Learn Better Faster: Systematize Your Productivity | NICK SARAEV | Skillshare

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Learn Better Faster: Systematize Your Productivity

teacher avatar NICK SARAEV, Communication, Productivity & Tech

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

6 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Economics of Time

    • 3. Mr. Pareto

    • 4. Building Effective Plans

    • 5. We're Animals: Using Your Environment to Maximize Willpower

    • 6. Sound & Music Hacks

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About This Class

Ever wonder how people learn highly complicated skills in just a few hours? Or how top students maintain 4.0 GPAs? 

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not magic. It's efficiency.

Hi, we're Nick and Soma.

Our course is based on one simple premise: most people don't know how to learn.

Unfortunately, modern school systems spend years attempting to teach you everything from ancient history to esoteric calculus

But thousands of hours of your time could be saved if, for just a moment, people stopped focusing on what to learn and instead focused on how to go about learning it.

A quick analogy:

Two people are trying to learn a skill. Both learn it at a hypothetical rate of 1 unit per hour. Once a person has reached 100 units in that particular skill, they're said to have "mastered the skill".

Person A wastes no time - he gets right down to work and ends up taking 100 hours to learn the skill.

Person B decides to invest one initial hour of their time into learning two or three simple productivity techniques. After the hour is done, the increased efficiency and productivity allows them to learn at a slightly faster rate of 1.1 units per hour.

Person B will ultimately only take 91 hours to learn the skill. That's 9 hours saved with just a 10% boost in efficiency.

Now what if that single hour could give them a 20% boost in efficiency? In this case, Person B will have saved 16.5 hours.

How about a 30% boost in efficiency? 23 hours. That’s nearly a full day saved.

I could go on and on, but I think the point is clear: modest gains in efficiency and productivity can end up saving you tons of time down the road. And if you’re anything like me, you value your time.

So let’s get more efficient.

Our course is going to teach you how to maximize learning in three phases: before, during, and after the learning period. And through these three phases, we’ll touch on everything from planning & learning techniques to memory hacks and more.

Sign up today and become an efficient learner. See you on the other side!

*This is part 1 of a 3 part course.

Meet Your Teacher

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Communication, Productivity & Tech




Hi there,


Welcome to my teaching page. I'm Nick - a productivity & body language coach with a passion for nonverbal communication, productivity, & self improvement. I've been featured on major publications like Popular Mechanics and Apple News, and I run a body language YouTube channel. All in all, I have over thirty thousand students online.


