Learning How to Learn

How to learn Faster and Easier (Part 1)

By Basu Nepal

“The best investment you can make is an investment in yourself, the more you learn, the more you’ll earn”

It’s the word from Warren Buffet, arguably the best and most successful investor of our generation. If world’s greatest investor believes, investing on yourself is the best investment, it’s definitely the best.

We can invest in ourselves by learning and gathering new knowledge. Learning is definitely the best we can do to ensure a good career and success which explains why average CEO reads about 60 books per year. some are willingly learning and some are forcefully learning to pass that test or to save their career. Whether we love or hate learning, we can’t ignore the fact that it’s important.

We all want to learn more and new things but don’t really care about the best and most effective way to learn faster. We don’t know how to learn; we have never actually learned how to learn. That’s the topic of this article series, recently I enrolled in coursera course about learning how to learn, offered by McMaster University & University of California San Diego, it provided many tips about learning how to learn. There are several terminologies and terms to describe our thinking and learning process. Hence, it will be quiet a read.

Average CEO reads about 60 books per year, studies shows

Focused and Diffused Mode

Our Brain has two modes of processing information, focused mode and diffused mode. Focused mode is about concentration, deeply focusing on one particular topic to gain deeper insight. It involves continuous undistracted attention towards something whereas diffused mode is all about distraction. It learns and process information on much wider spectrum without deeply focusing on one particular topic. Focused mode is when we are actively learning and Diffused mode kicks in when we are not actively learning e.g. when we are sleeping or running.

When we are exposed to new topics or information, our focused mode gathers and process all information and then diffused mode tries to connect that information to other knowledge that we already have in our brain. Focused mode comes into action when we are giving full attention in things like solving complex problem, writing codes or reading a book.

Diffused mode acts when we are away from undistracted attention like running, sleeping or exercising. It works in subconscious mind to make new connections related to things that we just learned in focused mode. That’s the reason we sometimes get solution randomly for a problem we worked hours and hours sitting earlier. We may not realize but our diffused mode is always working behind the scene to solve the problem even when we are not paying any attention to it. Learning occurs during the back and forth of focused and diffused mind.


Learning occurs during the back and forth of focused and diffused mind.

Pomodoro Technique

This is one of the well-known techniques for productivity that involves working focused without any distraction for a session of time (commonly 25 min) taking short break interval after each session and taking bit longer break after 4 continuous session. It involves involvement of both of focused mode of brain when working in a session and diffused mode when taking a break from a session.

It helps in time management and procrastination, if we were to complete a task, we set a timer for pomodoro session and work with full attention removing all possible distraction and completing a session. After a session we take a small break generally about 5 min and again get back to next undistracted session. After completing 4 session, we take a longer break of about 15min and again get back to our work. It helps us concentrate and manage time better.

Actual Pomodoro timer

Short-term Memory and Long-term Memory

Our memory is of two kind, short-term and long-term memory. Short term memory is like RAM which hold small temporary information for very short interval of time and long-term is like hard disk which hold bigger information for longer time.

When we are learning or doing new task, our short-term memory is actively holding the information which if not stored in long term memory, it will get erased so, learning is about transferring information from short term memory to long term memory.

When we think about learned information, it creates new connection and helps in moving information to long-term memory. For example: Exercise can increase our memory and enable us to learn faster.

This is the first part of four part learning series, Click Here for Next Part

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