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Learning How to Learn Efficiently

scroung720 profile image scroung720 ใƒป5 min read

Hello everyone. As you know there are lots of information about programming and related topics. Sometimes is really frustrating to constantly be googling the same things over and over again. I am sick of it. I decided that I need to find a way to improve how I learn.

Homer Simpson Learning

I already knew about a course that is very popular on the internet. I started taking this course last week. It is offered through the Coursera platform, it's called Learning How to Learn. I was trying to learn efficient ways to learn. And the course's name matches perfectly with my purpose. I finished week 1 and it is what I was looking for.

Checking in a director for a card

Last week, I learned multiple interesting things, one which seems to cause me more discomfort in practice is the Feynman technique. Long story short, the main idea of this technique is that you need to be able to teach any concept to any 6 years old kiddo if you fail this means that you don't truly understand the topic, and you have some knowledge gaps.

Mr. Krabs saying you got it kiddo

In order to practice my teaching skills and my English writing. I created this initial post which is going to be included in a series with useful things to learn more efficiently. Hopefully, some of these ideas are helpful to you.

Scientific exclaiming 'good news everyone'

Our brain works at two 'velocities'

Focused mode

When we are doing an activity that demands our attention perhaps you are learning a new framework or you are at work coding. Your brain is working similar to a computer, using (4 cores) where each core has a reference to a memory segment.

The better you master an activity the bigger these chunks are, given this limitation sometimes we are unable to understand new learning concepts because maybe you needed to mix more than 4 segments of memory.

Focused attention is the mode where you normally learn anything,
it is important to know its pros and cons.

Patrice star looking close over another person


  1. This is the only way to learn ๐Ÿ“– (currently). So, there is no alternative (until Elon Musk completes its neuralink ๐Ÿง ).
  2. Allows you to master an activity or knowledge. You can internalize a task or an idea so much that you don't even need to think about it (something like playing a musical instrument ๐ŸŽป)
  3. Understand Analogies โ™ป๏ธ. Allows you to recognize the context where you are and then select a specific neural pattern to use, or to reuse another neural pattern to associate with a new activity


  1. It is very expensive to create new neural patterns ๐Ÿ’ธ in a way that the focused mode can use them, meaning you need to invest more time to practice and study
  2. Distractions can take you out of the focused mode ๐Ÿ“ข
  3. Using too much-focused mode can become a bottleneck to learn more things ๐Ÿค• (see Diffused mode)
  4. You have access to 4 neural paths at the same time ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“.


You need to understand that focused mode by itself is not enough for learning new things. To use new neural patterns in focus mode you need to practice. The more you practice the better you become at that activity when you are in focused mode.


  1. Practice makes permanent ๐Ÿ„โ€โ™‚๏ธ
  2. The more abstract something is the more you need to practice to master it ๐Ÿ’ก
  3. Learning something difficult takes time(Sorry, you can't learn C++ in 21 days ๐Ÿ˜’) this is not an opinion it is a fact
  4. Avoid environments with distractions ๐Ÿ˜Œ
  5. Clean and organize your desktop or wherever you are working/studying ๐Ÿšฎ that also includes your 40 tabs open in google chrome, get rid of those unnecessary tabs

Diffused mode

Have you ever been stuck with a problem so bad that you get frustrated and then you change to another task or even while sleeping, all of a sudden the answer, key idea, solution comes to your mind out of nothing? This occurs when our brain is required to mix multiple neural patterns that are not frequently used together in your brain.

Dr house md having an eureka moment

The solutions that come out of the blue, happens because our brains have access to limited chunks of 'memory' (4 memory segments) when thinking actively (focus on something).

Just because you can't find a solution to a given problem or you can't understand a new topic, doesn't mean that you don't have the knowledge or capacity to do it. Perhaps you are too focus that you can't see the big picture.

Funny non-suffering cat head stuck on paper box


  1. Allows your brain to mix neural patterns in new ways ๐Ÿ†•
  2. Brings balance when used with focus mode โš–๏ธ
  3. Can bring old neural patterns or memories ๐Ÿ‘ด
  4. Can recognize patterns that were in front of you and you didn't realize at the moment when focusingโš ๏ธ


  1. You can let it happen but you can't control exactly when it is going to occur ๐Ÿ˜•
  2. If you are not truly compromised with what you are learning is probably that you are not going to get any new ideas ๐Ÿฅบ
  3. It is more difficult to determine which knowledge comes from diffused mode and focused mode ๐Ÿ’ญ
  4. Sometimes it feels that it is not working well. However, it could be an illusion of competence, maybe you need to learn more or you are missing important practice or information ๐Ÿค”


Finally, your brain needs to wander around freely, by doing this it can combine knowledge in ways that would be difficult while focused. The diffused mode is the reason why some people suggest: 'Don't work hard, work smart'. At times, it is better to do something else otherwise you get stressed. Allow your brain to work naturally let it rest when you are stuck with a problem or when learning something new.

