Take tests to learn, not just to assess what you know.

Test taking, which involves retrieving information, is significantly more effective than techniques such as rereading or concept mapping, both of which may foster false confidence. “Once information can be recalled, repeated encoding in study trials produced no benefit, whereas repeated retrieval in test trials generated large benefits for long-term retention.



Pam Belluck. 2011-01-20. To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test. NYT

Karpicke, Jeffrey D. and Henry L. Roediger. 2008. The Critical Importance of Retrieval for Learning

Karpicke, Jeffrey D. and Janell R. Blunt. 2011. Retrieval Practice Produces More Learning than Elaborative Studying with Concept Mapping




Do the things external which fall upon thee distract thee?

Remove everything not needed for the task at hand. Hide objects in boxes, drawers, and closets. Wipe your desktop and free it of ensnaring icons. Close unnecessary programs. Close and hide tabs (F11 in Chrome). Conceal folder links (Control+Shift+B in Chrome). Use minimalist text editors like Q10 or TypeWriter. And so forth.

Eliminate the various voices, sounds, smells, passersby, faces, books, alerts. Stop reading, listening, talking, doing. Starve your senses, empty your mind, and silence the “chatter in the skull“.

Abstract your life. Reduce your possessions. Go paperless and digital. Avoid busyness and limit concurrency, completing open projects, winding down commitments, finishing half-read books.

Take pity on your primate brain, your fickle and finite attention. As a programmer would a program, as a designer would a dashboard, bury the details in subsections, expose only the parts at hand. Abstract—”and cease to be whirled around.


Further reading:

Marcus Aurelius. Meditations

Dave Bruno. The 100 Thing Challenge

Vivek Haldar. 2010-12-30. Minimalism is not a viable intellectual strategy

Andrew Hyde. 2011-05-03. Extreme Minimalism

Tim Kreider. 2012-06-30. The ‘Busy’ Trap. NYT

Shunryu Suzuki. 1970. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Wheatherhill

Amy Unruh and Paul S. Rosenbloom. 1989. Abstraction in Problem Solving and Learning

Alan Watts. 2000. Still the Mind: An Introduction to Meditation. New World Library