Learning To Learn [Efficient Learning]: The Science

Learning To Learn [Efficient Learning]: The Science

Ayu Adiati's photo
Ayu Adiati

Published on Jan 5, 2021

9 min read

Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss my upcoming articles

Hello Fellow Codenewbies ๐Ÿ‘‹

What is the latest research tell us about learning and how to use the knowledge to improve efficiency in learning?
Here comes The Science.

The ๐Ÿ— icon is the takeaway note of each part.

The Science

Focus vs Diffuse Mode

This idea is popularized by Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. in her book, "Learning How To Learn".

Focus mode:
Activate the front part of our brain.
All of our energy is focusing on one activity.

Diffuse mode:
Activate all parts of our brain.
When our brain is thinking different relaxing things, such as daydreaming or sleeping.

๐Ÿ— How well we learn depends on how well we are going back and forth between focus and diffuse mode.

The key is to be in one mode at a time and not multitasking.

The Science of Sleep

Being awake creates toxic products in our brains. And sleeping may flush out toxins.

๐Ÿ— According to Matthew Walker in his book, "Why We Sleep", sleep sometimes allows us to come with a solution to our problem.

Don't sleep too much, don't sleep too little.

Brain Training

Every time we learn something new, our brain creates a connection.
๐Ÿ— Our brain can create muscles that are growing, or on the opposite, it can deteriorate when we don't use them.

Neurons will be linked together through repeated use.
So when we learn, we need to train our brain through repeated practice.

If we don't use it, we're going to lose it.

The Science of Feedback

๐Ÿ— Feedbacks are needed in learning for us to know what we need to improve or how close we are to achieving our goals.

Positive feedback, such as praise, is good at the beginning phase of learning because it gives a good feeling and motivating.

But when we become more advance in learning, negative feedback is proven to be more effective for our progress because criticism giving a more actionable result, such as an effort to fix mistakes, etc.


When we learn and we find that the topic is too difficult or boring, we tend to want to put off what we are doing and do something else that makes us feel good.

๐Ÿ— Procrastination is an issue of managing our emotions, not our time.

To beat procrastination, as weird as it sounds, we just have to take initiative and start the task.

Long And Short Memory

Long term memory is formed by practicing and repeating.
It's very important in learning because it's where we put our fundamentals and principles.

Short term memory (working memory) only works in the front part of our brain. We usually can only hold 4 chunks of information when working with short term memory.

๐Ÿ— In learning, we want to move our working memory to long term memory by repetition for several days.

Active vs Passive Learning

Active learning involves action, such as take notes, practicing, etc.
While passive learning is the opposite, such as listening to podcasts, watch tutorials, etc.

๐Ÿ— Active learning is very efficient to achieve our goals.

The Science of Motivation

  • Intrinsic motivation
    Comes from ourselves
  • External motivation
    Comes from outside, such as salary, gifts, etc.
    This is good at the beginning phase of learning or when we want to reward ourselves for doing something rather than procrastination.

Decreasing external motivation can low down intrinsic motivation.

๐Ÿ— Based on a book by Daniel Pink, "Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us", we can get intrinsic motivation through:

  • Autonomy
    To do something that we have control over.
  • Mastery
    Wanting to master something to be recognized for our skills.
  • Purpose
    How it benefits ourselves and others.


Robert Maurer in his book "Kaizen" offers solutions to accomplish our goals.

Kaizen is a Japanese word that means "improvement".

๐Ÿ— The idea is to take small steps towards a goal. By taking small steps, we eliminate the fear of failure and desire to stop what we do towards our goal.

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
There is a way to set one using S.M.A.R.T. method, where our goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

It Pays To Not Be Busy

New neurons are born every day in hippocampus, which is very important for the learning process.
By being busy, we don't let our brain pause and produce these neurons.
Being healthy and make time for leisure is the key.

๐Ÿ— Take enough break time to let new neurons be produced.


Bottom-up learning means to learn from the bottom all the way to the top.
It is a method where we combine chunks and connect the dots between these chunks and create a mind-map.

Top-down learning is the opposite of bottom-up learning.
We start with the big picture and break things into small chunks to see how they are connected.

๐Ÿ— The idea is to combine bottom-up with top-down learning and gradually builds chunks and learn how to connect them in our minds.

How To Solve Problems

Solving problems is the most demanding skill of all time.
When we have unique skills to solve problems, that is when we are valuable to others.

๐Ÿ— Ways to solve problems:

  1. Focus mode
    The easier way to solve a problem that requires focus.
  2. Diffuse mode
    Sometimes we need ideas and creativity to solve problems.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice comes when we are on the edge of our limit, feel the frustration, and try to push through. It requires focused attention and it can help us maximize our potentials.

๐Ÿ— According to Anders Ericsson, we need these factors to get us into deliberate practice:

  1. Specific goals
  2. Intense focus
  3. Immediate feedback

Spaced Repetition

๐Ÿ— The idea is the opposite of cramming.

Revisiting and repeating something that we learn for a few days is very important to retain knowledge.

Habits As Energy Savers

๐Ÿ— Habits save the energy of our brain from having to think hard because we don't need to be too focus when performing a habitual task.

Making a habit to write down the next day's to-do list before we sleep at night, for example, can help us fall asleep and not worrying about what we have to do the next day.

Be Adventurous

๐Ÿ— Become adventurous, such as learn a new topic or take a different path to go to the office, can actually grow our brain.

Monotony is bad.

Have An Endpoint

๐Ÿ— By giving an endpoint when to finish a task in advance, we are helping our brain to stay more focused.

Be Bored

๐Ÿ— Being bored is actually quite important because it allows the diffuse mode to happen.

Share this