Study Effectively

"Studying". Such a common word that it can be hard to know what it really means. At Elewa we use a very simple and actionable definition.

Studying: Managing your limited resources to maximize learning.

Each of these common complaints hint that some resource has run out.

  • "There is only so much time in a day."
  • "I can't focus today."
  • "I'm burnt out."
  • "I just don't care anymore."
  • "Figure it out yourself this time."
  • "It's too hard."
  • "I can't stay awake."

Time, motivation, concentration, social support, thinking power, energy, all of these are necessary to maximize learning and all of them can be used up.


Know Yourself

There is no single best way to study, everyone has their own unique limitations they need to balance. A busy parent will have a very different balancing act than a full-time student, or a single lawyer.

The first step to effective studying is to know your own situation. Do you run out of time before motivation? Do you stay motivated well after you can't think straight anymore? Do you have perfect discipline, but still learn slower than your peers? Each of these cases will require a different strategy, and only you can figure out your own strategy. It can be tricky but with enough reflection, trial, and error you can make it.

You're not in this alone! Don't hesitate to ask others for study tips, or to share your own.


Some Strategies


  • Always remember why you're doing this.
  • Have a clear vision of the skills you want to gain.
  • Keep your study sessions short, fun, and regular.
  • Organize your studying around a carefully constructed set of questions.
  • Focus on one new concept at a time, and learn it in it's real-world context.
  • Mix it up. Alternate regularly between different tasks.
  • Help your friends whenever they ask. You'll both learn more this way.
  • Ask friends for help when you need it, but do respect their time.

Study strategies in more depth, organized by the resource they help to manage:

  • Time:
    • Organize your study sessions around a well-formulated set of questions.
    • Learn to cut your losses. The goal of studying isn't to make a working application, it's to learn. Becoming fixated on finding a bug or tweaking the UI can waste time you should be spending on your primary learning objectives.
    • Collect and familiarize yourself good learning resources ahead of time. A few comprehensive resources will serve you better than an ad-hoc collection of smaller ones and take less time to sort through. The style & messages will be more consistent, and complete resources will make an effort to tie old concepts back into new ones.
  • Motivation:
    • Don't loose sight of why you are learning to code.
    • Keep your studying light and fun.
    • When something is discouraging, work on it in little pieces mixed in with something you like.
    • Keep a daily learning journal. When you think you aren't getting anywhere you can look back on all the progress you've made.
  • Working Memory:
    1. Keep your working memory clear:
      • Use cognitive tools like clear code, good habits, useful diagrams, and careful planning to lighten the load on your working memory.
    2. Don't try working on anything you can't hold in your head all at once:
      • If you find there's too much going on for you to keep straight, you probably did a bad job with # 1.
    3. Don't multi-task. "Multi-Tasking" is just very fast task switching. Every time you change your focus you lose context ("what was I thinking?", "What line was that?", "Which method threw an error?", "How did those two methods interact?"). It can take over 20 minutes to get fully back into the game after even a tiny distraction.
    4. Practice intentional thinking. Whenever an thought, idea, or question pops into your mind take a moment to figure out if it's helpful for what you're doing right now. If it is, follow through with it. If it isn't, write it down somewhere and forget about it. You'll get back to it later if it matters. Over time this will become a habit and you'll notice your thoughts become less and less distracting.
    5. (Working Memory and Cognitive Load are very closely related)
  • Cognitive Load:
    • Keep your study space consistent and distraction-free, whatever that means for you.
    • Read, Diagram, Modify, Create. Don't dive right into applying new concepts from scratch. Start by reading & diagramming projects that feature your target concept. Then create predictions about how a change will effect the application and implement that change, does it behave how you think it does? Finally, try applying this concept in a new project you build from scratch.
    • Recognize when you are overloaded and take some time to find a new project, or isolate the concept you are studying with clear examples. The best way to do this is to ask a fellow student or teacher for help. You're only just learning to recognize the concept, you can't expect yourself to build quality examples just yet.
    • Make frequent connections to concepts you already understand. It's easier and more effective to build on existing knowledge than to learn new concepts from scratch. You will learn faster and have better skill transfer in the long run.
    • Take a break and get some sleep.
  • Social Support:
    • Teach others - it will help you learn and earn you some good will for when you really get stuck.
    • Rely on others - regularly working together will help build strong collaboration and communication skills. It will also make your study community stronger and more productive.
    • Respect others' needs - Everything in moderation. Pay attention to each others' rhythms, don't distract your study-buddies when they're being productive.
  • Concentration:
    • Take a break and get some sleep.
    • Hyper-focus isn't the only way to learn. If you feel yourself thinking a bit slower and day-dreaming about your work, this can be a very good thing! It's called Diffused Thinking, when used properly it is a powerful learning and creative tool. But it will take some effort to learn and recognize the difference between this and true day-dreaming.
    • Keep a short study plan by your side. You can check off goals as you achieve them and see the end growing nearer.




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