Too often, I find myself going down the rabbit hole. A search would start out with a keyword that eludes me. Over time, too many associated links try to grab my attention. And I’m left with multiple tabs in the address bar, rather than the answer that I was originally looking for.
Worse yet, I feel terrible spending an ungodly amount of time on marginal details, without hitting the core idea of a problem. At the end of the day, I want to learn enough to be able to give a simple explanation to someone who’d ask the question that I’ve had before. I want to have a firm grasp of the basic concept and practical use cases of
something, so I know how to use it properly.
How to achieve these learning goals for every search?
To answer this question, I have made a checklist to self-monitor a learning process. With a simple checklist, a learner can find the shortest path from ignorance to enlightenment without deviating too far from the original search.
Clock in & Clock out
Treat time as a resource. Practice time-boxing by allocating a fixed period of time to each task. Set an alarm at the beginning of your search, using an ASTimer or for the duration of your favorite background music. When the alarm goes off, take a break. Force yourself to rest a little, or just anything that can get your eyes off the screen.
You may be watching a bunch of tutorials, but your brain might remain idle if you’re merely consuming them. Let your learning process output something like:
- a list of new terms that you’ve learned during the process. Ankify each term so that you can review those terms repeatedly, until you get them
- a list of questions to start a thread of discussion around them. A verbal conversation helps you absorb information more effectively
- a today-I-learned (TIL) blog post to log your progress
You can’t really call unreviewed things your own. Earnestly recite them as if you’re preparing for an interview, ask your friend to quiz you, etc. Give an honest score to your current level of understanding so that you adjust review frequency.
P.S. This short post itself was guided by this checklist. It was timed, delivered a post, and will be reviewed later as a good reminder. Because of this checklist, I was able to complete this micro-task of creating a blog post that you’re reading now. So I encourage you to make your process more checklist-driven, time-bound, and documentation-oriented!