Metalearning is a crucial, yet overlooked, step for reaching a big-picture understanding of your field. 3

from book

Whether you’re teaching yourself stochastic calculus or perfecting your tennis serve, your ultralearning project should always begin with metalearning: the process of learning how to learn. The idea here is that you shouldn’t start by absorbing information at random. You should first establish how information is structured in your chosen field.  For example, the writing system of Mandarin Chinese isn’t just a bunch of random characters. Instead, the characters are organized by radicals, which are visual markers that express the relationships between those characters. So if you were learning Mandarin, you’d want to start with organizing principles like radicals, rather than just memorizing each character individually.  Metalearning is all about looking for the big picture, then using it to devise your optimal learning strategy. That’s easier said than done, though. Many learners take years to arrive at a big-picture understanding of their subject. Fortunately, there are some simple strategies you can use to create a metalearning shortcut.   First, create a metalearning map by breaking your topic down into three categories: concepts, or what needs to be understood; facts, or what needs to be memorized; and procedures, or what needs to be done. Some projects, like learning a new programming language, will involve a mixture of the three. Working on that tennis serve, however, will mostly involve perfecting a procedure. Focus your energies on the most heavily-weighted categories. Next, use this map to identify which aspects of learning might prove challenging, and then brainstorm techniques for overcoming them. If your breakdown reveals you’ll need to commit a lot of facts to memory, for example, you might consider acquiring spaced-repetition software, which produces randomized memory tests, to optimize the memorization process.  Finally, establish how you’re going to learn. To do this, try benchmarking: research people who’ve acquired a similar skill or institutions that offer accreditation in your field of study. Use these as your benchmark. Replicate their methods and equipment. Use online course lists or syllabi to find the resources, tools and texts that are considered essential in the field. Time invested in metalearning sets your project up for success. As a general rule, allocate 10% of the total time you expect to spend on your project to metalearning.  Through metalearning, you can draw a roadmap for your ultralearning project. Once your map is ready, you should strengthen your powers of focus to make sure you don’t go off-road. We’ll look at how to do this in the next readim.