A little bit about me: I'm a body language coach & technology enthusiast with a background in behavioral neuroscience. I love helping people overcome social anxiety and bloss... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Productivity is the state or quality of producing something. If you guys are producing, creating, or adding value to the world, you're being productive. And this course is all about tweaking and optimizing your life to help you get into and stay in a highly productive state for much longer. Hey, my name is Nick. I'm a software developer and I also run a successful YouTube channel, blog and a video production company. I've been featured in several major media publications and I teach tens of thousands of students online. And in order to juggle all these things successfully, you might imagine that I have to be quite productive. I spent most of my life building efficient ways to do a lot in a little bit of time. And in this class I'm going to be teaching you guys how to do the exact same thing. Everything I'm talking about in this course is scientific. It's validated and it's reinforced with cutting edge research on learning and memory. My background is actually in neuroscience, and I've taken from my time in several physiology, in neuroscience labs, provide you guys with an incredibly effective framework on how to both learn and do more with the time that you're given. So this class is going to be split up into week two part series. In this course, we're going to start by first going over what to do before you begin learning or studying or working. This is kinda like warming up your engine before pushing on the accelerator. You guys do it right? You'll take off faster, go a lot farther, and be able to drive for longer. These little tweaks and optimizations are later going to double or even triple how much information you end up retaining and how quickly you can accomplish a task. Then the next class is going to teach you guys what to do when in that productive state, aka how to multiply the effectiveness of your work and your learning. We're going to talk about how to consistently achieve the flow state, the most effective ways to space out your time. How do we encode information effectively? And several conceptual techniques to learn faster and do more, as I'm sure you guys can tell, I'm very excited for this course. I love helping people discover the depths of their productivity and push the limits of their potential. If that sounds like something you guys want to do, Let's get started and I'll see you soon. 2. The Economics of Time: So before we start learning how to learn, I wanted to take a second and talk a little bit about why this course is structured and designed in the way that it is. Every class has a big thing. It's this single massive concept that if understood, changes your life and makes everything else in the course incredibly easy when you're in high school university a lot of the time these ideas can be quite complex. Maybe they are math formulas or their chemistry principles, and neither of those very intuitive or easy to grasp. But in this course, the main concept of everything you're going to learn rests on this one simple idea. Your brain is always learning for better or for worse. If you expose your brain to a positive stimulus, it will learn to your benefit. And if you expose it to a negative stimulus, it will learn to your detriment. You cannot stop your brain from doing this. It's an entirely subconscious process. And the only thing you can troll is what your brain is learning from. So if you understand this, the rest of the class is gonna make a lot more intuitive sense and you'll probably walk away feeling motivated and productive. If you don't understand this, you guys are probably going to struggle and you might leave continuing to engage in the habits that lead you to searching for this course in the first place. What this means is if you guys have a task to complete, you should always, to the best of your ability, completed as quickly and effectively as possible. Because if you guys don't, you're teaching your brain that it is okay to operate at a subpar level. And whether you guys like it or not, that information is unfortunately going to affect you the next time you do that task and the next time after that. For example, if you guys are a clerk, maybe you work at a patent office and every single time you guys get a new file, you're dragging your feet through it, you're procrastinating, and generally you're just doing a PySpark job. Your performance on subsequent files will not get better, they will get worse. You will learn how to do things poorly because that is what your brain does. It learns from the stimulus it's provided and it attempts to optimize for the task. So you'll take longer to fill out the paperwork, longer to submit things to your boss. And therefore, you'll have to go through the agony of doing these jobs for much longer than you would have had to otherwise. But on the flip side, if instead you take every new file as a challenge and an opportunity to improve your future files will take less time to do. You'll do them better and you will improve the probability that maybe in a couple of months you'll be promoted and then you'd never have to do those files in the first place. Every single file, every single task, every single decision you make is really a choice. You can either perceive it as a way to train yourself to new and more productive heights, or you can perceive them as opportunities to become a worse and you make that choice every single time you do something. We're going to talk a little bit later about a bunch of different techniques and methods for learning better and ultimately retaining more knowledge. But it's important that you guys understand that literally every single thing we're going to talk about in this class is derived from that one simple principle. Every single fixed ultimately comes from you optimize and your brain's capacity to learn and feeding it good stuff instead of bad stuff. 