SEVEN PRACTICAL TIPS TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR DATA SCIENCE LEARNING
DECEMBER 21, 2022
(WRITTEN BY PRINCE JAVIER)
If you’re in the data science field, you must know how quickly the field changes. There’s always something new, and you must continuously keep up your skills and knowledge. It can be quite a challenge to keep learning! But it doesn’t have to be so hard. I would like to share with you seven tips you can immediately use to enhance how you learn data science. I know from personal experience that these techniques work I used these techniques when I was in school to top my classes and I still use them to keep up in my profession as a data scientist. I hope they will help you in your learning journey as well.
Believe you can improve
The first step is to remove a major roadblock: the belief that you are born with a fixed capacity to learn. Studies have shown that the brain retains a certain level of adaptability or in technical terms, “neuroplasticity” even as we age. This means the brain keeps changing and adapting to new information. Believing your capacity to learn is fixed will hurt your learning because you’ve already lowered your expectations about the level of new knowledge or skills you can learn. It will lead to frustration and resignation when you face something challenging. Instead, train your mind to believe that you can always improve because science tells us this. This is called having a “growth mindset” as opposed to having a “fixed mindset.” Believing you can improve will help you succeed in learning. Obstacles will not be permanent, but temporary hurdles that you can overcome as you keep learning.
Expect learning to be hard (at first)
Do you remember when you first started learning how to read? How about when you were first taught how to add numbers? You may remember that at the time, it was hard. Children, despite being relatively fast learners, still struggle, but they just keep working on the problem. When we are faced with something new, expect it to be hard to understand at first. But note that this is a good thing. If something is hard to understand, that means you are at the start of learning something new. But as you keep studying, you will learn that it gets easier over time.
Apply spaced repetition
When learning, do not expect to learn it all in one sitting. Allow your brain to consolidate the new information. When you’re learning, it’s like you’re building a house. You build the foundation first, then the first floor, the second floor, and so forth. However, you can’t just build the first floor right after you poured cement into the foundation. You need to let the cement settle, dry, and harden. It’s the same with learning. The first time you study a new topic or skill, it’s like you’re pouring cement into the foundation of your house. Do not expect to comprehend it immediately. Rather, give it some time to consolidate in your mind. To do this, apply spaced repetition. This means, you study the topic, then rest. Do something like playing a video game, washing the dishes, or taking a nap. Then go back to studying again. You can sleep, then study it again for a bit the next morning. You can start studying the topic say two times a day, then go back to it once a day, then once a week. This allows the topic to consolidate. Eventually, you’ll reach the “aha!” moment. What once was incomprehensible, becomes comprehensible as if by magic.
Rest after each study session
Did you know that most of the brain’s processing is subconscious? These are thoughts the brain processes in the background that we are not aware of. The amazing thing is you can utilize this brain’s capacity to process information subconsciously to enhance learning. When you consciously study something, your brain focuses to comprehend it, but oftentimes, it seems you just can’t understand it. Sometimes you may feel so frustrated that you want to hit your head against a wall. When you’re in this frustration stage, step away from your desk, and do something else. You can take a nap, have a walk outside, or use social media. This is also a great reason to play video games! (I played a lot of video games when I was in school, but that’s because I was resting from studying and letting my mind wander). So what happens when you rest after studying? The cool thing is, your subconscious mind takes over learning. While you’re resting, your brain is still learning the material! Then maybe an hour later, you go back to your desk. You will realize that you understood it a little bit more. Keep doing this and you will eventually learn the material.
Apply the Pomodoro Technique
Maybe you want to study but you always find yourself procrastinating. In this case, there’s a neat trick you can do: the Pomodoro technique. To do this, get a timer and tell yourself to just work on it for 25 minutes - no more, no less. You will notice that in the first few seconds you start working on it, it becomes easier to continue and harder to stop. The hard part is getting started because of the mental barrier that the topic is too hard and will take a lot of time. But you can overcome this mental barrier by telling yourself, “Ok I’ll just do it for 25 minutes. And that’s it.” If 25 minutes is still too intimidating, why don’t you try just 1 minute? Work on it for 1 minute, then you will notice you want to keep going! Nike’s tagline is very applicable here, “Just Do It.”
