1 Focused versus diffuse

1.1 Introduction

There is two type of visualization of a problem. Your brain is in one mode or the other, but not a mix at the same time.


Concentrating on something you want to Learn.

You try to find a familiar pattern that you already know.

The problem is that when you are too focus on a wrong thing, it is difficult to go back and try something else (as you are focused).


You explore the space. You use it to learn something new. You don't focus !! You take a big image of what you see.

1.2 Course structure

1.3 Using focused and diffuse modes

When you are too focused, you need to take break in order to open your mind.

1.4 What is learning

  • A million billion of synapse are inside the brain
  • After training, synapse are forming

2 Procrastination, Memory, and sleep

2.1 What is procrastination

Procrastination switch attention to something else. It is characterized by three steps:

  1. Unhappy feeling
  2. Turn your attention into a more pleasant task
  3. Feel happy temporarily

It is like an addiction

Pomodoro: Use a timer of 25 minutes and try to focus yourself, and reward after that moment.

2.2 Intro to memory

Learning a little each day is better than learning a lot on one day. You need to work with your two kinds of memory.

Working memory:

  • Located in the Prefrontal cortex
  • Use it for remembering current action/vision/idea/conversation, ie NOW
  • 4 items/chunks of information at a time

Long term memory:

  • Billion of items
  • Get some info of working memory by repeating
  • Back side of the brain
  • When you become stressed, you loose the ability to access long-term memory

2.3 Sleep

  • Dream : improve your chance to think about it
  • Exercise : Same, allow you to defocus, and go to the diffuse mode

2.4 Sports

  • defocuss
  • helps creativity: goto diffuse mode,
  • Passion: you improve a skill that you love day after day
  • Persistance: you learn to have a goal

3 Chunks

3.1 What is chunk

Piece of data, easy to remember, concepts.

Set of neurons that fires together to perform an action efficiently.

3.2 How to make a chunk

Train everyday a small amount of time (but enough time to learn something).

Practicing, not just reading a book. It would give you a fake impression of understanding. Practice also somewhere where you are less confident. It makes you adapt to new (stressing) environment when needed. Improve your adaptability.

Reformulating helps you to appropriate you the concept. Speak about it to somebody that understand, or not, to adapt, to test yourself.

Difference between fields.

  • Focus your attention on the thing you want to learn. Avoid disturbances
  • Understand the concept, the connections, ... ==> Synthetize. If you understand, you can do it yourself
  • Gaining context When to use this chunk,

Chunking is a bottom-up learning: you go from small piece to a bigger conceptual image

Top-down learning: having a big image, to see what you are learning, how the chunks relate to each others.

Context is where both TD and BU meet.

3.3 Illusion of competence

Recall: Learn to a more deeper level to get the key idea. But first, need to understand the basic concepts.

Illusion of competence: looking at the solution and saying "ok, i know how to get there". It is not in your hand nor in your brain.

Mini-testing: See if you really understand. Make mistake here!

4 Seeing the bigger picture

4.1 What motivate you

acetylcholine: purpose learning, attention, longterm memory

dopamine: motivation, reward learning, decision making, future reward (not immediate)

anhedonia: lack of dopamine

Serotonin : social life, depression, risk taking behavior

Amygdale: decision making, perception

4.2 Library of chunks

Need to network chunks together

Transfer of chunk links

Chunk: Compress information. Learning strengthen chunk pattern

Law of serendipity: Find something that you didn't expected

The first is difficult, the next items become less and less

Sequential: Focus

Holistic: Diffuse

Deliberate learning Spend extra attention on something you think is difficult on a first place. It will allow you after to think that things are easier

4.3 Overlearning

Not good to study over and over. Okay for learning a pattern, but you are too focused. Can be a waste of time. Better to space session, and change of tecnics. Can give the illusion of competence

Einstellung: Prevent to find the good solution by blocking in a too strong pattern. Need to unlearn.... Go to pool without learning how to swim is overkill. ==> Blocked by the previous training

Interleaving: change technics, concept, flip, do it to another session. Interleaving by changing of discipline can improve your creativity.

