You are on page 1of 30

Copyright 2008, Scott Young

All Rights Reserved

If you understand something in only one ay, then you don!t really
understand it at all" #he secret of hat anything means to us depends on
ho e!ve connected it to all other things e $no" %ell&connected
representations let you turn ideas around in your mind, to envision things
from many perspectives until you find one that or$s for you" And that!s
hat e mean 'y thin$ing()
-Marvin Minsky
%hat!s Inside the *ree +revie,
Thanks for downloading the free preview version of Learn More, Study Less.
Although the preview version is 200 pages shorter than the full version, Ive pa!ked in a
few great ideas to help get you started. The preview version !overs three !hapter fro"
the full #ook$
% Introdu!tion to &olisti! Learning ' (hat is holisti! learning)
% *low-+ased ,otetaking ' A tool to learn faster in !lasses.
% ,uke -ro!rastination ' Learn the (./ 0oals syste" as a way to s1uash
pro!rastination on!e and for all.
In the Ta#le of 2ontents, Ive greyed-out se!tions not in!luded in the preview
version. This should give you an idea of the sheer volu"e of great ideas Ive pa!ked into
the full progra".
#a'le of Contents
Introduction -
.y Story
/o to 0se #his 1oo$
+art I2 #he /olistic 3earning Strategy 4-
#he Se5uence of /olistic 3earning 6-
+inpointing Your %ea$nesses in the Se5uence
Information Structures :;
/o to 0se the *ive Categories
%hy Your Classes Are 1oring 8:
=oals for 3earning 88
+art II2 /olistic 3earning #echni5ues ;4
Ac5uiring Information ;>
Speed Reading
Active Reading
*lo&1ased ?oteta$ing
3in$ing Ideas 446
Concept Diagrams
Flow Diagrams
Image Diagrams
/andling the Ar'itrary 4B0
#he 3in$ .ethod
Steps for Using the Link Method
Challenges With the Link Method
#he +eg .ethod
Information Compression
ict!re Linking
"otes Compression
78tending Ideas 4:8
+ractical 0sage
.odel 9e'ugging
+roCect&1ased 3earning
Revie of /olistic 3earning #echni5ues 482
+art III2 1eyond /olistic 3earning 48B
#he +roductive Student 48>
.anage Your 7nergy
9on!t Study)
?u$e +rocrastination
1e <rganiAed
7ducate Yourself 204
Structuring 3earning /a'its
<vercoming the *rustration 1arrier
Setting 3earning =oals
Summary D Self&7ducation Resources
+art I@2 Summary D Euic$ =uide 246
=etting Started
Starting a .ind Challenge
Set 0p a 1etter Study Routine
+roductivity Resources
Recap of .aCor Concepts
Special #han$s 22-
A'out the Author 228
.y Story
I3ve always #een a#le to learn 1ui!kly. 0etting A3s and A43s with little studying
#efore tests wasn3t a !hallenge for "e throughout s!hool. (hile in 5niversity, I3ve
"aintained an average that sits #etween A and A4. /espite this, I don3t spend "ore
than the average person on ho"ework. In fa!t, I "ight even spend less.
7n!e, I wrote an inter-provin!ial test 8I3" 2anadian9 for !he"istry. The only
pro#le"$ I didn3t know I was supposed to write the test until a pen!il and #u##le sheet
were sitting in front of "e. 7n top of this, the test was on "aterial I wasn3t fa"iliar
with and topi!s that were never !overed in "y !lass. I was given an hour and a half to
write the e:a". I left after forty "inutes #e!ause I wanted to eat lun!h.
I won first pla!e and re!eived a !he!k for ;<00.
Self-learning has also o!!upied "y ti"e. I3ve taught "yself several progra""ing
languages, #usiness and writing skills and "y #ookshelf has hundreds of #ooks I3ve read
in =ust the past two years. I3ve also da##led in graphi! design, "usi!al !o"position and
anything I !ould get "y hands on.
Learning has always !o"e easily to "e.
5p until this point, I3d =ust #e another s"art kid. >0ifted? "ight fit as well,
although there are people whose "ental feats would put "y s"all a!hieve"ents to
sha"e. I3d #e =ust another kid who got a "ore favora#le geneti! !o!ktail, had pushy
parents or so"e sort of glandular a!!ident.
