The Metalearning Map

Hello! Seiiti Arata. What is the first thing you do when you want to learn something? Alternative A: you read a book on that subject. Alternative B: you sign up to take classes. Alternative C: you search videos and tutorials online. Alternative D: you skip the theory and go straight to practice, to learn through trial and error. If you respond to any of these options, I’m sorry to tell you, but you’re wasting your time.

Most people do just that when they have to study at school, in college, at work or in life in general when they want to learn some new skill. They will go directly to read a book or watch a class. But this is the wrong way to start, as it makes you waste a lot of time and not learn efficiently.

Instead of going straight to books and classes, you should spend at least ten percent of your total study time just drawing an efficient map. An efficient map is one that will show you exactly what, why and how you should study.

The first step in studying anything is learning to learn. The metalearning map shows you exactly what you need to study.

Whenever you want to learn something, start by learning to learn that subject or skill. Research what the fundamental knowledge of what you want to learn is. Draw a map of the skills you need to acquire to learn that in the most efficient way possible.

Metalearning is the art of learning to learn. It is through metalearning that you can learn how the knowledge of a certain area is structured. And the advantage of understanding how knowledge is structured is that it increases your efficiency.

Not all subjects are learned the same way. Learning to speak a language is quite different from learning to swim, which has nothing to do with learning astrophysics. Some subjects need a very practical knowledge, others need a lot of abstraction and there are other subjects that we can only learn with a lot of repetition.

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Metalearning is present in any of these subjects. However, you need to differentiate metalearning… from the subject you are studying. It is one thing learning to learn. Another thing is to learn the subject itself. To separate the two things, ideally, you should draw your metalearning map early on.

The metalearning map is the tool that will guide your entire study. Creating the metalearning map is just as important as doing the study itself.

The first step towards fast and efficient learning is to draw a complete map of what you want to learn. Before opening the first page of a book, before attending the first class, you should be concerned with your map.

Think of the metalearning map as a study plan specific to your case. This map is like a program made exactly for your needs. Because it is a personalized and individual map, you will be much more efficient than if you were simply following the generic course programs designed for all students.

To draw this map, first select what you want to learn. What is the specific subject?

Then, make a diagnosis of your current situation. What do you know about that subject? What is your degree of knowledge? What don’t you know yet? What are the advantages and disadvantages of learning that subject?

With this, you already know where you want to go and what your starting point is. What remains is to understand how you will get from that starting point to your final destination.

From there, start doing intense research on how to walk this path efficiently. During this research, remember that you are not yet learning the subject you have chosen. You are just learning to learn that subject.

The metalearning map indicates where the information you need to acquire as the next step is.

I will quickly give you a practical example. I will choose a specific subject: I want to know what the scientific evidence that the memory pill works is. Specifically, I want to know if DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplements have been shown to help cognitive function. Therefore, it is a specific subject. I am not studying “biology”.

What do I already know about the subject? I know how to find the source of the original studies. I am fluent in English. I have experience with scientific methodology and have years of experience reading evidence-based medicine materials. I have the ability to examine the methodology of experiments to give a correct interpretation of the small details. All of this is the basis. The base is formed by blocks of previous knowledge that help me. If I didn’t have these blocks, I should first strengthen that base.

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What do I still don’t know? I still don’t know what the arguments are for or against the use of DHA to improve memory. So, I need to read the reports. Do you understand? In creating my plan, I quickly found out where the information is that I need to acquire to achieve my goal. If I didn’t know how to speak English, then I should focus on becoming fluent so I could read the reports. If I didn’t know how to interpret the reports, I should study scientific methodology.

So, with this plan I know that what I need is in these two reports. As the critical analysis is a detailed subject, I made a specific video about that for you, which you can visit this link here  and then we will continue here focusing on the metalearning map, without mixing the matters.

Answer three questions to draw a good metalearning map: Why? What? and How?

Your research on learning to learn the subject you want to study should focus on answering three questions: Why? What? and How?

Start with why. Understand your motivation to learn that subject. Perhaps it is a subject that you are curious about. Perhaps it is a requirement for your profession. Or it may simply be a compulsory subject in college.

If you know exactly why you want to learn that subject, you can save a lot of time by focusing your studies on what really matters most to you. This is quite different from following strict programs designed for a large number of people.