Learn to Read Efficiently
Reading is one of the best ways to learn because some of the most valuable insights and ideas are written in books. In school, professors conduct lectures but the time allotted for classes is hardly enough to cover all important ideas. Books have a lot of great information. But one challenge is, they can be intimidating for a lot of people. But they don’t have to be. The trick is to learn to read efficiently.
What I found works is to practice improving your reading comprehension by summarizing what you read. Summarizing what you read is much better than mere memorization or recitation of what you read. Summarizing involves active thinking to connect the dots and make it your own based on your own understanding. It’s much more difficult and tiring than simply reciting what you read in your mind. But trust me, if you practice it, it gets easier. And you will reap the benefits.
To practice summarizing, you can try to summarize the point of each paragraph you read. It will be slow and tiring at first, but eventually, it will become easy and you’ll become a more efficient reader. Of course, this is not the only way to read efficiently, but at least it’s one technique you can try.
Build Studying Habits
Sure, you can set goals for what you want to achieve. But do you know what works better? Building habits. Goals are great to set the vision of where you want to go and get you started. But habits are what will get you there. Habits are regular activities that are hard to stop. And they are subconscious - you don’t need to think about them, you just do them. Imagine if you’ve built a habit of reading a book, playing the violin, or studying math every day. You don’t have to spend willpower to do them, you just do them as if they’re as easy as breathing. If say you practice the piano for 30 minutes every day and you improve by just a tiny 0.1% every day, then you’ll be 44% better by the end of one year. If you improve by 1% every day, then you’ll be 3800% better by the end of 1 year! And to be able to practice or learn every day, you need to turn them into habits. The question is how do you turn actions into habits?
First, you need to establish a signal to which you’ll associate a certain activity. For example, you can print a habit tracker just like this one that you can tape to your bedroom door. You’ll then see this as a signal to start your activity. Once you’re done, you can check the specific checkbox for that habit for that day.
The signal can also be a reminder on your phone. For example, if you want to study math at 4 PM every day, you can set a daily reminder on your phone that will notify you at 4 PM every day.
Let’s say you have set up the signal, and done the associated activity, you then need to reward yourself for a job well done. For example, you can eat a piece of chocolate, or play a video game. The trick is to associate this reward with the activity. In a way, you are conditioning your brain to expect a reward when you finish a particular activity.
You can now see that habit-building has a formula: signal, activity, and reward. But you still need to cement these habits. To do this, you need to keep doing this process for each habit you want to build for at least 30 days straight. This is another reason to have a habits tracker. Once you have done this for 30 days straight, you will find that you have built your habits and it’s very hard to stop.
These tips and techniques can be useful for learning anything, and they’re particularly useful for learning in rapidly changing fields such as data science. To summarize, first, you need to drop the mental barrier of a fixed mindset and believe you can improve, then expect learning to be hard first before it gets easier. You can apply spaced repetition and make sure to rest between learning sessions to consolidate information. You can apply the Pomodoro technique to combat procrastination. Try to learn to read more efficiently by practicing summarization. Finally, build learning habits so learning becomes second nature to you, requiring minimal effort to keep going. I hope these tips and techniques will prove helpful in your learning journey! Start your next IT career journey with Data Science right here.
About the author
Prince Javier is a Data scientist and co-founder of Bridge 360 IT Solutions, an IBM-certified expert in AI. He took up MSc Data Science from the Asian Institute of Management and currently a PhD student. He is a graduate of BS Mining Engineering from the University of the Philippines. A DOST Academic Excellence in Science Awardee. He currently works as a Data Scientist at Docquity, Southeast Asia’s fastest growing Medical Education and Knowledge sharing platform, exclusively for Doctors.
DECEMBER 21, 2022