And if you read this far, you !ould pro#a#ly slap on arrogant and #oastful.
5ntil re!ently I pro#a#ly would have agreed with you. +ut then so"ething strange
happened. I #egan to noti!e so"ething different a#out "yself and people even s"arter
than "e. It wasn3t =ust that s"art people learned #etter or faster.
They learned differently.
S"arts re1uires a different strategy. S"art people had pi!ked up different ta!ti!s,
so"eti"es intentionally #ut usually !o"pletely without awareness of the". It was
these different strategies that "ade the differen!e in understanding.
That different strategy I !alled holisti! learning. I !all it holisti! learning #e!ause it
!hallenges you to view learning as a !o"prehensive whole, instead of a list of
"e"ori@ed fa!ts. S"art people tend to "ake fewer distin!tions #etween #ran!hes of
knowledge and !an easily relate one set of understandings to another.
+y learning holisti!ally, s"art people are a#le to 1ui!kly integrate new
infor"ation. More i"portantly, this infor"ation sti!ks. They a!tually >get? the
!on!epts and see how the !on!epts relate to far "ore than =ust the pro#le"s given.
7n!e I was told a story that de"onstrates this point perfe!tly$
7n!e upon a ti"e, a student was in a physi!s !lass. &e had a!hieved an otherwise
perfe!t s!ore, #ut the "arker had graded hi" poorly on one 1uestion. The 1uestion had
asked hi" how he would "easure the height of a #uilding using a #aro"eter.
The student had written down, >0o to the top of the #uilding. /rop the #aro"eter
and !ount the se!onds until it s"ashes on the sidewalk #elow. Then use the for"ula for
a!!eleration #y gravity to deter"ine the height of the
7f !ourse, having referen!ed a #aro"eter, the
tester e:pe!ted the student to use air pressure as a tool
for "easuring height. Sin!e this answer did not
de"onstrate that the student knew how to solve
1uestions a#out air pressure, he !ouldn3t pass that
portion of the test.
(hen the student #rought up that his answer did solve the 1uestion #eing asked,
the professor "ade a !o"pro"ise. &e said that he would let the student answer the
1uestion again with a different "ethod. And if the student solved the pro#le" again, he
would award hi" the "arks for the 1uestion.
I""ediately the student responded that he would use the #aro"eter to #ang on
the door of the landlord in the #uilding. (hen the landlord answered the door, he
would ask, >&ow tall is this #uilding)?
At on!e, the professor saw what the student was doing. &e asked hi" if he knew
of any other "ethods to rea!h the answer. The student said that he did.
&e re!o""ended tying a long string to the #aro"eter and "easuring the length of the
string. 7r swinging the string as a pendulu" and inferring the height #y the "otion it
The professor de!ided to award the student the "arks. As the story goes, the
student was a young ,iels +ohr, later #e!o"ing the fa"ous physi!ist and dis!overing
the nature of ele!trons inside ato"s.
This student didn3t =ust know how to get the answer. &e also understood the entire
s!ope for whi!h the pro#le" e:isted. Instead of seeing the pro#le" in the sa"e ter"s
he had #een taught, he !ould easily view it a nu"#er of ways.
The goal of holisti! learning is to repli!ate this pro!ess with the infor"ation you
want to learn.
%hat is /olistic 3earning,
&olisti! learning is the opposite of rote "e"ori@ation.
Aote "e"ori@ation involves repeating infor"ation enough ti"es with the hopes
that it will sti!k. Trying to re"e"#er a physi!s for"ula #y repeating it to yourself
do@ens of ti"es is learning #y rote. This also a poor way to learn.
If you read the story a#out the student fro" the last se!tion, you !an pro#a#ly see
that s"art people dont learn #y rote. /o you think ,iels +orh, as a young physi!s
student, had for"ulas "e"ori@ed in his head) 2o"ing up with so "any uni1ue ways to
solve a physi!s pro#le", it was the opposite. &e understood what every sy"#ol in the
for"ula "eant, and knew why it was there. &e knew the rules so he knew how to
#reak the".
