many of their other activities.

I tend not to start ultralearning projects unless I find them intensely interesting and motivating to pursue. If a project still feels kind of boring, or that it’s something I “should” do, rather than something I want to do, I keep brainstorming and thinking about the project to try to resolve its weaknesses.

How Do You Focus on Ultralearning?

Even if you manage to set aside time for your ultralearning project, many people struggle with actually executing it. Working on intense, hard learning activities requires enormous focus and energy. Many people start an ultralearning project with good intentions and planning but shortly give up when they try to sit down and actually start working on it.

Luckily, I think focusing is a skill that people can learn. To focus well, you need three parts: environmental design, self-monitoring and progressive training.

1. Designing a Focus-Friendly Environment

The first step is to design an environment for doing your ultralearning which doesn’t have distractions or temptations.

One way to do this is to modify your existing environment to work in. This can mean putting on apps like Self Control or Leech Block to prevent electronic distractions. Put your phone on airplane mode. Hang a do-not-disturb sign outside of your workplace.

This can work, but for many people the residual distractions will still be too great. An alternative, therefore, is to select a new environment that is mostly disconnected already. Libraries, coffee shops or park benches, might all serve as potential learning environments.

However, it is not possible to create a completely pure and sterile learning environment. You’ll always have some distractions or interruptions, so it’s important you build the skill of focusing on top of creating a focus-friendly environment.

2. Monitor Your Focus

Now you’re sitting down, ready to learn, in an environment with minimal distractions. You open the book or start practicing and five minutes later… I wonder what John is up to right now? I feel like getting up and doing something else. I caught my mind wandering, I’m not really paying attention at all, maybe I should just give up…

This is normal. Everyone gets distracted by the buzz of their own internal monologue. Everyone gets bored or frustrated. You may feel like quitting or taking a break quite frequently.

Focusing is like running. If you’ve rarely done it for long stretches of time before, it can feel like agony every second. However, if you can push through the temptation to quit, you’ll realize that you aren’t actually that tired and can probably keep doing it for a lot longer. Best of all, if you keep at it, eventually you’ll love doing it.

I recommend some rules of thumb to help you think about focusing better:

  1. If you catch your mind wandering, don’t feel guilty, just let it naturally gravitate back to the subject. Mind wandering is common, particularly with more passive learning activities like reading or video watching. The key is to not get upset, just let your mind drift back on task.
  2. If you feel like quitting, look at the time and set a deadline to allow yourself to take a break if you can reach it. So let’s say you’re struggling to focus and it’s 8:37. You look at the clock and tell yourself if you can wait until 8:45 and still can’t focus, you’ll take a quick break. Very often, 8:45 will fly by and you won’t even notice it because you’ll be focused again. When you feel the same urge to quit, perhaps this time at 9:03, you can repeat the exercise. This realization that most urges to quit are fleeting greatly extends your focus.
  3. If you hit your deadline and you still can’t focus, take a smart break. Smart breaks are boring, mentally quiet tasks that allow you to relax your mind without risking opening up new distractions. Have a drink of water, go for a short walk, do some pushups, meditate quietly, close your eyes and lean back (if you might fall asleep, set a timer though!).
  4. If you can’t focus because you’re frustrated, talk out loud about the problem. Talking out loud (or writing notes in a journal) helps you wrap your head around the problem and find a new solution. This can alleviate the pressure of frustration while still allowing you to make progress on the problem.
  5. If you can’t focus because you’re bored, make the learning activity you’re doing more active. That means if you’re watching a video or reading, try taking more notes. The more action you take, the less likely you’ll be bored and have your mind wander.
  6. Feeling sleepy/angry/strained/drained/etc.? Mentally take a step back and let the feeling pass. Don’t react to the feeling by immediately getting up and doing something about it. If you notice the feeling, let it pass and continue, you can recover 90% of the time. Procrastinate on reacting for as long as possible and you’ll end up ignoring many non-problems as they pop up.

I highly recommend anyone who struggles with focusing to practice meditation. Here is a good email course on meditation which explains the basics. Meditation is kind of like “raw” focus, where there isn’t a particular productive output of the focus, but instead the contents of consciousness become the object of focus. Practicing meditation teaches a skillset which then can be transferred over to ultralearning.