3. Mr. Pareto: So a very important principle of how to get started reaching what I call optimal efficiency is a very well-known idea that you guys are probably already heard of multiple times called the Pareto Principle. The idea was developed by an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. And in general, it states that 80% of the effects of something come from just 20% of its causes. And the principal has been shown to be true not only in the realm of economics, but in basically every area of human life, especially the ones that rely on productivity, just for analogy sake, let's say you're studying for a test. What the Pareto principle will say is that 80 percent of the effects, okay? 80% of your outcome on the test comes from just 20% of the causes, aka 20 percent of your knowledge of the material. So 80 percent of your marks come from 20 percent of what you study. For those of you guys that are unacquainted with the Pareto principle. I know what you're thinking right now. You're probably super incredulous and you're like, there's no way in hell that 80 percent of my grade comes from just 20% of material. And that's right. It isn't, it's here that I should reinforce that the numbers that Pareto used don't actually matter for our purposes at all. What matters is the concept behind those numbers? The concept is that there's a very small number of things that you do that are ultimately responsible for a large portion of your success in whatever domain, whether it's your marks on the test, you're physique in the gym, or your success in relationships. Not all actions are equal. And if you guys do the ones that are very important more and more often, you are obviously more likely to end up with a better outcome. So back to the test analogy to improve our productivity, we should then be focused on finding methods of studying that are as high yield as possible. We don't want to focus on the small stuff at all. I mean, if 20 percent of our actions lead to 80 percent of our results, then the inverse is true. 80% of our actions only lead to 20 percent of our results. So we need to stay away from those low yield actions as best we can and focus on those heavy hairs, so to speak, that do the vast majority of our work. So let's make this example more concrete. Let's say you're in a first year computer science class and you have a midterm tomorrow, the professor sends you a list of eight concepts he thinks that you need to know in order to do well on the test. Two of those concepts are bolded and in very big font, it is clear the professor wants you to know these the most. Now in order to succeed on the test, should you divide your time equally between each of the eight concepts on the list? Probably not, right. Why also the professor of bolded two of those concepts and then not the other sex. And that in a nutshell, is exactly what the Pareto principle is. It's the things in life that are bolded that when done, will deliver you disproportionate results compared to the rest. Recognizing that some methods are behaviors can produce significantly higher quality results than others is at the very core, being productive. And while it's simple and well known, the Pareto principle in and of itself is kinda like the Meta level, 20 percent of things that lead to 80 percent of the results. So that takes us to the end of this video. Here we learned about the Pareto principle, which states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. And we also apply the Pareto principle. Do the example of studying for a test. 4. Building Effective Plans: Once a minute, a planning can save you ten minutes of executing. So from a productivity standpoint, planning ahead is one of the single most effective tweaks you guys can make your life to improve your efficiency and help you reach your goals. And obviously that's what we're going to talk about in this video. If you guys have an upcoming task saids to write a 11000 word article and you dive in in that task with both feet, you will eventually finish that article. But with every single word, every new paragraph in every section, your mind is actually attempting to do two things at once. One, it's trying to complete the current task at hand, which is right The next sentence. But it's also doing that. We'll try and to plan the rest of the article. And that is splitting your resources effectively cutting what you can do in half. One of the biggest productivity roadblocks that most people unfortunately suffer from. They don't plan. And when you don't plan, your brainpower is effectively split between two completely different tasks. One that's focused on the short-term, aka doing this thing right now. And another is focused on the long-term AKA what to do in the future. The trick to unlocking your productivity is to focus on only one of those things at any point in time. And that's where planning comes in. Instead of just sitting and staring at a blank page. For example, almost every single successful writer on the planet uses an outline. Why? Because it allows them to be fully present in the task at hand, AKA the current paragraph or the current chapter, without having to worry about how that paragraph or chapter might fit into the bigger picture. Likewise, when they're writing the outline, they don't have to concern themselves with the fine details. They can fully commit themselves to building a strong plot, a strong storyline, and so on. Now this principle is present in literally every aspect of life that article from before might take to our city from scratch. But if you spend just five minutes up front building that outline the same article may only take you 55 minutes. If that were the case, there'll be a productivity increase of two times, which is enough to completely changed somebody's life. The same idea is at play during a task at work. Spending a few minutes in planning mode will help you anticipate challenges ahead of time, map out your job, and it'll set you up to finish your task much faster than otherwise, this tweet can completely change your career and it sounds simple, but it's also highly effective. I used to do door-to-door sales, for example. I could almost always finish my entire day's work in just an hour and a half. Well, took my coworkers between three to four. The reason for this is because I would spend five minutes every morning just planning out my route. I made sure that I would drive by areas that were incredibly densely populated so that when I got there, I could just park and then not have to walk very far. Walking costs a lot of time. My co-workers, on the other hand, would park at the first business they saw and they would just start walking. And that difference in planning meant I could be home by maybe 111130 while they were out until 1, 2, or 3 PM, planning is essential to having a productive life. There are many ways to build a plant, but by far my favorite and one of the most simple ways is to simply set a timer, disconnect for five minutes, think about your task and just start brainstorming. Start jotting down literally every idea you might have about that task for the full five minutes. When you guys are done, spend another two or three minutes reading through your brain, dump, identifying important information, dates, timeline, so on and so forth. And then just eliminate anything that doesn't make sense. What is left is usually the perfect compromise between planning and action. It's enough information to guide you in the right direction during a task. But it's not so much that you guys are bogged down and implementation details, which is a very important balance to strike. Before I started actually scheduling my time, I got maybe half as much done as I do now. My courses would take twice as