&olisti! learning is a theory for learning that "ore a!!urately des!ri#es how your
#rain works. Bour #rain isn3t the sa"e as a !o"puter filing syste". 2o"puter files are
stored in strips of Cs and 0s in lo!ations on a hard drive. Bour #rain stores infor"ation
as asso!iations #etween #illions of neurons.
Aote "e"ori@ation "ight work if we had !o"puter
#rains. All it would take is an a!!urate !opy of
infor"ation and you !ould "e"ori@e anything.
5nfortunately, we don3t have !o"puter #rains and that
is why rote "e"ori@ation is a less effe!tive way to
&olisti! learning takes a different approa!h.
Instead of trying to "e"ori@e infor"ation #y "aking a
perfe!t !opy in your #rain, it uses the we# of neurons you have. &olisti! learning
!reates we#s of infor"ation. 7ne idea relates to another idea. That interrelating of
ideas allows you to easily navigate through !o"plete understandings.
(ith holisti! learning, ideas aren3t learned in isolation. If you follow holisti!
learning !losely enough, you3ll soon reali@e that it is i"possi#le to learn an idea in
isolation. Learning anything re1uires asso!iations. The "ore asso!iations you !an
!reate and the stronger those asso!iations are, the #etter.
Aote "e"ori@ation would suggest learning fits into neat little #o:es. A #o: for
"ath !ontaining alge#ra, arith"eti! and !al!ulus. Bour !al!ulus #o: !ontains "ore
#o:es for how to find the derivative of a fun!tion, and a few !o""on appli!ations of
those rules. ,owhere does your !al!ulus #o: !ontain infor"ation on #iology, history or
the plot of a s!ien!e fi!tion "ovie.
+ut learning doesn3t fit into #o:es. Learning fits into we#s.
A holisti! learner wouldn3t take su!h an organi@ed approa!h to storing infor"ation
8whi!h "ight e:plain why so "any s"art people have horri#le organi@ation skills9.
Instead holisti! learners !onne!t everything. A derivative isn3t =ust a for"ula, it3s a
feeling, an i"age and you !an relate it to flying a supersoni! =et.
Aote "e"ori@ation see"s to "ake sense
when you !an3t see the alternative. (hen you
don3t know the steps learning should follow
and la!k te!hni1ues to "ove through those
steps, si"ply pounding infor"ation in your
skull see"s to work. This is like a !ave"an
using a ro!k to hunt "a""oths instead of a
rifle. 5ntil you understand the steps and
te!hni1ues for learning, rote "e"ori@ation is
!rude and ineffi!ient, #ut it still works #etter than nothing.
&ow Bou Store Infor"ation
&olisti! learning is "y hypothesis for how learning a!tually works. I say
hypothesis #e!ause holisti! learning is less s!ientifi! fa!t and "ore pra!ti!al "etaphor.
S!ien!e still has a long way to go to dis!over the physi!al !onne!tions in the "ind.
&olisti! learning si"ply suggests one way of viewing how s"art people "anage to learn.
(hether ele!trons a!tually e:ist as #illiard #alls or violin strings =u"ping around a
!loud of protons is less i"portant than the i"pli!ations of these "etaphors. &olisti!
learning, si"ilarly, is a#out providing an easily a!!essi#le theory that see"s to fit how
infor"ation is stored, rather than a des!ription of the #iologi!al pro!esses #uried in your
&olisti! learning is #ased on three "ain ideas$
C9 2onstru!ts
29 Models
D9 &ighways
As I3ll e:plain, seeing how these three ele"ents fit together "akes applying the
holisti! learning strategy easier. Eust as knowing the different !hess plays is useless
without knowing that a #ishop "oves diagonally, knowing the holisti! learning strategy
is useless unless we #oth operate fro" the sa"e points of referen!e.
#his ends the previe section on holistic learning" In the full&
version I e8plain hat constructs, models and highays are" I!ll also
e8plain the : stages of holistic learning, the > information structures and
ho you can use these to learn faster"
"""no let!s loo$ at a great techni5ue for holistic learning, *lo&
1ased ?oteta$ing"
*low-+ased ,otetaking
I3" not a fan of taking detailed and intri!ate notes. I3" a #eliever in the >learn it
on!e? prin!iple, whi!h "eans you should #e listening and pro!essing the infor"ation as
your instru!tor is tea!hing'not =ust trans!ri#ing it on a pie!e of paper to learn later.
