Start With Questions: 7 Steps to Efficient Learning [Letter#22]

Imagine that you have a reliable system for learning any topic that interests you. For first-time entrepreneurs learning efficiently and consistently is key to progress and success. But sometimes when we decide to learn more about a new topic, we don't know where to start, what to consume and in what order. Having a framework or a system is key to consistent progress.

Here is a system you can follow to learn about any topic — professional or personal — in a time efficient and enjoyable way. Be it cryptocurrency, investing, or search engine optimization. These are the steps I used to create the previous reports on meditation and landing pages.


7 Step Learning Framework

Below are the 7 steps. Each step does not require equal amount of time. For example step 1, 2, and 3 can all be done in 30 minutes. Step 6 is where you'll likely spend most of your time. The value of the initial steps is in having your learning outcome and questions defined upfront. This gives focus and direction to the time spent on research.

Step 1 - Identify your starting place. Write down everything you know about the topic already. Your thoughts, your opinions, feelings and biases.

Step 2 - Identify your desired outcome. And your reason for choosing this topic. You may be learning something that you need to know for your business or you could be learning something out of pure curiosity.

Step 3 - Write your questions. This is the most important step. Writing down your initial questions allows you to focus your learning. You can zoom in on what's important to you and find relevant information to consume. The secret to learning is asking good questions.

Step 4 -  Collect source materials guided by the questions from step 3. Find high quality original source material, not other people's summaries. 2 or 3 long-form content is better than 10 to 20 short articles. It could also be audio or video content.

Step 5 - Create a curriculum from your source material and schedule time to read/listen. Time box the consumption so to focus on finding answers to your questions. It may be something you can do in an afternoon. Or depending on the topic, it may take several days or weeks. In which case having an initial plan, with source material open in a desired order ready to consume is helpful.

Step 6 - Read, listen, watch. This is the fun part. Take notes and be on the lookout for answers to your questions from step 3. Write down anything that is surprising or unexpected to you. The goal of your notes is to capture the insight and understanding sparked by the reading. The goal is not to summarize the original source material.

Step 7 - Apply what you've learned to your own context. Come up with more questions and iterate. Dive deeper into topics that are most relevant to you. Repeat this process by starting with new questions. There is no end step as learning is never really done.

That's all. That's how I approach quickly learning about new topics.

Note that step 1 simply makes it easier to get started, all we do is write down what we already know. This will automatically cause questions.

And step 7 is about applying what you learn, taking action. For example, after learning about investing you may decide to open a brokerage account with Vanguard or after learning about meditation you may download an app and try for yourself. This is where the fun begins, and the magic happens. When you put the theory into practice in your own context.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

This framework is simple and you may already be learning just as described with some of these steps. Most of the time we start somewhere around step 4 to 6. We google some words, click on a few links to open them in different tabs. Read or skim one or two articles, then get bored and move on. Sometimes this is okay for certain fleeting questions. But for topics you need to know at a deeper level and when your goal is to apply what you learn in your work, it helps to learn more systematically.


PodNotes featuring IndieHackers Podcast*

Here are my thoughts from episode #179 of the IndieHackers podcasts - Making $280k from designing icons.

This story certainly highlights the phenomenon of opportunity meeting preparations. It is impressive and inspiring. I wonder if the story feels inspiring mainly due to the amount of money or something else? For example would it be equally inspiring if Tarf had made $28k instead of $280k? That's still a solid chunk of change for a few hours of work.

The idea validation happened organically in this case as Tarf saw other people already posting icons.

The pricing of $28 was arbitrary and there is no way to know if a different price would have been better. The point it that doesn't matter. This confirms my learning about pricing.

The distribution channel in this case was originally planned to be Twitter only. It was shared (by luck?) by someone with 13M+ followers resulting in 6M views of the video featuring his icons.

A recurring pattern in indiehacker mindset/psychology I noticed here is persistence and the mantra of double down on what's working.

***

*I stopped listening to podcasts recently as I can't justify the time (and I can't listen to Indiehackers while walking or doing chores because I constantly have an urge to jot down notes). So I've decided to write down my thoughts and share these notes. My hope is they're useful to others — either to get a gist of the content or to decide whether it's relevant enough for you to give it a listen for yourself.


That's all for this one! Hope you enjoy your learning.

Until next time,

Bhumi

Joke of the Week: "Do you want to hear my new joke about Fibonacci?" "Nah, nevermind. It's as bad as the last two combined"
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