End of Term, and the power of compound interest

Schools where I live are now breaking up for summer, and it’s time for The Morning Paper summer recess too. Over the last term, we’ve covered 67 papers and a broad range of topics. InfoQ are kindly working on another “Quarterly Review” publication (see here for the previous edition). As ever it’s hard to choose favourites, but these are my five picks:

Writing The Morning Paper is a labour of love. It’s also been a tremendous discipline for continuous learning. I have a hunch that the basic process would work well whatever it is you’re trying to improve:

  1. Commit to learning something new every day (every weekday is a more sustainable goal). The frequency is important here, little and often beats intermittent binges.
  2. Keep a journal (I happen to use a public blog, which is good for accountability, but a private notebook could work too) and write down what you learn each day as if you are explaining it to someone else (or a future you!). (The process of writing is important I think).

(As I write, I realise this is very close to repeated application of the Feynman technique.)

That’s it. Now let the power of compound interest do its work. Here are three ways the learning compounds for my example of reading research papers:

  1. Daily focused concentration improves your ability to concentrate
  2. Reading lots of papers helps you get better at quickly understanding the essence of a paper
  3. The more concepts, examples, techniques, algorithms etc. that you’ve seen, the more of the material in a paper is familiar to you, and so the quicker you can understand it.

Put all three together and your ability to absorb new material should keep getting better over time. Plus as a bonus, you end up with a great set of notes to fall back on when you inevitably can’t remember all of the details but just know that “I read something related to this a few months ago…”

Oh, and every once in a while it’s ok to take a break so that you don’t burn out.

The Morning Paper will be back on the 5th September. In the meantime…

If you’re a regular reader,

Thank You! The interactions, likes and retweets all help to make writing The Morning Paper a very rewarding experience, it wouldn’t be the same without you. I know many of you don’t have the time to read every single write-up, so now is a good time to catch up on your backlog! The monthly archive links (July, June, May, April) are a good way to scan through previous posts.

If you know someone you think would enjoy The Morning Paper please send them this way.

If you’re new here,

Welcome! The monthly archive links (July, June, May, April) are a good way to scan through previous posts and get an idea of whether or not you think this is for you. If after doing that you’d like to join me on my semi-random tour through computer science research then two good options are to follow me on twitter @adriancolyer where I announce each day’s paper and post a link, and to subscribe to the email edition of The Morning Paper so that you never miss an issue.

See you on the 5th September,
Regards, Adrian.