The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman is the second book for my reading challenge on “Memory and Learning”. The first part of the book provides a framework to acquire skills rapidly and the second part is a chronicle of Josh learning 6 different skills: yoga, touch typing, the strategy game Go, ukulele, windsurfing and programming.
Category: Memory & Learning
These are the same learning tips I’m teaching my 10-year old daughter to thrive in Singapore’s ultra-competitive education system without any additional tuition.
First, here’s the slideshow summary of the book and ways to get the book for FREE!
Slideshow Summary of Learning How To Learn
Get Learning How To Learn for FREE
- Your local library, obviously!
Available at the Singapore National Library.
Call Number: English 370.1523 OAK
- Audible – Start a free Audible trial and get 2 free audiobooks!
- Blinkist – They have summarised over 3000 books. Start a free trial today.
- Buy it at Amazon. Definitely worth the price.
So whether you’ve read the book or not, you’ll love the powerful learning tips in this post.
Let’s dive right in.
- Go on a Picture Walk
- Thinking Styles
- Tomato Beats Procrastination
- Active Recall
- Brain Links
- Metaphors as a Learning Tool
- What’s Your Excuse?
- Sleep Makes You Smarter
- Types of Memory
- Memory Tips & Tricks
- Pump up Your Brain
- Everything About Brain Links
- Become a Learning Scientist
- Learning Surprises
- Best Your Test
1. Go on a Picture Walk 📖🚶♀️🚶♂️
The main idea behind picture walk is to scan through first and not start reading thoroughly. Look for:
- Pictures & diagrams
- Headings & titles
- Bold words
- Summary and questions (if any)
This prepares the brain to what’s coming next.
2. Thinking Styles 💭
Two main modes of thinking styles. Always use Focus Mode first and then switch to Diffuse Mode.
- Focused and paying attention
- Using specific part of the brain
- Essential for learning new concepts
- Focus first and then switch to diffuse mode
- Mind relaxed
- Using different parts of the brain
- Helps make creative connections
- Examples include playing, drawing, painting, exercise, bath, sleep…
3. Tomato Beats Procrastination
Procrastination is pain caused by thinking about starting a task. It makes the task bigger in your head than it normally is in reality. The best way to beat procrastination is with ACTION. A useful tool to conquer procrastination is to use The Pomodoro Technique:
- SHUT off all distractions
- SET timer (many Pomodoro apps available but a simple stopwatch or timer on your phone works as well) for 25 minutes (less in case of young learners)
- FOCUS on the task all the way
- REWARD yourself with a Diffuse Mode activity for 5 minutes or so
4. Active Recall 📕🤔💭
Here’s how active recall works:
- Read with care. Add notes. Highlight or underline but not excessively and NEVER with library or borrowed books.
- Close the book and try to recall the key ideas. This practice is especially helpful when taking tests.
Powerful Reading Key 💪📖🔑
- Picture walk
- Read carefully
- Active recall
5. Brain Links 🧠⛓️
The brain is made up of billions of neurons and each neuron has a number of dendrites (legs) and axon (arm). The synapse is a narrow gap between one neuron’s dendrites and another neuron’s axon. In a very simplistic way, a flow of sparks (electric signals) in the synapse between neurons creates thoughts.
Weak brain links form between neurons as we start to learn something. These links get stronger as we learn more.
6. Metaphors as a Learning Tool 🦄
Comparing one thing to another allows us to learn a difficult topic using existing brain links. For example, waves in the ocean can be used as a metaphor while learning about electric waves.
Best to use outrageous metaphors because that will stick in the mind.
However, when the metaphor stops working throw it and get a new one.
7. What’s Your Excuse? 👎
Everyone has 24-hours in a day. Use The Pomodoro Technique to overcome this excuse.
Kids have much better imagination than adults so make the most of it.
The learning may not be immediately applicable or practical but remember it is building brain links. Also, one idea can transfer into another. Learning helps make you creative.
