Beyond good enough, the more you study for the easy parts the better you’ll be at what’s difficult

Ok, I’m back. It’s been a busy few months, and I’ll likely explain why in another post. I’m a busy PHP Junior Developer now, and I’m also taking 3 online courses (offered in partnership with the Stanford University), as you’ve read in the previous posts. I’m following Introduction to Databases, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence. And, obviously, I’m having a hard time balancing it all: especially the time, the energy and the motivation. I’ve just taken my DB midterm quiz, and am not too happy with the results. I’m ok with the AI homework, if I manage to submit the one that is due tomorrow. And I’m behind with the Machine Learning programming exercises.

I’m not starring the courses. But that’s ok, this is just a test anyway, to see if I can both work and study. I must learn some of the topics, but mostly I must learn from my mistakes and learn how to learn.

I have, clearly, made mistakes. But the important part is, what have I learned from them? Here’s a top 5 that answers that. Click “Continue reading” for the details.

5) Plan ahead. Plan the rest days as well. Then live each day to the fullest.

4) Add some aesthetics and some fun. Take great notes. Detailed great notes.

3) Don’t consider a course easy if a part of it is easy, or difficult if a part of it is difficult.

2) 80% of the work may be done with 20% effort, but A students do more than that.

1) The more effort you put into the easy stuff, the better you will be on the trickier parts.

5) Plan ahead. Plan the rest days as well. Then live each day to the fullest.

Like I mentioned before, separate planning for doing. Before the new week starts, divide all your studying into neat little sections, copy the videos and the pdfs onto your laptop or smartphone or whatever to study during the commute or the lunch break, decide exactly what you want to study for each of the evenings. Plan the rest days too, you’ll need them. If you can’t fit them in, reconsider. Or maybe not, I still haven’t decided how much to push myself, either,

4) Add some aesthetics and some fun. Take great notes. Detailed great notes.

Notes are crucial, both for organizing the material and your thoughts, and for saving the knowledge for later. But they can also make the studying more fun and more personal, so use colors, drawings, shapes. Write everything down, even if it looks unimportant, you want to create a complete picture, something that will make sense tomorrow and ten years from now, not just right now.

3) Don’t consider a course easy if a part of it is easy, or difficult if a part of it is difficult.

All courses like all life experiences have the ups and downs. Don’t be fooled by either. I’ve made a mistake, for example, of taking the DB course too lightly, since it didn’t appear as advanced as the other two, but that means that I’ve achieved much worse results if what I could have been good at, since I can’t blame the lack of prerequisites like with ML and AI.

2) 80% of the work may be done with 20% effort, but A students do more than that.

I’ve just figured out why I have never been a perfect A student at school. What looks like a small difference – say 1 question on a quiz, makes a huge difference in the studying habits. To get that last question right on the quiz you need to study until everything is clear to you, until you make the material completely yours. If you just kind of understand more or less all, there will always be at least that one question that you don’t get right. And the gap accumulates as you go along, the gap that separates you from being the A student, that is. So start being thorough from the beginning, from the easier stuff, and keep it going.

1) The more effort you put into the easy stuff, the better you will be on the trickier parts.

This is kind of connected to the previous point. Don’t just go through the motions to get the lecture or the quiz done and over with. It will cost you later. You are building up for later, the stronger the foundations the stronger the whole learning experience will be.

That being said, we all make mistakes. At least life-long learning lets us learn from them and not repeat them in the future.

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About apprenticecoder

My blog is about me learning to program, and trying to narrate it in interesting ways. I love to learn and to learn through creativity. For example I like computers, but even more I like to see what computers can do for people. That's why I find web programming and scripting especially exciting. I was born in Split, Croatia, went to college in Bologna, Italy and now live in Milan. I like reading, especially non-fiction (lately). I'd like to read more poetry. I find architecture inspiring. Museums as well. Some more then others. Interfaces. Lifestyle magazines with interesting points of view. Semantic web. Strolls in nature. The sea.
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