long to do. I read maybe half a book a week or as now I typically read one. I don't really only ever hit the gym if I was more or less than the mood, which is I'm sure you guys can imagine it was not very often. And I managed to change all of that just because now I spend five or ten minutes every single morning planning out my schedule for the rest of the day. And that's sort of already brings it back to the Pareto Principle. If out of the 16 hours per day that's available to you, there's an 80 bitty little chunk of about five minutes every morning that you could spend that will double your productivity. You guys should probably start with that first. Write, it sounds pretty bold to me. It's certainly boring. You guys already know how to do it and it's not a super sexy productivity technique or anything but boring. A lot of the time is effective. And in this case, it's one of the single best things you guys can do to improve the amount you accomplish in a day. All right, so that takes us to the end of another video. And this one we talked about the difference between staring at a blank page and then outlining your life and how the ladder is going to double or even triple your productivity. And we also talked about how all this was related to the Pareto principle. In economic terms, planning is often very high yield and much higher yield than working aimlessly. And I showed you a couple of quick and dirty ways to do that. One thing I forgot to mention is that the very act of writing out your tasks makes them that much more real. People often get stuck converting their dreams into reality. But by writing them down, you are literally making them more physical, which causes the gap between your ideas and your reality to get just a little bit smaller. So hopefully they cannot motivate you guys to start planning and scheduling your days. 5. We're Animals: Using Your Environment to Maximize Willpower: Your willpower is a commodity, and that commodity is finite. It is scarce, it doesn't last forever and you do not have an unlimited amount to be spending money on things that at the end of the day don't get you closer to your goals. The definition of willpower just from the word is that it's the power you have to exert your will. It's to do stuff. It's kinda like attention in that way. And in order to be super successful at productivity, learning and just doing things, you need to start treating your willpower as a finite resource. Now I used to play a lot of video games. And if you've ever played something like a role-playing game, RPG, you guys are probably familiar with the concept of a health bar, or better yet, a minibar. When that man, a bar goes down to 0 because you guys, I don't know, attacked a bunch of goblins. You can't cast spells for a little while, right? You either have to wait a certain amount of time your drink a potion or whatever to get some of that money back. Now willpower is the exact same thing. It's like a real-life man at bar. When you start in the morning, it is completely full. And as you do various things over the course of a day, it gets lower and lower and lower. Eventually that menu bar will run out. And after it runs out, you just can't do things for a little while, your brain will stop working. Fatigue will overcome me and maybe all we want to do now just sit on the couch and watch TV. The issue with willpower is, is not only used when you're doing something productive, it's used whenever you do anything regardless of whether it's good or bad. For example, if you guys are trying to write a paper, right? But your phone is on your desk and every two seconds it starts buzzing with notifications, is actually taking and sapping some of your willpower every two seconds to stop yourself from reaching, picking it up and checking. That is willpower that you guys are spending completely unnecessarily. And if you guys eliminate situations like this, then your willpower bar will last a lot longer and it allows you to stay productive for more. So one of the biggest steps in being productive is setting up your environment in a way that minimizes its drain on your willpower. At the end of the day, guys were animals are performance is highly predictable based on the environment. And if we spend just a little bit of time up front and plan that environment out like we talked about in the last class. You guys can remove most situations where real powers unnecessarily strained. And on top of that, you'll also be able to get more mileage out of what you guys currently do have. For example, instead of having your phone on your desk while your work and it consciously draining a little bit here willpower every minute just not to check it. Eliminated from the equation entirely. Pick up your phone, turn it off, walk over to the next room and put it down. Now when you guys sit back down at your desk and try to go back to work or study or what have you, you no longer have that extra item that's sapping away your willpower. So instead you get to spend that willpower and being productive instead, and reinvesting that willpower back into tasks will pay you dividends. The cool thing here too, is just like a video game. If you train your brain to be mindful of your willpower usage, you will eventually level up. You will gain that EXP and that willpower bar. It will get bigger. That'll allow you to work or study for longer and later you'll be less affected by things like your phone or computer trying to distract you. But you need to take that first step and be conscious of your environment. You guys have a 100 percent willpower and 20 percent of it as being drained by silly, unnecessary things and you only have 80% left, right? So get rid of that 20 percent that drains your willpower. And because we're looking for ideas, I personally like to start with anything colourful, anything for editable, and anything that at the end of the day is not necessary for you to complete your task. For example, is that little desk ornament really necessary to do your work? Probably not. How about that gum package that's been sitting there for three days also? Probably not. How about your phone? No. And go through everything in your workspace and even in your room and decide if it's something you truly need to do, the things that you want to do. On my desk at home, I have my desk, my pen, some paper, and my computer. And before it was a software developer, I used to keep my computer out of my room completely because in my case, it always did more harm than good. The amount of willpower that it took for me to stop checking Facebook or checking my notifications every two seconds always ended up being substantially more detrimental than the benefit of having a computer in the first place. And on that computer example, obviously not everybody is going to be able to eliminate their computer if you guys are a programmer as well, or maybe you're an engineer