October 5, 2022




A System For Learning Intelligently

A system for learning intelligently

Learning how to learn is one of life’s most important skills.

Here’s how you can do it intelligently.

1. Learning Selection

Have you ever started learning something only to stop a few days or weeks later?

This can happen for lots of reasons, but often it's bad learning selection.

Selecting what you learn and when you learn it is crucial to maintaining motivation to finish it.

Here are some questions to make sure you're choosing well:

1/ Is there a need for me to learn this skill/topic? If so, what is it?

2/ How urgent is this need?

3/ Is this the right time to be learning it?

4/ Why will I stick with this project when it gets hard?

5/ Is there a practical use for this learning? Can I use it in my current job?

6/ Would I learn this if no one ever knew that I learnt it?

When we have a clear "why" for learning something, it's easier to remain focused and resilient when it gets difficult.

Choosing a project you'll stick with long enough is an underappreciated factor in learning.

If you switch from project to project, you'll never see the benefit of compounding in any one area.

Focus is key.

Once you've chosen your learning, it's time to deconstruct.

2. Deconstruction

Every complex skill or topic is just a combination of different skills or topics, just as every hard problem is a combination of smaller problems.

Therefore, one of the smartest ways to learn is to first deconstruct into smaller components.

How to Deconstruct

Step 1: Find the approximate scope of the topic of knowledge / skill

Note down what you need to learn:

- Concepts

- Facts/Key definitions

- Examples or analogies

- Procedures (if it's a skill)

Step 2: Produce a checklist or mindmap of the required learning

Finding the Scope of the Topic

1. Desktop Search:

- Mind maps

- Blog posts

- University curriculum

- Reddit or other online forums

- Table of contents in textbooks

2. Expert Interview:

- Find an expert or someone in your network and ask them what you should be learning

3. Selection/Compression

Here is where you ask:

1. Which 20% of the blocks (concepts, facts, procedures) should I focus on for 80% or more of the outcome I want?

2. What would I learn if I only had 2 weeks to learn?

Focus on the highest value knowledge first.

4. Sequencing

Now ask:

1. In what order should I learn the blocks?

2. What is the best logical progression of learning?

3. What are the pre-requisites I need to be able to learn and do before the next step?

Walk before you run.

5. Resources

In the deconstruct step, you would have found multiple helpful sources that you can use to go deeper.

Now is the time to select which ones you'll use for your learning.

Note down what you'll use:

- Books

- Videos

- Podcasts

- Courses

- Coaches, etc.

Bonus tip: if you know your learning style, you should preference using resources that align with that learning style.

Learning styles (VARK Model): Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, Kinaesthetic.

6. Schedule

Here's where you make it concrete and ask:

1. When do I want to complete this learning project?

2. How many hours will I commit per week?

3. When am I committing these hours?

Place the details in your calendar, set reminders, and make it easy for yourself.

7. Stakes/Incentives

Here's where you failure proof your commitment to learning.


1. How can I set up real consequences to guarantee that I follow my learning project?

2. How can I failure proof my decision?

A goal without real consequences is wishful thinking.

Now it's time to execute.

I've previously covered 13 powerful learning techniques for the actual learning component.

You can dive in here:

For more on learning intelligently, these are the best resources I've found:

The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything...Fast -Josh Kaufman

The 4-Hour Chef - Tim Ferriss

Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career - Scott Young

About the author

Alex Brogan writes about mental models, decision making, and personal development.

Click here to learn more

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