Learning is infinite. It feels open-ended as if it has the potential to go on forever. There's no limit to available topics and in any particular subject, each session with the material can provide deeper insights.
If you're not clear on how and why you are learning something, having to sit down and "study" it can feel daunting. When you don't know where to start and which tasks to accomplish in a study session, it may be quite overwhelming.
My intention is to address this fear so even those who begin to feel overwhelmed can develop a repeatable approach to studying.
If you don't already have a checklist for how to study, you might develop one for yourself. If you repeat and refine your checklist, it will eventually become mostly prioritized into a sequential process.
Let's dive in without worrying about the order of operations.
A framework for reading comprehension was developed by Francis P. Robinson. He called it [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SQ3R](SQRRR or SQ3R)]
This process is different than just picking up a book and reading it. It's more active. You almost need to sit differently or have a more active posture. If you were playing chess, you wouldn't relax into your chair or try to play laying on a couch. You'd want a clear overview of all the pieces. Being up on the edge of your seat would give you a good start.
If your opponent is the material to be mastered, your first job is to survey the topic and notice the structure and layout of the pieces. Think about putting a puzzled together. First you empty the box, flip over the pieces, then start to pay close attention to the picture on the box.
How can you understand all the pieces and the flow - so you can begin to understand it?
First, collect and skim lots of materials . Get an overview of what's available for learning? Start with a document of notes and jot down what the teacher / author / community deems important to learn.
Next, Question. Generate general questions about the content to be learned. What is the material about? What questions are they answering with their explanations?
E.g. "How do I begin if I don't know how to study?" is the question I'm trying to answer here.
After you generate questions, read and watch actively (updated for a YouTube generation). This means absorbing information specifically to answer the questions you came up with.
The next part is important, but difficult to instruct on why it's important.
Essentially, you need to do something to wire up your brain. Continue processing the material while you lay down the proper neurons and brain structures to form memories and information structures. The is the weaving of our brain-space.
Reciting and Reviewing are good activities while your brain wires up. As you recite and put the concepts into your own words, you're forced to activate some degree of understanding. Different than reading somebody else's words, you'll sequence your own language in a way that makes sense to you and others.
If you can teach and get them to ask questions, you'll be forced to refine your own understanding. Being able to explain something means you understand it.
A good thing to do is summarize what you've learned while you review. Your perspective from the end of the learning process should be much more clear than when you started. You still may not know it all, but now you have a process for confidently approaching any new material.
In summary: Spend time with the material. Observe it. Be curious about it. Ask questions before during and after your see what others have to say. Then, teach it. Summarize to solidify your own understanding. If you do any of this in an orderly fashion, you'll be ahead of using a random approach to learning.
Try it. Refine it. Make it your own.