3. Progressively Improve Your Focus

Focus, particularly for people who aren’t used to it, can be very difficult. You might feel like it’s impossible for you to really focus, that you don’t like it, or that it’s too exhausting to be worth completing your ultralearning project.

But I think if you push past that, you’ll find yourself getting slowly better at focusing. As you improve, you’ll be able to persist for longer. Complete a few ultralearning projects and you may feel like focus is just a switch—turn it on and get results.

One way you can improve your ability to focus is by improving your moment-to-moment self-talk and reactivity while actually focusing. You’ll get better, for instance, at letting fleeting internal distractions pass without reacting to them. You’ll get better at holding out for slightly longer periods of time before triggering a break or quitting.

Another way you will get better is through conditioning. As you get more used to sitting and focusing for long periods, they feel more normal and natural. Many people aren’t used to having any time at all away from distractions and interruptions. For those people, focusing is such an alien task that it may take awhile before it feels fully comfortable.

Start Your Own Ultralearning Project

Last time I encouraged you to post your own ultralearning project and I could offer feedback. That offer still stands for anyone who wishes to comment there. In this post, I’ll make a different request—share with me your difficulties with an ultralearning project you’ve already started and I’ll do my best to offer advice.

Ultralearning projects are challenging and intense. But they also have enormous rewards and benefits. Being able to learn something quickly, impressively and with confidence can trickle down into many areas of your life. What do you want to learn?

  • Adam Elshimi

    SCOTT I HOPE YOU ARE WELL AND ENJOYING LIFE!!

    I am a 3rd year Mathematics student that is running a small food company, with time and focus being my biggest challenge.

    I want to learn Python programming language in the next year and I struggle a lot with focus, planning and using the Feynman technique to cement and more efficiently learn new concepts and skills.

    1) How could I make Python learning more interactive?
    2) An example of using Feynman technique on a Python concept.
    3) How to guarantee commitment to the ultra learning project?

  • Alison

    Hi Scott,
    I work in the field of safety concerning electronic components and software. I currently work in the automotive industry and I’m about to move to a job where I’ll work across many industries, each with their own standards. I’m familiar with the automotive standards but not those from other industries, and I want to get to know them as quickly as possible. The problem I’ve found is that standards are not really designed to be read cover to cover, so I have trouble concentrating and remembering anything afterwards.

    Any tips for working with this type of material?

  • Alison

    Hi Scott,
    I work in the field of safety concerning electronic components and software. I currently work in the automotive industry and I’m about to move to a job where I’ll work across many industries, each with their own standards. I’m familiar with the automotive standards but not those from other industries, and I want to get to know them as quickly as possible. The problem I’ve found is that standards are not really designed to be read cover to cover, so I have trouble concentrating and remembering anything afterwards.

    Any tips for working with this type of material?

  • Luiza Mendonça

    Hi Scott,
    What if all the ultralearning projects you can think of look like great important things when you start them and become something “you’re doing because you have to” after, and EVERYTHING else looks more enticing than pursuing it?

  • Luiza Mendonça

    Hi Scott,
    What if all the ultralearning projects you can think of look like great important things when you start them and become something “you’re doing because you have to” after, and EVERYTHING else looks more enticing than pursuing it?

  • Iris Schwartz

    Hello, Tasnim!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such great advice regarding productivity on public transportation, planning breaks in a “smart” way, and useful resources to check out.

    The best people I know I can get advice from is doctors, residents, fellows and medical students such as yourself, and I definitely got a lot of valuable information from your post.

    Best of luck on your future ultralearning projects and on your career path!

    Sincerely,
    Iris Schwartz

  • Iris Schwartz

    Hello, Tasnim!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to give me such great advice regarding productivity on public transportation, planning breaks in a “smart” way, and useful resources to check out.

    The best people I know I can get advice from is doctors, residents, fellows and medical students such as yourself, and I definitely got a lot of valuable information from your post.

    Best of luck on your future ultralearning projects and on your career path!

    Sincerely,
    Iris Schwartz

  • Iris Schwartz

    Hello, Scott!

    I appreciate you taking the time to answer.

    Any tips for making a 1.5 hour commute as productive as possible?

    Sincerely,
    Iris Schwartz

  • Iris Schwartz

    Hello, Scott!

    I appreciate you taking the time to answer.