Then answer “What?”. What knowledge and skills will you need to acquire in order to say that you have learned that subject? Is it when you can talk to a native speaker in the language you are learning? Is it when you score a seven in the final exam? Is it when you can play an entire song by yourself on the piano?

A good way to explore the question “What?” is to break the whole subject into smaller pieces. To break up a big subject, think about what the concepts, facts and procedures that you need to master are. Concepts are generally more abstract ideas that you need to understand. Facts are data that you need to memorize. And procedures are skills that need to be practiced, actions that need to be taken in a certain way.

Finally, think about how you are going to learn each of those pieces of the subject. What resources, methods and models will you use in your learning? This is an important point, as the quality of the resources and methods you are going to use can make a big difference in your result.

Model people who have already learned what you want to learn. They will tell you what to exclude and what to include in your studies.

A good tactic for drawing your metalearning map is to simply ask people who have already learned that topic. We already talked about modeling people here on the Arata Academy channel – it’s episode 169 of the Hello! Seiiti Arata series. Modeling is discovering how model people managed to study that and seeking to replicate the method, adapting it to your reality.

In this research, you need to find out how people tend to learn the subject that interests them. If something works for a lot of people, it is likely to work for you, too. So it’s a good starting point for your map.

This is also very useful for you to discover good sources of study. The books that are most useful, the most interesting classes, the most didactic teachers. Write down everything that can be used as a resource for your learning.

From these initial lists, start to mark what you need to emphasize and what you can exclude from your studies.

You must emphasize the concepts that are most important or that best suit your personal reasons for learning that matter. And you should exclude what you have mastered or do not see any use in learning for your specific case.

The metalearning map is effective precisely because it customizes your study program to your specific needs. By emphasizing and excluding, you can put together a script that perfectly suits your situation.

At least 10% of your study time should be spent designing a meta learning map. Those who fail to plan are planning to fail.

If you have ten days to study for an exam, you should dedicate your entire first day to drawing your metalearning map. If you think about learning to play an instrument in the next twelve months, almost a month and a half of your time will be used to draw your map. This does not mean that it will be a full month and a half at the beginning of the studies. It may take less time than that to make your initial map, but you will invest more time over the next twelve months to improve the map.

Whether at the beginning of the journey or even during your studies, spend at least ten percent of your time drawing your map.

This ten percent reference time will decrease if the scale of your project is very large. If you plan to study for five hundred hours, you don’t have to spend fifty hours just learning to learn. Use your common sense and focus more on the completeness of the map than on the time itself.

You can imagine that dedicating ten percent of your studies to metalearning is a waste of time. You may feel like skipping the strategic part and just studying the subject itself. But what seems like a waste at first sight will soon prove to be a huge time saver when you actually start your studies.

Just try to remember when you studied something. Remember how many useless content you had to consume until you got to the main points of the story? How many obvious things did you have to read or see, wasting time on what you already knew?

The metalearning map frees you from the time-wasting and allows you to concentrate your focus, your energy and your time only on what you really need to learn to achieve your goal.

Don’t worry about putting together the perfect metalearning map. Do your research, draw your map and improve over time.

If you’ve never done a study plan before, you may be concerned about your metalearning map not looking good. This is normal. You shouldn’t worry about perfection at first.

Like any other skill, the more you make metalearning maps, the better you will be at drawing other maps.

Think of your map as a good starting point. As you study the subject, you will have the opportunity to improve your map with the difficulties you encounter in your studies.

For example, let’s say you decided to study Japanese and thought it would be easy to draw the characters because you were always good at drawing. You predicted (wrongly) that it would take you less time than, for example, to correctly pronounce the words.

However, when you started to study, you saw that your skill in artistic drawings did not help much when drawing the Japanese characters. Then, you adjust your map and allocate more of your time to learning how to draw the characters.

Remember that your goal is not to be perfect. It is simply to learn as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The metalearning map is an excellent tool for those who spend many hours studying without being able to learn much. If you have trouble when starting to study, then you need the metalearning map strategy.

But, then what? How to keep the pace of studying? How to absorb the most of the materials and methods you have defined on your map?

To answer these and other questions, I recorded a special class in the How to Learn Faster course, which you can see right now by visiting this link here.