- Scott H Young - https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog -

Learning Rule: Quantity, then Quality

A good rule of thumb to have in learning is to always start by increasing quantity of practice, and only after that has been reached, should you focus on increasing quality.

This rule is surprisingly general.

Trying to find the right way to learn math [1]?

Start by reading a lot more math books. Watching more math videos. Trying math problems. Hard problems. Easy problems. Make up your own problems. Just do a lot of stuff.

When “doing more stuff” becomes hard or impossible, next look at the quality. Can you make your practice more efficient? Your conceptual understanding? Should you do focused drills or holistic projects?

Trying to find the right way to become a better writer [2]?

Start by writing a lot. And reading a lot. And editing and rewriting stuff you wrote in the past. And then write some more.

Once doing more becomes hard, then look at what kind of writing you can try to improve your skills faster. Focus on storytelling? Research? Grammar and vocabulary?

Trying to find the best way to learn a language [3]?

Have lots of conversations. Easy ones. Hard ones. Short ones. Long ones. Read more. Watch movies, don’t worry about if they have subtitles.

Once you can’t reasonably add more, start to improve quality. What’s your fluency obstacle? Speaking, reading, listening or writing? Maybe it’s pronunciation or vocabulary or grammar? Work on those and focus your practice to be more efficient.

Why Quantity Must Go First

The quantity-first rule to learning matters for two reasons:

  1. Some is almost always better than none. If a learning method is sub-optimal, but you use it a lot, then you’ll make slow progress. If a learning method is optimal, but you never use it, you’ll make no progress.
  2. Quantity helps you determine quality. If you spend a lot of time learning, your mind naturally seeks out ways to make it more efficient. You become receptive to more useful tools and strategies.

If you’ve been struggling to spend time learning something, my advice would be to try to increase your quantity doing anything. Even if you’re not sure it’s the right method or approach.

Only once you’ve been spending some time learning a subject, should you start to fiddle with how to make it more efficient.