    Any tips for making a 1.5 hour commute as productive as possible?

    Sincerely,
    Iris Schwartz

  • C. Agpaoa

    Hello Scott,
    I started studying thermodynamics last month for the sake of learning while school hasn’t started, and then I stumbled upon your video on YouTube and it motivated me. I realized that I was ‘dabbling’ all along and after watching some of your videos I decided that I will start ultra learning.

    I’m about to pursue Mechanical Engineering Technology – Design in a Tech College (Co-op) which is 2-3 years depending if I get hired during my co-op terms; and while doing that I am planning to finish 3 MIT degrees (Mechanical Eng, Aerospace Eng/ Electrical Eng & Computer Science, and Physics) in 3 years. I have no problem with the time because I really love learning and I have no problem in doing all of this while studying because a already have a background with all of the subjects that I will take because I used to be an engineering student (3rd year Manufacturing Eng). I will bridge into UBC after all of this, I wanted to do this so I can focus on the student teams that I want to be a part of while getting my diploma in BEng Mechanical Engineering and hopefully apply all the knowledge I know in our world.

    Some of my subjects in tech school are the same with some of MIT’s courses, but some are not, like electives and communication subjects. I am willing to spend my 4 (8-10 hrs) days of my week for ultra learning and 2 days for school requirements and depending on the workload, and if it gets too hectic I will cut some time from my rest day and if needed, I will cut some time for ultra learning — and that’s what I am worried about, I just want to ask for some advice on how should I tackle my daily routine since I am a student, and some of my time will be consumed by unnecessary subjects, traveling (3hrs commute or 1 hr if I drive) etc. And how should I tackle it if I am working for the summer (co-op).

    PS: I am preparing myself now, I will read and finish all of your videos before I start (September). You’ve done it and showed the world it is possible — I will do the same!

  • C. Agpaoa

    Hello Scott,
    I started studying thermodynamics last month for the sake of learning while school hasn’t started, and then I stumbled upon your video on YouTube and it motivated me. I realized that I was ‘dabbling’ all along and after watching some of your videos I decided that I will start ultra learning.

    I’m about to pursue Mechanical Engineering Technology – Design in a Tech College (Co-op) which is 2-3 years depending if I get hired during my co-op terms; and while doing that I am planning to finish 3 MIT degrees (Mechanical Eng, Aerospace Eng/ Electrical Eng & Computer Science, and Physics) in 3 years. I have no problem with the time because I really love learning and I have no problem in doing all of this while studying because a already have a background with all of the subjects that I will take because I used to be an engineering student (3rd year Manufacturing Eng). I will bridge into UBC after all of this, I wanted to do this so I can focus on the student teams that I want to be a part of while getting my diploma in BEng Mechanical Engineering and hopefully apply all the knowledge I know in our world.

    Some of my subjects in tech school are the same with some of MIT’s courses, but some are not, like electives and communication subjects. I am willing to spend my 4 (8-10 hrs) days of my week for ultra learning and 2 days for school requirements and depending on the workload, and if it gets too hectic I will cut some time from my rest day and if needed, I will cut some time for ultra learning — and that’s what I am worried about, I just want to ask for some advice on how should I tackle my daily routine since I am a student, and some of my time will be consumed by unnecessary subjects, traveling (3hrs commute or 1 hr if I drive) etc. And how should I tackle it if I am working for the summer (co-op).

    PS: I am preparing myself now, I will read and finish all of your videos before I start (September). You’ve done it and showed the world it is possible — I will do the same!

  • Tabare

    Hello Scott. First of all, amazing article.

    Now, I have thought about the idea of starting an Ultralearing Project for a while and now I have made my mind and fully convinced myself and I started to prepare my very first Ultralearning Project.

    I am still at high school, I go to a specific school specializing in computer science. But still high school. The thing is, I am planning to do a Computer Engineering degree when I finish school (year and a half to finish school yet) and I have thought about the idea of approaching it in a different way. Instead of going to classes as a normal student would do, I am thinking on taking only the exams and doing the projects, but studying at home. This will let me get the degree earlier and have a freedom that students who assist to classes don’t have (at least from my point of view).
    The ultralearning project that I am approaching right now would be Single Variable Calculus. I would like to learn it since all the applications it has, also because I enjoy math. And also to test myself. I want to see if I am able to do a kind of project like this one, to prepare myself to the later challenge that I mentioned above. And in case I could not finish it as I would want to I will have an idea of the things I would have to improve, level of difficulty… and a change of perspective in the way I will approach the challenge of getting a Computer Engineering Degree in shorter time.