7ne te!hni1ue I use during !lasses where there is a lot of infor"ation is flow-#ased
notetaking. The goal with flow-#ased notetaking is providing a surfa!e for !onne!ting
and linking ideas as they are rea!hing you. The linear, #ullet-point style of notes that
"ost people use is repla!ed with a "u!h "ore fluid 8although "essier9 for"at.
(ith flow-#ased note-taking you start #y only writing out the "a=or ideas. This
"eans using a few words at "ost instead of entire senten!es. This !an redu!e
reada#ility later, #ut it enhan!es learning during the le!ture. *a!ts, dates, details and
des!riptions are redu!ed to =ust a few words, not lengthy paragraphs.
7n!e you get an idea written down, your ne:t step is drawing a few arrows to
!onne!t it to other ideas. Instead of an ordered hierar!hy of ideas, you want to
represent the ideas as #eing interrelated !o"ponents. This pro!ess "ore !losely "irrors
the a!tual holisti! learning strategy, where ideas are linked into a we#.
I tend to use flow-#ased notetaking as a "ethod for using other te!hni1ues as well.
Metaphor, diagra"ing and infor"ation !o"pression are "ethods that !an #e used in
!on=un!tion with flow-#ased notetaking to enhan!e your understanding. This way you
!an write out "a=or ideas and !onne!t the" to s"all pi!tures, diagra"s or referen!es to
other su#=e!ts.
Ae"e"#er that notes are only an inter"ediate step towards understanding.
&aving a #eautiful set
of perfe!tly written
notes is useless if you
don3t understand the
su#=e!t you are trying
to learn. *low-#ased
notetaking, therefore
is "essier approa!h to
taking notes, #ut one I
#elieve is "ore
effe!tive at helping to
understand the
&y#rid *low-+ased ,otetaking
*low-#ased notetaking involves a trade-off #etween re!ording and e:ploration.
(ith regular, linear notetaking, you !an !reate an al"ost perfe!t re!ord of what was
said in a !lass. This "ethod is useful if you need to review that infor"ation "ultiple
ti"es in order to learn it properly.
(ith flow-#ased notetaking you are sa!rifi!ing so"e later reada#ility, for !urrent
understanding. +y redu!ing the !ontent of your notes and adding links or diagra"s, the
"aterial !an #e learned "ore holisti!ally. &owever, if the !lass has a high infor"ation
density or you plan to review notes thoroughly later, there are hy#rid strategies you !an
*low-+ased Afternotes
The first hy#rid strategy for flow-#ased notetaking is to take regular notes first and
then re!opy the" into a flow-#ased for"at. If you are having trou#le keeping up with
the pa!e in a !lass, this strategy !an give you "ore ti"e to properly digest the
infor"ation. Although it takes longer than a purely flow-#ased or linear notetaking
style, it gives #oth reada#ility and understanding.
I suggest starting with flow-#ased afternotes for the first "onth of trying this new
notetaking style. This will ensure that you have a !opy of your !learly organi@ed notes
in !ase you need to study the" later.
*low-+ased 2o""enting
So"e !lasses have an e:tre"ely high infor"ation density. (hen you are writing
franti!ally =ust to get everything on paper, flow-#ased notetaking is al"ost i"possi#le.
*low-#ased notetaking assu"es that you !an re!ord all the !riti!al infor"ation in a !lass
in less ti"e than it takes to tea!h. Most good tea!hers will give plenty e:planation roo"
and e:a"ples. /uring that ti"e you !an !reate the !onne!tions, "etaphors and
diagra"s you need to learn holisti!ally.
&owever, in !ases when infor"ation density goes faster than you !an re!ord, flow-
#ased !o""enting is an alternative strategy. +asi!ally it involves writing down the key
infor"ation and inserting links into your notes when there is a #reak. If a professor
puts up a few do@en for"ulas you need to re!ord, you !ould write all these down first.
*ollowing that, you !ould add "ore !onne!tions when the professor starts giving
e:a"ples of how the for"ulas are used.
Ae!ogni@ing 2riti!al Infor"ation
The key a#ility with flow-#ased notetaking is to know what is i"portant. (hat is
the !ore infor"ation taught here) If you write down everything said in a le!ture with
e1ual e"phasis, then you3ll spend your entire !lass trans!ri#ing instead of thinking.