Different teachers have different teaching styles. And some teachers may be boring but making learning fun is your responsibility.
8. Sleep Makes You Smarter 🛌🎓
When you learn and practice recall, you form brain links that solidify when you sleep.
That is the reason why “cramming” (studying a lot, sometimes overnight, before a test) is a bad idea because there is no sleep to solidify the brain links. This results in ineffective learning. So get 8-hours of sleep ideally.
9. Types of Memory 🐙🤯
Working memory is like an octopus with just 4 tentacles.
It can only hold a limited amount of information at one time.
Long Term Memory
Long term memory is located all over the brain and has endless storage capacity.
The working memory (octopus) needs to use its arms to bring up information. This means retrieval of information needs practice.
10. Memory Tips & Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks mentioned in the book to enhance your memory.
Tips From Nelson Dellis (US Memory Champion) 🧠🏅
Here are some tips from Nelson Dellis (US Memory Champion) and Barbara recommends his book Remember It! which I have not yet read but I did watch his Netflix movie Memory Games which was pretty good.
- Concentrate: Focus & pay attention.
- Practice: Practice remembering things.
- Picture Things: Brain remembers pictures better than facts. Make up outrageous pictures.
- Store It: Find an anchor which makes it easy to store information.
- Recall: Use “active recall” and tools like flash cards.
Memory Palace Technique 🧠🏰
Imagine a familiar place like your own house for starters. Imagine walking in and putting things to remember in different rooms. Make the things to remember strange or silly.
Simply walk back to retrieve items to remember.
Additional Memory Tips 🧠✔️
Here are few more tips that can enhance your memory:
- Make up songs like “The Periodic Table Song”
- Use metaphors
- Write notes by hand
- Imagine you are the idea or the concept
- Link numbers to shapes or characters
- Teach someone so that the concept becomes clearer to you
11. Pump Up Your Brain
- Exercise: Exercise creates BNDF (brain food) that makes neurons grow.
- Food: Eat more fruits and veggies. Avoid “fake” foods.
- 🕮 Sources: Learn from a variety of sources.
12. Everything About Brain Links
- At the start of learning, the working memory starts to create a new set of brain links to be stored in long-term memory. And with practice, the brain links become longer. Therefore, it is important not to switch tasks and to avoid distractions when learning otherwise the working memory has a hard time forming brain links.
- Experts have long brain links.
- Another metaphor for brain links is a jigsaw puzzle. At the start of learning, brain links start slowly fitting in like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and with more practice a complete picture starts to form. However, if you stop practising then the picture starts to fade away.
How To Build Brain Links
Here are the main ways to build brain links:
- 🎯 Deliberate Practice: Focus on difficult issues & actively work through problems.
- ↩️ Interleaving: Switch within a topic to understand it holistically.
- 🤔 Active Recall & More: Test yourself. Teach someone the difficult concepts. Practice picture walk.
13. Become a Learning Scientist 📚👩🔬
Keep a learning journal and record your learning activities like:
- Music: Is learning with music helpful? What kind of music?
- Study places: Do you study in different locations?
- Senses: Do you use different senses to learn?
- Tough concepts: Do you tackle tough concepts first?
- Quit time: Do you have a fixed quit time daily?
- Sleep: Are you getting enough sleep?
14. Learning Surprises 😲
Action games improve focus. Spatial games like Tetris help in math & science. Beware don’t get addicted!
Learn something totally different to get creative ideas and connections.
Write Notes By Hand
Writing notes by hand forms stronger brain links.
Slow thinkers may understand better than fast thinkers.
15. Best Your Test 💯
Here are some tips to do well for your tests:
- Use a test preparation checklist (the book has a sample)
- Start test with a hard problem and switch when stuck.
- When you feel nervous tell yourself that “you are excited” instead.
- Breathe deeply before the test to calm yourself.
- Get good sleep before a test.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope you enjoyed my summary of Learning How To Learn. Now it’s your turn to take action:
- Read the book
- Share this summary
- Leave a quick comment below