Efficient Learning Strategy

Two phases

There are two basic modes of learning, which are quite different in their essence. We call those “Discovery” and “Acquisition”. Both of them require a bit different approaches and environment to enhance and speed up your learning.

If you do not know exactly what you should learn, or you don’t have a specific goal, you are in a discovery mode

If you know exactly what you need to learn, you are in an acquisition mode.

These two modes are similar in nature to diffused and focused thinking.

Discovery is a less intense and slower process than acquisition. Acquisition requires more deep work and deliberate practice than discovery. 

Discovery

Discovery mode is driven by curiosity. The main goal of this mode is to enhance your outlook and broaden your understanding. 

In this mode, you should get as many diverse options, opinions and ideas as possible. 

The main tools for this mode are experimentation and variety of examples. Here is a great video "Making Badass Developers", highlighting the essence of experimentation and high-quality examples.

To increase diversity, it’s great to have an access to a community or environment, which facilitates knowledge sharing and expressing opinions freely. This is exactly why we have #share- and #discuss channels, as well as Skills matrix and MTDV Mindset resources. 

An efficient strategy for discovery mode boils down to the following:

  1. Surround yourself by different and diverse opinions and outlooks.
    Meeting and talking to different people is a good tactics here. 
  2. Spend time overviewing different mental models.
    Skim-read books, articles and opinions on the topic. You don’t need to dive deeper yet.
  3. Experiment with things which look fun or interesting.
    Proactively try applying what you are learning and conduct thought experiments.
  4. Seek as many examples of the topic you are interested in as possible.
    Look for opposing opinions and pay attention to differences in mental models.
  5. Look into what experts on the topic say.
    Read bestseller books, watch talks and social media discussions.

Acquisition

Acquisition mode is driven by result orientation. The main goal of this mode is to acquire a skill or a mental model. 

Feedback is crucial for progress and efficient learning. Be proactive and ask for feedback, do not wait for it. Design fast feedback loops to assess your results and progress faster. One of the best ways to create a feedback loop is to find a mentor - someone knowledgeable in the area who can lead you through complexity of the topic.

If you can, try not to learn alone. Join a group, find an accountability partner or a learning partner, find a mentor. All of these will improve your motivation, commitment and feedback loops. 

An efficient strategy for acquisition mode boils down to the following:

  1. Find a mentor, knowledgeable in the topic/skill you want to acquire.
    If you have an exact goal in your mind, you can find a coach. If you know just a broader topic of interest, you can find a teacher/mentor who will guide your through.
  2. Create a routine for deep work.
    You will need to focus and actively apply the skill you are acquiring. You will need a time and environment for that. Plan accordingly.
  3. Work through different high-quality examples and exercises. 
  4. Seek feedback after every unit of progress.
    Try not to take this feedback personally. Even if you are not succeeding as fast as you would want, it does not mean you are incapable!
  5. Reflect on your process and progress.
    It’s a good idea to have some kind of metrics or measurable results which you can use to assess your progress.

At Metadevelopment, we are designing our trainings with this strategy in mind. Our methodology includes mentoring and learning routine based on commitment and accountability partnership. 

Crucial Differences

There is one crucial thing you should know: you cannot be in two different modes simultaneously. If you will switch between two modes, your efficiency will drop. 

On the other hand, sometimes you should switch between modes to rest. Acquisition requires a lot of resources and focus and may be quite exhaustive. 

If you are in discovery mode, your goal is to figure out an exact topic/model/skill you want to acquire. This is when you can switch to acquisition mode and learn the stuff fast and efficient. 

The general strategy is similar to BFS algo: first, cover the breadth of topics shallowly and then go deeper into the one you think you need to learn in details.