The more you compress things, the more physical limiters become a bottleneck. All learning is physically limited. The brain is dependent on finite quantities of neurotransmitters, memories require REM and non-REM (NREM) sleep for consolidation, etc. The learning graph is not unlike the stress-recovery-hyper-adaptation curves of weight training.
The more extreme your ambition, just as in sports, the more you need performance enhancement via unusual schedules, diet, drugs, etc.
Most important: due to the bipolar nature of the learning process, you can forecast setbacks. If you don’t, you increase the likelihood of losing morale and quitting before the inflection point.
Based on all I’ve seen, it’s possible to roughly forecast your progress on the back of a napkin. The process, which is optional, is the following. Skip if you find it dense:
1. Pick your world-class (top 5%) objective, and set your timeline. For this example, we’ll use Spanish in one month (28 days).
2. Use deconstruction, 80/20, and everything in META-LEARNING to nail your materials, determine your sequence, and map out your calendar.
3. To forecast different milestones, work backward from your total allotted time of 28 days. First, we divide our total time units by eight, to reflect the monthly units (eight) needed on my graph to reach fluency. Our progress unit is therefore 3.5 (28 days divided by eight).
Next, we look at the graph and multiply out, based on the location of milestones. We round up, so: • Sugar high @ 1 unit = sugar high @ 3.5 days (3.5 x 1), so rounding up, expect a sugar high @ day 4 of 28 days. • Followed by immediate drop and low point @ day 7 (3.5 x 2 units). • Rapid progress after the low point, followed by plateau @ day 10.5 (3.5 x 3), so day 11. • Inflection point @ day 21 (3.5 x 6). • Fluency @ day 28 (3.5 x 8).
This forecast is subject to your nailing every other step in META-LEARNING, of course, and it’s a tool of estimation. That said, it can be surprisingly accurate, especially for attempts that last longer than two months.
Google cofounder Larry Page once said, “Even if you fail at your ambitious thing, it’s very hard to fail completely. That’s the thing that people don’t get.”
THE VALUE OF 5–10-MINUTE BREAKS The serial position effect refers to improved recall observed at the beginnings and ends of lists. Separately, these are called the primacy effect and recency effect, respectively. Memorizing a hypothetical list of 20 words, your recall might look something like this: This mid-list dip can be observed in study sessions as well, so a 90-minute session might resemble the below graph: We can dramatically improve recall by splitting that single session into two sessions of 45 minutes with a 10-minute break in between.
The Von Restorff effect, also called the novel popout effect,‡ correlates unique items in a list to better recall. For example, if the fifth item in a word list uses a unique color or a larger font size, it will be better remembered than others. This is perhaps obvious. What isn’t obvious is that planting odd material in the middle of a session can produce a macro–Von Restorff effect. Let’s assume we have a list of 100 plain-Jane, high-frequency words, split into 50 words per 45-minute session. The recall will look just as it did in the primacy and recency effect graph.
Now we spike the punch in the middle of each 45-minute session, injecting 2–4 idiomatic phrases that are sexually related from minutes 20–25. There are two content changes: the sexual content and, almost as important, the word-to-phrase shift. In my experience, the memory curves can then morph into the above graph. Instead of averaging out at 60%–70% recall over a week, say, we can get well over 80%. Furthermore, it’s a more sustainable and pleasant learning approach. This is the approach I used with the Linkword method to achieve more than 85% retention of 350 Italian words 72 hours after cramming them into 12 hours.
The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life by Timothy Ferriss
The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life