    Now my concern is the following:
    Since I spend about (8 – 9 hours) each day in school (including the time it takes me to get home).
    I don’t have a lot of time to focus on the project. However, what I decided to do, Is to schedule 3
    Free days in a row that I will have, in which I will cover all the theoretical material and maybe
    start with some of the practice problems.
    Then I was planning on doing the rest of the problem sets and the insight, review, etc,
    distributed throughout the week. For example. from 7am to 11am ( for an entire week or so).
    What I meant is: Is it okay if I separate the two main steps of the learning project? (covering and problem sets). One in a 3 days in a row burst , and the other in a fixed-schedule with few hours each day (or most days) throughout the week.
    Will that in some way be negative to the learning process?
    Or is it suitable to be done in later projects also?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    Tabare.

  • Tabare

    Hello Scott. First of all, amazing article.

    Now, I have thought about the idea of starting an Ultralearing Project for a while and now I have made my mind and fully convinced myself and I started to prepare my very first Ultralearning Project.

    I am still at high school, I go to a specific school specializing in computer science. But still high school. The thing is, I am planning to do a Computer Engineering degree when I finish school (year and a half to finish school yet) and I have thought about the idea of approaching it in a different way. Instead of going to classes as a normal student would do, I am thinking on taking only the exams and doing the projects, but studying at home. This will let me get the degree earlier and have a freedom that students who assist to classes don’t have (at least from my point of view).
    The ultralearning project that I am approaching right now would be Single Variable Calculus. I would like to learn it since all the applications it has, also because I enjoy math. And also to test myself. I want to see if I am able to do a kind of project like this one, to prepare myself to the later challenge that I mentioned above. And in case I could not finish it as I would want to I will have an idea of the things I would have to improve, level of difficulty… and a change of perspective in the way I will approach the challenge of getting a Computer Engineering Degree in shorter time.

    Now my concern is the following:
    Since I spend about (8 – 9 hours) each day in school (including the time it takes me to get home).
    I don’t have a lot of time to focus on the project. However, what I decided to do, Is to schedule 3
    Free days in a row that I will have, in which I will cover all the theoretical material and maybe
    start with some of the practice problems.
    Then I was planning on doing the rest of the problem sets and the insight, review, etc,
    distributed throughout the week. For example. from 7am to 11am ( for an entire week or so).
    What I meant is: Is it okay if I separate the two main steps of the learning project? (covering and problem sets). One in a 3 days in a row burst , and the other in a fixed-schedule with few hours each day (or most days) throughout the week.
    Will that in some way be negative to the learning process?
    Or is it suitable to be done in later projects also?

    Thanks a lot in advance.

    Tabare.

  • Ankita Padhi

    Hello Scott,
    I have made for myself an ultralearning project, here are the details in brief :
    1)My Project : To clear entrance exam for medical college.
    2)Time duration : 8 months (exam is in May).
    3)Subjects : Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
    4)Format : Full time
    5) Prep to learn : I have all the Books and practice paper material that I need, which are a lot.

    The study method I’m using:
    a) Reading
    b) Making notes.
    c) Practice questions.

    My difficulties:
    1) Focus (the main one), I never complete the reading step and I get distracted then in panic I start doing questions with unclear concepts and beat myself up for not being able to solve questions. Reading step is the one hindrance.
    2) I don’t know how to divide the subjects (one per day, x pages of each, x hours for each)
    3) Biology is all rote memorization stuff so I don’t know how to make metaphors and analogies in it. Same for physics and chemistry. I am not able to learn holistically.
    4) Also any recall system that works because I tend to forget stuff quickly so should I do recall in a week, a month ?

    Right now I am pilot testing my study schedule till
    August 17 after which I will start full fledged studying. Your feedback on the above will be valuable.
    Regards,
    Ankita.

  • Ankita Padhi

    Hello Scott,
    I have made for myself an ultralearning project, here are the details in brief :
    1)My Project : To clear entrance exam for medical college.
    2)Time duration : 8 months (exam is in May).
    3)Subjects : Biology, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
    4)Format : Full time
    5) Prep to learn : I have all the Books and practice paper material that I need, which are a lot.