5 Procrastination

5.1 Tackling procrastination

Arsenic: super toxic. But if you train yourself, you can survive. (but risk of cancer) Learn about psychology as you can learn about poison effect in chemistry

Learning: bit by bit activity

5.2 Zombies everywhere

Zombie mode: automatic mode. You don't need to think about it.

  1. Cue: trigger the zombie mode
  2. Routine: The zombie mode
  3. Reward: focus on the routine
  4. Belief: believe that you can't change the routine/ that it is necessary

5.3 Process versus Product

Beginning a learning: always a difficult activity to start, feel uncomfortable.

Process: flow of time (where you have to learn). Focus on the moment. (How do I find the solution?)

Product: Outcome (i.e. copy the exercise of a friend would not make you learn)

5.4 Harnessing zombies

Overide some habits

  1. Cue
    • location
    • time
    • how you feel
    • reactions
  2. Routine
    • plan: develop new ritual
  3. Reward
    • give a payoff at the end, distraction,...
  4. Belief
    • Believe that what you do will work, encourage yourself that is not useless

5.5 Juggling life and learning

  • Weekly list of task. Todo before going to bed will help you to do a first part of the job during the night. If you don't write it, you may thing about it, taking your brain away.
  • Try to make break
  • Avoid to task at a time

6 Memory

6.1 Driving deeper in memory

  • Visual memorization
  • Repetition (not the same day)
  • Tool anki (cards to learn)

6.2 What is long term memory

Hippocampus: help to remember thing (put thing from short term to long term memoy)

Reconsolidation: change false memory

Active state ->[Reconsolidation] Inactive state ->[Reactivation] Active State Short-Term M ->[Consolidation] Long term memory

Learning for 10h before an exam is kind of useless thing.


  • helps for learning.
  • Provide nutriments
  • Maintain extra-cellular ion balance
  • Repair and injury

6.3 Creating meaningful group and memory palace technics


Memory palace technics: Try to learn somewhere where you are not comfortable first

Big picture template: easy to remember on general context.

Handwritting helps to remember things

7 Renaissance Learning and unlocking potential

7.1 How to become a better learner

Physical exercise. Enable to keep connection between neurons. Neurons die if you don't use them

Stereoptis: Sereo vision

[Fixing my gaze] Book for learning back how to see in 3D

Prefrontal cortex:

  • Do complex analysis
  • Human social behavior
  • Ability to make decision
  • Ability to plan

Visual cortex begins mature at the end of childhood Prefrontal cortex is the latest part to mature

7.2 Create lively metaphor and analogy

See something in your mind. Imagine atoms. Take similar idea, do analogies, improve the creativity. Glue Idea into the mind

  • Helps remembering and understanding
  • Remove you from Einstellung

7.3 No need for genius envy

The imposter syndrom: Succeed on something even you don't feel confident, saying that it was luck. Feeling of inadequacy

Better to learn from someone than from a book.

7.4 Change your thoughts - change your life

Perseverance: vertue of the less brillant Learn dispassion

8 Improving your learning tips

8.1 Value of Teamwork

  • right brain: big picture
  • left brain: interpret the world ?

[Turning group of student into effective team learning]

Larger scale diffuse mode. But be on time, get focus with the group idea.

8.2 Test checklist

SPOIL Coursera:

  • Did you work with classmates on homework problems
  • Did you attempt to outline every homework problem solution
  • Did you participate actively in homework group discussion
  • Did you consult with the instructor
  • Did you understand all of your homework problem solutions?
  • Did you ask in class for explanations of homework problem solutions that weren't clear
  • Study guide
  • Did you attempt to outline lots of problem solution quickly
  • Did you go over the study guide and problem with classmates and quiz one another
  • Review session?
  • Reasonable night sleep ??

8.3 Hard start - Jump to easy

Start first on the hardest problem ==> Store the most difficult part.

Next, go to less difficult tasks which would look very easy !! Helps to switch to diffuse mode

Different parts of your brain work simultaneously.

Scan the whole exam, and go to the more difficult problem as far as you can. Go to easier next.

8.4 Final helpful tips

Reformulate your stress signals ==> Try to avoid stress,

Turn your attention on your breathing, Think about the test as the way to do your best!

Good worry: Provide motivation

Bad worry: Waste time