or something like that, you're probably going to need it for your work. But the very fact that the entire Internet is so close to you is still sapping your willpower and ultimately making you lose a little bit of that productivity. A lot of people do, and I recommend this if you guys are in a similar situation to what I just talked about is use a self-control app. I'm not affiliated with any of these, but there are several very good self-control programs or apps out there that limit your ability to go on websites that you deemed non-essential to your task. Self-control is one, cold turkey blocker is another. And what these things do, for example, is they let you block your Facebook axis for two hours. Or you can limit a certain video games, maybe only six to 08:00 PM on weekends. In this way, you ensure that you have as much willpower as possible to dedicate yourself to accomplishing whatever task brings you closer to your goals. Some of the most famous, most successful people of all time attribute a lot of that success to working in minimalistic, distraction free environments. Steve Jobs, for example, he didn't mean it as a desk when he first started working on the Mac or David Allen or Bill Gates, you work your way up the ladder and you start seeing this minimalistic, simplistic approach more and more often. So to summarize this lesson, we first analogized willpower to bars in video games. And we also talked about how each of us has a willpower bar that is constantly being drained over the course of a day by tasks. We also mentioned how it's drain regardless of whether or not that task is good or bad. So in order to maximize how long your willpower last, we can design our environments to have as few willpower, sapping things in them as possible. And then we went through some examples how to do that by eliminating non-essentials and using self-control apps. 6. Sound & Music Hacks: Loud music construction next door and people talking around you while you're trying to work. What do they all have in common? Well, like we talked about last class, they all SAP your willpower and in order to stretch that willpower out as long as possible and keep you productive over the course of a day, you need to eliminate these types of distractions wherever possible. This lesson is going to explain more or less how to do that. Now I get a lot of flack for this, since many people love listening to music while they work. And there's really nothing morally wrong with doing so, but it does In many cases impair your productivity. So why, while music is sound and sound is a physical phenomenon, there are particles in the air that carry waves that travel to your ears. Those waves make your eardrum move and then your brain interprets that stimulation is music. But all of that isn't free. It doesn't just happen. It actually requires your mind to use its resources in order to decode that sound, understand it, classify, and so on. And like we talked about previously, you only have so much of those resources available over the course of a day. The more you split that resources, the less you have over the course of the day for other things that actually matter. So if you're listening to music while you study, you should probably stop because music almost always in pairs or performance except for a few fringe cases that we're not really going to talk about. Now, many studies have been done on this, like the one that showed significantly reduced cognitive capacity while playing music in the background. People here are performed worse on pretty much every tests than their non music listening counterparts. This one that showed poor cognitive performance while listening to music to serial recall is your ability to repeat a list of numbers or letters. And many studies show that serial recall gets substantially worse on the subject. Both listens to music or heard people talking in the background. Now, I love music, I listened to it all the time, but when I'm trying to accomplish a task, I keep it off and I save it for when I'm done. You guys really want to squeeze out every last drop your productivity. You should probably give that a try as well as for other sounds like construction next door or people talking near you. Both of these are sub-optimal as well for very similar reasons, we can get used to a certain level of background noise, like a vacuum or a fan. But speech, loud banging noises are usually strong enough to knock out that part of your brain that's responsible for processing language and processing threats. Obviously, this costumer resources as well, which later impairs your performance and shortens the amount of work that you can do in a certain period of time. If people are talking around you or you live in a really noisy area, try either leaving or investing in a good pair of quality earplugs. And the worst-case scenario. And I'm talking like worst-case. There's nothing you can do about the sound in your periphery. Try playing some white noise to help drown out the talking of the music. White noise is basically a giant wall of sound played at a particular frequency. And it helps drown out the talking or the music just enough that the same part of your willpower that deals with stuff like understanding human speech can chill out a little bit. And thus it'll provide you more capacity to be spending on the thing that you are actually trying to do or actually trying to learn. Now this lesson was about why you need to minimize sound if you guys want to be as optimal, as effective as humanly possible with your time, you need to make sure that the entirety of your being, the entirety of your focus is on a singular task. Since your mind expands a lot of energy in the background trying to understand different noises and things of that nature by minimizing that you are minimizing the amount of willpower you're spending on anything other than the work you're doing. And that takes us to the end of the first part of our class on how to learn better, faster. In this course, we went through several major tweaks and techniques to help optimize your productivity in anticipation of a task or a study session, you guys learn how to be economical with your time. How to create plans that significantly improve your productivity. How to use the Pareto principle to improve efficiency and how to budget your guys willpower effectively. I sincerely hope you guys enjoyed learning about productivity. I know I certainly enjoyed teaching it. With the world growing more and more competitive and globalized every day. Now more than ever, it is essential to learn how to accomplish more in less time. I can't wait to see all your guys projects. If you guys have any questions or something you'd like to follow up with me on, please feel free to leave me a comment or review and I'll be more than happy to do so. Thanks so much for your time and I will see you guys in the next course.