    The study method I’m using:
    a) Reading
    b) Making notes.
    c) Practice questions.

    My difficulties:
    1) Focus (the main one), I never complete the reading step and I get distracted then in panic I start doing questions with unclear concepts and beat myself up for not being able to solve questions. Reading step is the one hindrance.
    2) I don’t know how to divide the subjects (one per day, x pages of each, x hours for each)
    3) Biology is all rote memorization stuff so I don’t know how to make metaphors and analogies in it. Same for physics and chemistry. I am not able to learn holistically.
    4) Also any recall system that works because I tend to forget stuff quickly so should I do recall in a week, a month ?

    Right now I am pilot testing my study schedule till
    August 17 after which I will start full fledged studying. Your feedback on the above will be valuable.
    Regards,
    Ankita.

  • Thanks Scott!

    During The STEMpunk Project I have had to spend nearly as much effort figuring how to work as I have figuring out what to work on. I can’t recommend Cal Newport’s Deep Work[1] or Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project[2] enough.

    I have also found a number of techniques useful in increasing attentional bandwidth. Environmental design is extremely important, and programs like leechblock fall into a more general category of techniques I call “distraction levees”[3]. Ultimately, though, these techniques are limited; no matter how well you design your environment you can still find ways to distract yourself if you’re determined to. Meditation is the obvious choice in combatting distractive tendencies, as well as being a profound exploratory vehicle for those of us who qualify as ‘secular spiritualists'[4]. Moreover, I experimented with ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ focus days over the course of a month to try and see the impact various techniques and workflow practices had on my attention[5]. I also added some focus-oriented refrains to my mantra stack[6].

    One thing you didn’t address here is dealing with frustration and failure. Two techniques I have found for dealing with failure are keeping it in context[7][8] and aggressively learning from it[9]. Failure autopsies in particular are a class of techniques that I think have a lot of potential, and I plan on spending serious time fleshing them out in the future.

    [1]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/02/04/profundis-deep-work/
    [2]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/05/31/profundis-the-productivity-project/
    [3]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/05/30/build-a-distraction-levee/
    [4]https://rulerstothesky.com/2012/08/26/the-parable-of-an-atheist-at-a-temple/
    [5]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/06/03/an-experiment-in-focus/
    [6]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/04/17/using-a-mantra-stack/
    [7]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/04/04/these-failures-form-a-ladder/
    [8]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/02/25/what-to-do-when-you-feel-inadequate/
    [9]https://rulerstothesky.com/2016/03/17/the-stempunk-project-performing-a-failure-autopsy/

  • Trent Fowler

    Thanks Scott!

    During The STEMpunk Project I have had to spend nearly as much effort figuring how to work as I have figuring out what to work on. I can’t recommend Cal Newport’s Deep Work[1] or Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project[2] enough.

    I have also found a number of techniques useful in increasing attentional bandwidth. Environmental design is extremely important, and programs like leechblock fall into a more general category of techniques I call “distraction levees”[3]. Ultimately, though, these techniques are limited; no matter how well you design your environment you can still find ways to distract yourself if you’re determined to. Meditation is the obvious choice in combatting distractive tendencies, as well as being a profound exploratory vehicle for those of us who qualify as ‘secular spiritualists'[4]. Moreover, I experimented with ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ focus days over the course of a month to try and see the impact various techniques and workflow practices had on my attention[5]. I also added some focus-oriented refrains to my mantra stack[6].

    One thing you didn’t address here is dealing with frustration and failure. Two techniques I have found for dealing with failure are keeping it in context[7][8] and aggressively learning from it[9]. Failure autopsies in particular are a class of techniques that I think have a lot of potential, and I plan on spending serious time fleshing them out in the future.

    [1]https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [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
    [7]https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [8]https://rulerstothesky.com/201
    [9]https://rulerstothesky.com/201

  • Scott Young

    Frustration is another important part I should write about more soon. I think it’s one of the essential parts of learning and can often be a cause of focus-breaking. Thanks for your references for everyone!

  • Scott Young

    Frustration is another important part I should write about more soon. I think it’s one of the essential parts of learning and can often be a cause of focus-breaking. Thanks for your references for everyone!