Morty saying I am so smart


  1. Ways to trigger the diffused mode:
    • Do physical exercise ๐ŸŠโ€โ™€๏ธ
    • Sleep ๐Ÿ˜ด
    • Relaxing ๐Ÿ›€
    • Take a walk ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™€๏ธ
    • Almost any activity that you internalize at a level where your brain doesn't need to be focus ๐Ÿ†
  2. If you are stuck with a problem or new topic and you have more than 10 minutes without any advance, just leave it for later skip that part or use a trigger of the diffused mode ๐Ÿ˜ฉ
  3. Sleep well, even if you are not having difficulties solving problems or at learning. Sleeping besides helping you to combine neural paths in interesting ways, also, clears your brain from toxins and allows your brain to remove weak neural patterns and to strengthen even the more important neural patterns ๐Ÿ’ค
  4. If diffused mode is not working is probably because you need to study more fundamental knowledge related to what you are doing ๐Ÿ“œ

Well, that's all for this post. For my next article, I want to talk about what are the best techniques to be a master of the focused mode.

A text that says: 'You are never done learning'

Follow me if you want to know more about efficient learning and productivity. Thank you for reading.

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Editor guide

Nice post!
Indeed, that course of Barbara Oakley is really good for all meta-learning concepts.

For more depth on the concepts of 'Focused' and 'Diffused' modes, I recommend the book by Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow.

Also, as a general suggestion for the following articles, take it easy on the gifs. They can be distracting to an otherwise very interesting post.


Yes, the amount of GIFs made me skip this post entirely. I find it very distracting when something is moving on the screen while I try to read.


Thank you for the feedback. In fact, I was wondering about gifs. I am going to try with fewer gifs next time.


I know a few commenters felt a little iffy about the use of gifs, but may I say:

  • Your use of emojis was on point.

Sharing these ideas and associating them to clear & efficient visual cues requires an eye for minimalist communication and effective memory association. And you definitely have it!

Awesome article for those of us ramping up on new areas of knowledge.

Keep it up! ๐Ÿ‘


Your post is very insightful. Made me recall my personal eureka moments and how they came about. I'd so much love to practice this more often.
Also, I'd prefer more emojis to gifs. Emojis tend to be more subtle in emphasizing content ๐Ÿ˜Š.

Thank you.

Thank you reading and thank you for your valuable feedback.


I love those "learn how to learn" posts, they are very useful :)


They are indeed. I like how the topic is no longer an obscure science by some researchers but is being brought to the public. And hopefully, we have an increase in 'professional learners'


I agree! Itโ€™s especially important for programmers, since the overwhelm caused by the amount of information is not sustainable.

I wish learning how to learn would be taught in ever computer science degree!

You are completely right! I was thinking about it while writing this post as something I wish was taught at universities.

Yes! It might come. ๐Ÿ’ซ

We had a "invent a new lesson for young people (8-10 years)" lesson this year, and we choose a course titled "learn how to learn on internet", and it was great to think on how younger people might use the web to find informations :)


Thanks for sharing. Spot on! This matches up with talks and articles. Like the TED talks titled Need inspiration, go for a walk.
I read about how memory recall improved after sleep in an experiment.

And someone recommended in a post to walk the long way to work and do the dishes and go for a shower etc. knowing that your frame might come up with something when not focusing. Thanks for teaching me about "diffuse", I haven't heard of that.

A lot of problem solving in code or coming up with ideas happens when I am not at my laptop. Maybe alone or talking to people or watching a YT video which sparks off an idea... "Hmm I wonder if I could make a database using only gists? It's so crazy it might actually work!"


Doing the dishes works for me. It is incredible efficient and I am cleaning my home lol.


My mindset has been change just by reading your article and I am looking for forward to your next..

I am going to focus on those points you highlighted to better my learning experience and make it more enjoyable.



I like your article. But, please, don't use gifs images next time :)


I kinda like the gifs... just not as many. One or two is fine (even better if they are at the end).


Thank you for your suggestions.


Thank you for reading. This feedback is very useful.


Hello, I'd like to translate this insightful article to Chinese. Can you give me the permission? Translated text will be published at nextfe.com.


with a reference to this original article and author. Of course.


Chinese translation: nextfe.com/learning-how-to-learn-e... There is a backlink at the beginning of the translated text.

This is amazing. Thanks.


Also I took that course..cool๐Ÿ˜‰๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘โœŒ๏ธ


Wow, really like this article, might just be the GIFS ๐ŸคŸ