Saturday, August 17, 2013

How to study (tips for effective learning)

Being a software engineer, I have to study all the time. I will present in this article some tips that I have gathered over 3 decades as a student and as a software professional.

  • Take genuine interest in what you learn. This is THE most important point. Without this you will never learn, you will only remember.
  • Reason and be curious. If some book gives you the formula to calculate compound interest, try to understand why that formula is correct. Derive it yourself and see if you reach the same conclusion as they do. Think of the places where you can apply it in your real life.
  • Try to get a 10,000 feet bird's eye view before getting into the details. When I study, one of the first things I do is ask, what am I trying to solve here? What is the purpose of this? How would I explain this in a summary? Once I am sure of that, the studying becomes a lot more interesting and effective.
  • Read from multiple sources. For example if you are tying to learn calculus, go to Search for books on calculus and sort it by popularity. Buy the top 2 books. Reading from 2 or more books gives you a view of the subject from multiple angles.
  • Try to put in atleast 2 hours of studying everyday. In my experience I grasp more by studying 2 hours for 5 days than studying 10 hours in one day. Its easier to digest and assimilate all that information when its spread out over a period of time.
  • Revise: When I study for the first time, I almost always forget it after a few months. So what I do is I write notes when I study the first time. Then after a few months I try to see how much I remember. Then I go over my notes to recollect what I studied in the past. (Google spacing effect)
  • Get a good 8 hours sleep every night. Your productivity and learning ability throughout the day depends greatly on how well rested you are. 
  • Step away every once in a while. What I do is, if someday if I feel worn out, I just drop everything and go to a movie or the beach. Maybe even take a couple of days off and go hiking. Once I do that, when I get back I am all energised and enthusiastic for my next endeavor.
  •  Surround yourself with people who make you happy and stay away from negative people. Good friends will encourage you and support you, bad friends will pull you down.
  • Take good care of your health. A healthy mind in a healthy body.