  • Scott Young

    Some thoughts:

    1. I would probably do problems first, then read. It’s easy to waste large chunks of time not really paying attention while reading. If you have the flexibility, doing a few questions and failing at them first gives you a good incentive to read since now you know what you’re trying to solve. I find there’s a tendency to nod your head and say “oh yeah, I get that.” and not really remember it while reading. Doing problems first removes that illusion.

    2. For medical topics, I can’t recommend this guide enough: http://www.learningmedicinebook.com/

    3. For rote memorization go with Anki. But be careful, a lot of stuff that seems like rote memorization does have a conceptual underpinning, so Anki can be a lazy way to not really understand what you’re trying to learn.

  • Scott Young

    Some thoughts:

    1. I would probably do problems first, then read. It’s easy to waste large chunks of time not really paying attention while reading. If you have the flexibility, doing a few questions and failing at them first gives you a good incentive to read since now you know what you’re trying to solve. I find there’s a tendency to nod your head and say “oh yeah, I get that.” and not really remember it while reading. Doing problems first removes that illusion.

    2. For medical topics, I can’t recommend this guide enough: http://www.learningmedicineboo

    3. For rote memorization go with Anki. But be careful, a lot of stuff that seems like rote memorization does have a conceptual underpinning, so Anki can be a lazy way to not really understand what you’re trying to learn.

  • Scott Young

    I think you can split them, I tended to do that during the MIT Challenge. One problem, however, is if you do a lot of reading without any practice it’s easy to not really learn things properly. This didn’t become a huge issue during the MIT Challenge because the timeframes were so close together, but if I were learning over a more stretched out schedule, I’d probably do some practice alongside each unit before moving on.

  • Scott Young

    I think you can split them, I tended to do that during the MIT Challenge. One problem, however, is if you do a lot of reading without any practice it’s easy to not really learn things properly. This didn’t become a huge issue during the MIT Challenge because the timeframes were so close together, but if I were learning over a more stretched out schedule, I’d probably do some practice alongside each unit before moving on.

  • Scott Young

    3 MIT Degrees in 3 years is an ambitious project! I love it.

    But follow my advice from Part 1. You should have plenty of time preparing before launching into this project. I spent about 6 months preparing before doing the MIT Challenge. Doing something three times as ambitious shouldn’t have less preparation than that.

  • Scott Young

    3 MIT Degrees in 3 years is an ambitious project! I love it.

    But follow my advice from Part 1. You should have plenty of time preparing before launching into this project. I spent about 6 months preparing before doing the MIT Challenge. Doing something three times as ambitious shouldn’t have less preparation than that.

  • Scott Young

    Ultralearning one subject and then another after it is faster than any other method I’ve tried, so I can’t think of a better method for learning a lot of things if everything seems enticing to you.

    The problem is one of discipline. Wanting to learn things purely on impulse rarely leads to deep mastery. It’s through commitment and focus that you can actually get results.

    Honestly, I think the problem resolves itself once you get a few projects under your belt. After that you *know* that ultralearning works faster so you don’t try to switch as frequently. Once you see yourself get much better in a short period of time, it dispels your notions that hopping between things is an effective strategy.

  • Scott Young

    Ultralearning one subject and then another after it is faster than any other method I’ve tried, so I can’t think of a better method for learning a lot of things if everything seems enticing to you.

    The problem is one of discipline. Wanting to learn things purely on impulse rarely leads to deep mastery. It’s through commitment and focus that you can actually get results.

    Honestly, I think the problem resolves itself once you get a few projects under your belt. After that you *know* that ultralearning works faster so you don’t try to switch as frequently. Once you see yourself get much better in a short period of time, it dispels your notions that hopping between things is an effective strategy.

  • Scott Young

    How does it work in practice?

    I’m always thinking about not how does the knowledge get in my head, but what is the usage of the knowledge, that dictates the best way to learn it. So I’m guessing these standards come into play when you’re working on projects and you need to verify the best way to do things? If that’s the case, the best way to master the standards is probably to read alongside working on hands-on projects that employ them.

  • Scott Young

    How does it work in practice?

