126 - Effective Learning means integrating the right amount of information into your knowledge network in as quick a way as possible. It also means learning information in such a way that you won’t forget it when it is needed.
This means creating the pathways out of the right sets of information and connecting those pathways to retrieval cues. The more retrieval cues you connect the pathway to, the more likely it is you’ll remember it when needed.
What information to learn?
Our memory systems are built around utility, if you don’t end up using the information then the retrieval strength of it diminishes, eventually making it really hard to remember. Therefore in life, you want to learn the information that will have the most utility.
This does not mean only learning generalized information though. Often times specialized knowledge has a high amount of utility because there are not many others who have the specialized knowledge which forms the basis of specialized skills.
What is the right amount of information?
You want to find the right balance in the information you are selecting to learn. What does that mean?
Learning too much information would look like memorizing all the supporting details or problem examples. The reason you don’t want to memorize this information is because it is a little use in the wider context. Instead you want to extract the salient details and use them to build a mental model, which in turn can be used in unfamiliar problems.
On the other end is learning too little. If the information you are reading is too far abstracted from reality then it becomes meaningless. A word in a sentence becomes useless if you don’t already have the definition memorized.
See also Steps to Learning