Every new subject and topic can be overwhelming when you get into it. There’s so much information, so much to learn, so much to distill.
Think about the last time you started learning something.
I’m guessing you were a little bit overwhelmed…
What if there was a way to retain what you’ve learned in an effective way?
In this post, I will be continuing on with our how to become a better learner series this month, touch on some advanced learning techniques, and talk about how to retain knowledge more easily for success.
Learning How to Become a Better Learner with The 4-Hour Chef
Guiding us on our journey this month on how to become a better learner is the book the 4-Hour Chef, a book by Tim Ferris.
The 4-Hour Chef is all about learning and how to become a better at it (at the same time, teaches you how to cook… though that’s not what we are going to focus on this month).
In the book, Tim Ferris explains how anyone can be an expert in anything in 6 to 12 months, and if practiced effectively, even 6 to 12 weeks.
Next, there are some advanced techniques we need to cover to give you a full strategy and framework to learn anything.
The advanced techniques are represented by the acronym CaFE:
- How can you compress and condense all of the information into a cheat sheet which is simple and not complex?
- How long should you practice? What is the right time period for your studying and doing for maximum effectiveness?
- How can you make your ideas and thoughts stick for the long term? Can you represent your thoughts with images or sounds for maximum retention?
In this post, we will cover compression.
Retaining Information through Compression and the One Page Cheat Sheet
What’s important in your subject? What doesn’t matter? If you had to tell me, could you?
I hated writing super long papers back in school. The seemingly arbitrary number of pages providing “logic” and “reason” always seemed to be head scratching.
“My argument can be summed up in 1 page, why do I have to fluff 2 more pages to appease you Ms. English Teacher?”
Many subjects are incredibly complicated and have so much information. What’s most important?
One of the ways to retain what’s important in a topic is to compress the information into a one page cheat sheet.
Could you get all of a subject onto one piece of paper? If you can, that’s awesome!
Two different types of cheat sheets which the 4 Hour Chef recommends are the following:
- Prescriptive cheat sheets
- Writing out all of the principles and rules for a subject so you can go back and build from there
- Practice cheat sheets
- Writing out real world examples which will lead to the principles after examining those examples
For example, a prescriptive cheat sheet for driving a car might have the following on there:
- Hit the right pedal when you want to accelerate, hit the left pedal to stop.
- Try to accelerate and decelerate smoothly.
- Come to complete stops at a red light or stop sign.
- Drive the speed limit.
- Pass on the left.
- Yield to other cars on your right.
Following these rules and principles would probably get you to becoming a fairly decent driver. Of course, there are many other rules and regulations on the road (and I’d recommend learning and following those rules because the stakes are much higher on the road…), but the concept is the same to learning any other subject.
Retaining Knowledge in My Learning and Becoming a Better Piano Player
Show me, don’t just tell me.
Anyone can put up anything on the internet these days.
I can write all about learning and how to become a better learner, but all of that is wasted knowledge if I don’t actually apply it in my life. (it’s also bogus if I don’t practice what I preach!)
This month, alongside this series of posts, I’ve started playing piano again with the intent to learn how to become a better piano player.
My goals with my piano playing is to have a better musical ear, and also become better at sight reading.
For these goals, I’ve already talked about a number of skills and techniques I’m going to work on to become better at piano.
On my cheat sheet, I’ve included a number of things, and in particular, some information about chord progressions, the circle of 5ths, scales and some other music theory.
In today’s video, I talk a little more about compression, as well as play “Let it Be” for you.
Concluding Thoughts on How to Retain Knowledge More Easily
Being able to take a concept, breaking it into simple, learnable blocks, and then retaining that information through distilling the more important pieces will allow you to learn anything at a fast, but low stress, pace.
Creating one page cheat sheets is a great way to start.
What’s most important for success? Anything else is not necessary to remember.
At the end of the day, a key to learning and becoming better is to always be compressing.
In the next post in this how to become a better learner series, I’ll be touching on the frequency of your learning.
Readers: would making a 1 page cheatsheet help you retain more information? Do you have a better strategy for retaining information?
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