Simfish/InquilineKea's Thoughts

How to Learn Efficiently

– Stay alert. Staring at the damn thing is useless and drains your well-being and life away.

(sometimes you may become more alert as you work through the material. this may be more common on programming assignments where you can run code. or anything where you can write things down and think for yourself. taking notes ONLY helps if you’re not just menially copying things down without being alert).

Sometimes, brute forcing your way through the problem can make you more alert to the problem.

People often say “take breaks”. But programmers are especially notorious for not taking breaks, and yet many of them still code well. breaks are only useful for things that don’t make you any more alert as you do them.

Drawing stupid diagrams and then finding that you’re wrong also motivates. The shame of being wrong is a great motivator (as long as it’s not so intense that it demotivates you like depression does)

If they help, use drugs. caffeine, adderall, provigil. Always take breaks if you’re using the first two, and try to go by the lowest dose necessary.

– Ask yourself “will I be happier if I learn this LATER rather than now?” remember, if you learn it later, sometimes you will learn it MANY times faster than if you learn it now (better resources, not staring as much, etc). And since new resources come out every year, you might find a study aid that’s much better than the study aids that you have this year.

– Don’t feel too ashamed to use “n00b” resources. Remember that professors who lecture *also* simplify the material, often to a level similar to the levels found in “n00b” resources. So go read that demystified or Dummies book. Sometimes, a “lower level” subject’s treatment of the subject also helps. E.g. use a physical chemistry book for quantum mechanics.

– Figure out whether you learn better by using individual case studies first (and then going to the general case through non-rigorous inductive reasoning) or by using the general case first and then seeing idiosyncrasies out of the specific cases (can be more interesting; more deductive reasoning). Generally, the less intelligent probably do better through inductive reasoning

– Crush out distractions by exhausting them or listing reasons why all of them don’t matter to you in the long run. Get yourself disgusted with your old distractions (this might be the most effective way). A list of supermassive mistakes in life might help with generating disgust.

– Sometimes pressure helps (but find ways to induce pressure into yourself). Making yourself feel guilty if you don’t start on it EARLY helps (tell yourself that you might fail to finish the assignment by yourself, so you MUST start early so that you’ll have time to consult instructor/TA *and* that instructor/TA don’t like students who come in asking how to start [especially a day before the assignment is due])

– Use simulations, alternative websites, alternative powerpoint slides, etc. use google keyword + textbook you’re using.

– Impulse control (three types of impulses):

-> impulses that go away when you don’t satisfy them (might distract you for a short time while you’re using willpower to suppress the impulse)

-> Impulses related to frequently checking something that may frequently update (email, weather, sports, forums, etc.) These impulses only temporarily go away when you satisfy them, and if you suppress them and indulge in them later, you still recapture any of the “benefit” you get from satisfying the impulse earlier (e-mail). But if you satisfy the impulse earlier, you probably end up indulging the impulse more, wasting more of your time

-> impulses that won’t go away when you don’t satisfy them and that will end up distracting you for a very long time unless you satisfy them (assuming that you don’t suppress such impulses)

The first type of impulse is the type of impulse that you should suppress whenever possible. The second type of impulse is the type that you must find *some* creative way to control (a different environment often helps when they come out). You probably have to indulge in the third type of impulse to keep yourself sane in the short-term (while finding ways to use your own higher-level thinking to suppress it in the long-term)

Since thought suppression usually leads to a rebound effect (, it is best to avoid it whenever possible.


I want to remember the days when I still absorbed AP World History and AP Chem like a sponge. I want to revisit those days again. but I have to be forceful and recognize when i’m staring. And also, to take notes. Possibly this might make it possible for me to absorb like a sponge. anyways I will have to actively do practice problems next summer.

again i must always ask the important questions: why am i reading this? what am i trying to get out of this right *now*? these questions are cliches by now, which is why i glossed over them. but they are *very* important to ask *during* the reading, not *before* the reading -otherwise i forget.

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Wow, this is useful. (I’m entering college in August, and I’m honestly pretty worried about doing well academically.) If you don’t mind, I think I’ll turn your post into a PDF for quick reference. Self-pressuring and making an exhaustive list of poor habits are exactly things I need right now, to keep myself motivated while I prepare for college.

Anyways, thank you for the tips!


Comment by Z

haha nice – glad that you find it useful! =) It will be interesting to see what the PDF looks like in the end. =)

Just wondering – how did you find my blog?

Comment by inquilinekea

I’ve already made the PDF, and I’ll e-mail it to you tonight. 🙂 Also, although I figure you’ve already realized, I found your WordPress via your Facebook.


Comment by Z

You did not mention Anki or the old software SuperMemo & the related concepts that could be use (active learning vs passive learning, forgetting curve…). I thought that you were a heavy user of such tools since they enable users to create a database of their knowledge with tags, structure and so on… with text, audio, image and the incremental reading in Supermemo. I use them for long term memory in language, IT(Linux commands..) not for craming.

Comment by ahmed lafana

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