Instin!tively writing down every word written on an overhead transparen!y or
-owerpoint slide is useless if you don3t a!tually think a#out what you are writing.
(ith flow-#ased notetaking I !ut down the a"ount of infor"ation I trans!ri#e and
e"phasi@e on !onne!ting and sorting that infor"ation in a way I understand.
#his ends the techni5ues section in the previe of Learn More#
St!d$ Less" In the full version, over a doAen more techni5ues are
discussed over 40 ne chapters" Speed reading, metaphor, information
compression and model de'ugging are Cust a fe of the ideas covered"
"""no let!s loo$ at a tip for defeating procrastination"
+roductivity #ip F6
"!ke rocrastination
If an assign"ent is due ne:t (ednesday are you the type of person who starts
working on it$
8A9 As soon as it is assigned.
8+9 All in one session, so"e ti"e #etween today and the due date.
829 Tuesday night.
8/9 (ednesday "orning, ten "inutes #efore !lassF
5nfortunately, "ost students I know would have to pi!k either 2 or /. (hi!h is
the #est answer) It "ay surprise you that I don3t #elieve answering A is ideal either. As
I3ll e:plain, #eating pro!rastination doesn3t "ean =ust !o"pleting work earlier.
The !orre!t answer 8in "ost !ases9 would a!tually #e +. 2o"pleting an assign"ent
in one go saves ti"e #y #at!hing. In addition, if you !o"plete the assign"ent using the
(eekly./aily 0oals "ethod, you !an save yourself the stress and guilt of de!iding when
to do assign"ents.
(eekly./aily 0oals Syste"
The (./ 0oals "ethod is one of the #est ways I know of to !o"#at
pro!rastination. The idea is si"ple$
C9 At the end of ea!h week, !o"pile a list of all the assign"ents, ho"ework,
reading and studying a!tivities you want to do in the following week.
5nless so"ething une:pe!ted arises during the week, you are o#ligated to finish
this list'#ut no "ore than this list. This splits off the endless a"ount of assign"ents
and work you !ould #e doing into a "anagea#le !hunk of one week. If you have a
parti!ularly #usy week, you "ight hold-off on long-ter" assign"ents. If you have a
lighter week, you "ight get ahead on reading for tests far #efore the date.
29 At the end of ea!h day, !he!k your weekly to-do and !reate a daily goals list.
The ne:t step is to #reak down your weekly work over ea!h day. That3s si: days of
work 8assu"ing you3re taking a rest day9. Bou3re o#ligated to finish this list ea!h day,
#ut no "ore than this list.
(hat does the (./ 0oals syste" a!!o"plish)
C9 It saves you the stress of de!iding whether to work "ore or less on a day. Bou
=ust !he!k your list to see whether you3re done.
29 It keeps you fro" pro!rastinating on #ig pro=e!ts. +y relying on your weekly
and daily goals lists, instead of due dates, you are the one in !ontrol over your s!hedule.
D9 It helps you #alan!e workloads. +y looking ahead at your s!hedule you !an
adapt your weekly and daily goals to s"ooth over your work. Instead of pulling all-
nighters #efore a test, and wasting hours of your ti"e three weeks #efore, you !an split
up the work.
&ere is a sa"ple of the weekly.daily
goals lists I "aintain$
I use TadaList, whi!h is an online
to-do list progra" for storing "y
lists. 2he!king "y /aily 0oals
regularly and "y (eekly 0oals
ea!h night, helps "e stay on tra!k.
=et the 7ntire 1oo$ #oday(
Thanks for reading the free version of Learn More, Study Less. Gven if you dont
#uy the full version, I hope you find the te!hni1ues in the preview helpful. &ere are
=ust a few of the ideas only availa#le in the full version$
% 2onstru!ts, "odels, highways and the H phases of holisti! learning.
% Linking, pegging, "etaphor, vis!erali@ation, and a!tive reading te!hni1ues.
% +at!hing, energy "anage"ent and why you shouldnt >study?.
% Self-edu!ation and how to get a!!ess to university !ourses for free.
% ...and "u!h "oreF
<ver 200 pages and : 'onus documents for only 6;";>(