    I’m always thinking about not how does the knowledge get in my head, but what is the usage of the knowledge, that dictates the best way to learn it. So I’m guessing these standards come into play when you’re working on projects and you need to verify the best way to do things? If that’s the case, the best way to master the standards is probably to read alongside working on hands-on projects that employ them.

  • Scott Young

    1. What do you want to build with Python? Design a cool project that is something you’ll enjoy and work from there.
    2. What’s a concept you need explained? Why don’t you write a Feynman explaining it as a reply to this comment and I can offer suggestions.
    3. Plan, plan, plan. Make a schedule. Test it during a pilot week. Look advance and clear out things that will disrupt your project. Set aside the time. Make it a habit. It ain’t glamorous, but it works. Most failures to stick are failures to prepare for difficulties.

  • Scott Young

    1. What do you want to build with Python? Design a cool project that is something you’ll enjoy and work from there.
    2. What’s a concept you need explained? Why don’t you write a Feynman explaining it as a reply to this comment and I can offer suggestions.
    3. Plan, plan, plan. Make a schedule. Test it during a pilot week. Look advance and clear out things that will disrupt your project. Set aside the time. Make it a habit. It ain’t glamorous, but it works. Most failures to stick are failures to prepare for difficulties.

  • Scott Young

    Get a phrase book and practice with your patients. Once you can say a few basic phrases and words, try to find a tutor on iTalki and go no-English with them to practice.

    It doesn’t take a lot of time, just commitment to using an active practice method.

  • Scott Young

    Get a phrase book and practice with your patients. Once you can say a few basic phrases and words, try to find a tutor on iTalki and go no-English with them to practice.

    It doesn’t take a lot of time, just commitment to using an active practice method.

  • Kathiresan Senthil

    Hello Scott,
    I’m studying in class 11 and will be appearing for JEE Main 2018 (one of the toughest entrance exams). I have a time span of about one and a half years to master my materials(syllabus is vast). Here comes the problem, at school I have three important subjects… physics, Maths and Chemistry and in each subject, I learn 6 different topics (two in each subject) at the same time. Once the topics are over I write successive tests on each topic and I’ve been dabbling all this time because of which I’m not scoring good in the tests. So I have planned to give “ultralearning” a shot but I’m facing quite a few problems…. In the first part, you mentioned that focusing on multiple topics becomes a mess… then how should I plan in order to master all the six topics in a short span of time. Also since my syllabus is vast(as I’ve mentioned earlier)… how do I retain something that I learn now for the next two years?
    Your articles look quite promising and a lot helpful looking forward to more of these.
    Thank you!

  • Kathiresan Senthil

    Hello Scott,
    I’m studying in class 11 and will be appearing for JEE Main 2018 (one of the toughest entrance exams). I have a time span of about one and a half years to master my materials(syllabus is vast). Here comes the problem, at school I have three important subjects… physics, Maths and Chemistry and in each subject, I learn 6 different topics (two in each subject) at the same time. Once the topics are over I write successive tests on each topic and I’ve been dabbling all this time because of which I’m not scoring good in the tests. So I have planned to give “ultralearning” a shot but I’m facing quite a few problems…. In the first part, you mentioned that focusing on multiple topics becomes a mess… then how should I plan in order to master all the six topics in a short span of time. Also since my syllabus is vast(as I’ve mentioned earlier)… how do I retain something that I learn now for the next two years?
    Your articles look promising and its of great help. Looking forward to more of these.
    Thank you!

  • Ankita Padhi

    Your thoughts are worth noting. Would it make any difference if I add that the entrance exam I will be giving will be completely Multiple choice type ? Would your method still hold true or should I dive into the gory details of each chapter ?
    Thank you.

  • Ankita Padhi

    Your thoughts are worth noting. Would it make any difference if I add that the entrance exam I will be giving will be completely Multiple choice type ? Would your method still hold true or should I dive into the gory details of each chapter ?
    Thank you.

  • ThinkModel

    Hello Scott. I am a huge fan of your blog. I have read the better part of your articles. They are all well-structured and well-research. So, I would like to ask have you heard/read/researched the phenomenon called “fixation error” and if you have, what are thought on it?

  • ThinkModel

    Hello Scott. I am a huge fan of your blog. I have read the better part of your articles. They are all well-structured and well-research. So, I would like to ask have you heard/read/researched the phenomenon called “fixation error” and if you have, what are thought on it?

