Practice Made Perfect: The 10 Keys to Optimize Improvement - Scott H Young - Deepstash

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Start with Examples

Start with Examples

Problem-solving refers to the process you use when you don’t know what the correct method is. One remedy for this problem is to start by studying examples or demonstrations of how to solve the problem.

This can help you understand the best methods to solve a problem before trying it yourself.

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Retrieve, Don’t Revisit

Retrieval practice is the process of testing yourself with a closed book. It lets you check your knowledge, and it is one of the most effective ways to learn.

A tension exists between the benefits of retrieval and studying examples.

  • If the pattern for solving a problem is in your memory, retrieval practice suggests you’re better off solving the problem on your own, without help.
  • On the other hand, if the relevant pattern is not in memory, you will have to default to search processes which can be slow and make it harder to acquire the needed patterns.

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Spread Out Your Sessions

The spacing effect refers to the benefit of spreading studying sessions out over time.

  • For factual knowledge, spacing can be accomplished easily with flashcards.
  • For other skills, the best way to benefit from spacing is to mix in practice of older skills while learning new ones. e.g. A ten-minute review practice to work on previous material before moving on to new skills.

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Mix Up Your Practice

If we don’t know what type of problem we’re solving before we attempt it, we can only rely on the features of the problem itself. This alone makes our practice more closely approximate the real thing.

Problems don't come in neat packages divided by units in real life.

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Put Confusing Examples Side-by-Side

When you make a mistake, it’s important to figure out why. The worst thing to do is simply hope that the confusion will sort itself out through repetition.

Any time you face this type of mix-up, put the examples side-by-side so you can see what distinguishes them.

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Use Self-Explanations

When learning a new method or problem-solving procedure, always walk through and explain each step to yourself. Repeated drills can help you memorize material but don’t always facilitate understanding. So when the format of the question changes slightly, you might not be able to adjust.

Effective practice is built on understanding.

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Analyze Your Past Performance

For skills at the limits of your abilities, it’s impossible to monitor your performance and simultaneously improve it. Record yourself performing the skill and review it after.

You can focus all of your precious mental bandwidth on performing the task and only later analyze the effort

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Use the 85% Rule for Sliding Difficulty

You are in the right ballpark when you are correct about 85% of the time. Less than that, and you are likely making the task too difficult, thus making learning less efficient (and more frustrating).

For skills with lumpier difficulty gradients, fine-tune the difficulty.

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Improve Your Feedback

  • Direct feedback is related to the result you are trying to achieve-say sales for a product launch, bug-free code, or hitting a home run.
  • Indirect feedback comes from other people and is a commentary on your performance, but is more accurate.

Seek out both types of feedback.

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Match Your Practice to Real Life

  • If you want to improve your practice efforts, get really clear on what you're trying to get good at.
  • Academic skills often have well-defined standards for achievement. Real-life skills are often murkier
  • The more ambiguous the skill, the more critical it is to move back and forth between deliberate practice and doing the real thing.

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A negative mind will never give you a positive mind.

Getting good at anything requires a lot of practice–but not all practice is equal.

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