How To Learn Learning

Procrastination and Memory

  • Brain zombies - automatic replies of brain to specific cues to make here and now better.
  • We procrastinate about things we don’t like.
  • Procrastination is similar to addiction - provides temporary pleasure.
  • Procrastination has feedback loop - making it harder and harder to get out of it.
  • Neurologically - habit is an energy saver.
  • Habit is four parts
    • Cue - the trigger.
    • Routine - the default response.
    • Reward - immediate feeling of pleasure.
    • Belief - why the default response, the story you tell yourself about why you have certain habits.

Process vs Product
  • Okay to feel negative when you thinking of doing something.
  • Research finds that non procrastinators feel the same, but put those feelings aside.
  • reframing helps with avoiding procrastination. Instead of thinking I am going to complete a task, think that you are going to work on something for 20mins, irrespective of whether you complete it or not.
  • Build processes, small habits/chunks, to avoid procrastination.
  • Focus on completing a pomodoro, rather than completing a task.
  • Process also means you are not worried whether you are close to finishing the task or not or get worried when you are behind.
  • Distraction free environment helps.

Harnessing habits/zombies
  • Cue
    • Understand which cues trigger procrastination - location, time, feeling, reaction.
    • Turning off distractions like cellphone etc will avoid most of the cues.
  • Routing
    • Must need to actively focus to avoid going into the default habit.
    • Figure out a plan that works for you. Turn off wifi, or changing time of day to early morning. Or what ever works.
    • Might need to experiment a bit to figure out what is most suitable to you.
  • Reward
    • Investigate why you are avoiding.
    • Figure out a different reward. Like an internal challenge. Or a piece of chocolate.
    • Celebrate bigger achievements with bigger rewards.
    • Habits create craving. So use that to create good habits.
    • Having a deadline does indicate a good reward and helps to be more productive.
    • Be patient.
  • Belief
    • Hardest part is to believe that you are going to complete a task.
    • Specially when things are hard, you tend to go back to old habits.

Task lists
  • Write list of weekly goals or key tasks.
  • Main a daily to do list.
  • Important - always write to do list the evening before as research shows it helps with getting diffused mode engaged while sleeping to work on those tasks.
  • Mix physical tasks like cleaning with mental tasks. Diffused mode breaks.
  • Important - Plan time when you are going to stop working.
  • Include your reward in the daily to do list or planner.
  • Do the most important task or most disliked task in the morning. At least make progress on it.


  • We have really good spatial and visual memory.
  • Using images as a way to store information can be very effective.
    • Lot of memory champions use image associations to retain information.
    • Use funny and evocative images.
  • To move something from working to long term memory it should be memorable and needs repetition.
  • Spaced repetition, index cards, note taking, oral repetition - all help build memory.
    • Anki system?

Long term memory
  • Hippocampus is important for learning and memory of facts and events.
  • Memories are not fixed, they change all the time.
  • It is possible to implant false memories.
  • Memory consolidates over a period of time. If memory is retrieved it under goes reconsolidating. Hence spaced repetition is important for retaining knowledge.
  • Astrocytes -
    • Provides nutrient to neurones, help repair neural damage.
    • Einstein had better than average amount of astrocytes.
    • Could be important to learning and intelligence?

Techniques for building memory
  • Make meaningful (visual) groups.
  • Create abbreviations for meaningful groups.
  • Associate numbers with important dates/figures.
  • Mnemonics. Used a lot in fields like medicine.
  • Memory palace technique
    • Useful grouping technique to store information.
    • Use known locations - like your house - and attach information to various parts.
    • Useful for grouping things that are not related to each other.
    • Useful for remembering lists - grocery list, list of cities etc.