  • ThinkModel

    Hello Scott. I am a huge fan of your blog. I have read the better part of your articles. They are all well-structured and well-research. So, I would like to ask have you heard/read/researched the phenomenon called “fixation error” and if you have, what are your thoughts on it?*

  • ThinkModel

    Hello Scott. I am a huge fan of your blog. I have read the better part of your articles. They are all well-structured and well-research. So, I would like to ask have you heard/read/researched the phenomenon called “fixation error” and if you have, what are your thoughts on it?*

  • Scott Young

    Multiple choice tests mean you might want to practice exams in that context so you can get a feeling for how the questions are set up (some tests have a lot of trick questions, so you may want to practice test-taking as a skill in addition to content knowledge). However, I don’t think it makes a radical difference in how you should study.

  • Scott Young

    Multiple choice tests mean you might want to practice exams in that context so you can get a feeling for how the questions are set up (some tests have a lot of trick questions, so you may want to practice test-taking as a skill in addition to content knowledge). However, I don’t think it makes a radical difference in how you should study.

  • Scott Young

    Are you driving or a passenger? If it’s the former, I think it’s hard to get quality studying time in. You may want to listen to audio recordings for notes, but frankly the time quality is going to be quite low, so I wouldn’t make it a priority for studying. If you are a passenger, that’s a different story. Assuming you can successfully cancel out distractions, you should be able to read/study semi-normally.

  • Scott Young

    Are you driving or a passenger? If it’s the former, I think it’s hard to get quality studying time in. You may want to listen to audio recordings for notes, but frankly the time quality is going to be quite low, so I wouldn’t make it a priority for studying. If you are a passenger, that’s a different story. Assuming you can successfully cancel out distractions, you should be able to read/study semi-normally.

  • Scott Young

    Fair enough, those are conventions that need to be learned. But I think they’re probably best learned through repeated use than by memorization in a more abstract way (say by flashcards). That way you won’t have transfer problems when you need to use the theory in practice.

  • João Francisco Nogueira

    Hey Scott, what’s up man!
    Big fan, long time reader, first time commenter. So, i’m a 23 y/o brazilian, strugling law student. These articles inspired me to design my own project. I choose to go through 2 classes i had back when i was a freshman, wich i feel didn’t quite stuck with. I red the syllabus again, and got the textbooks. And i found the notes i took in class, way back in 2013. The plan’s to read the notes, to know where to focus, read the textbookd and make questions notes, so i don’t bore myself to death and wind up giving up the project.
    The only part i haven’t figured out is how to test myself. Should i use the questions i made myself (don’t think is the ideal option) or try to find some tests on-line. Or mayde write an essay and ask for a professor to take a look and see if i grasped the main concepts?

    Thanks in advance man, love your work!
    Grande abraço, de seu fã brasileiro (vamos ver se seu português ainda está funcionando kkkkk)
    João Nogueira

  • João Francisco Nogueira

    Hey Scott, what’s up man!
    Big fan, long time reader, first time commenter. So, i’m a 23 y/o brazilian, strugling law student. These articles inspired me to design my own project. I choose to go through 2 classes i had back when i was a freshman, wich i feel didn’t quite stuck with. I red the syllabus again, and got the textbooks. And i found the notes i took in class, way back in 2013. The plan’s to read the notes, to know where to focus, read the textbookd and make questions notes, so i don’t bore myself to death and wind up giving up the project.
    The only part i haven’t figured out is how to test myself. Should i use the questions i made myself (don’t think is the ideal option) or try to find some tests on-line. Or mayde write an essay and ask for a professor to take a look and see if i grasped the main concepts?

    Thanks in advance man, love your work!
    Grande abraço, de seu fã brasileiro (vamos ver se seu português ainda está funcionando kkkkk)
    João Nogueira

  • EMMANUEL NWOKWU

    Hi Scott, i love your article, very interesting.
    Please do you have any strategy on how i can improve on my written and spoken English Language. I have been struggling with this problem for a long time. Please any advice will be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance
    Emmanuel

  • EMMANUEL NWOKWU

    Hi Scott, i love your article, very interesting.
    Please do you have any strategy on how i can improve on my written and spoken English Language. I have been struggling with this problem for a long time. Please any advice will be appreciated.
    Thanks in advance
    Emmanuel

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