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Power learning - 16 hours a day

  1. Mar 3, 2015 #1
    I have big plans for summer (note: I still plan on exercising, eating healthy, and showering regularly. Of course, my goal is 12-16 hours per day, 5-6 days a week), 10 math books to finish in 4 months of moderate to very hard difficulty (for me, not in general. I plan on learning all the concepts, so I am willing to accept I may not finish all these books- again, I want to actually master the concepts and topics, and would not just want to "read" the books). I have 16 hours a day to study (im an engineering student, so I already have no life). (Namely to increase mathematical maturity so I can tackle algorithms; something I will be lacking as a computer/electrical engineering student).

    One of my biggest problems is remembering things. For instance, keeping down all that set theory knowledge or things that require memorization/things that can't be rote memorized.

    I can, for instance, read a chapter of Spivak calculus then proceed to solve all these problems.

    The same thing for something as dynamics. I'll read a chapter (say about rotation), solve problems, but then be unable to retain this new knowledge unless I keep practicing and practicing- of course this will be difficult when my rate of learning is much more fanatic and doesn't follow a syallabus.

    But of course, I won't remember anything the next day.

    What is the best way to maximize my powerlearning? My goal is to master {basic} math this summer, allowing me to study algorithms the next.

    I also plan on making a thread on here in physicsforum when my summer starts, and updating my progress daily, hopefully to keep me motivated (or learn from my failure)

    Is it better to do say, do 16 hours until I finish the book, or something more structured: say, do 8 books each for one hour, with one hour practice following?
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2015 #2
    a better way to remember is to question yourself on the concept you have learnt. do not solve problems just for the sake of "finishing" a book. Quality of questions matter rather than quantity. solve less problems involving different concepts rather than just solving huge pile of sets.
    form your own problem sets and find their solution. this can help in your learning.
    hope this helps
  4. Mar 3, 2015 #3


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    Every person learns at a different rate. Going straight for 16 hours is probably counterproductive and I suggest you research REM sleep.

    Upon research this implies to me that you need to pace yourself and get rest and sleep in your schedule. What you might need to do, is scale back your day into two study sessions, such as 6-8 hours, 4 hour nap (at least one REM cycle, ideally two), then another 4-6 hours and then a 6-8 hour deep sleep (remembering that there is only 24 hours in a day).

    And Play HARD ie exercise at least 2 hours every other day and 3-4 hours on a weekend.

    Just my two cents
  5. Mar 3, 2015 #4


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    My two cents too.

    I recognize some of the symptoms: hated languages and history at school because you had to learn things by heart. Cumbersome. Math was much nicer: you understood it and the exercises were a breeze. Physics same thing. Biology much more complicated - stay away was my idea. ( Coincidentally Gerard 't Hooft also said he did physics because these other things seemed way more complicated. But he did go on to win the Nobel prize ).

    Memorizing isn't sensible if you don't understand. That's why doing the exercises is such a good thing: after a while you recognize patterns. Recognizing is key (and nowadays even more than 50 yrs ago, because you can lookup all and sundry).

    You're obviously pretty smart and you know it. Probably quite young, but even so already knowledgeable about a few shortcomings. That's impressive. If you really think you need it, you might go and look for some specific memory training. (There's a game that's called memory here; my grandchildren beat me ten out of ten).

    Can't tell you how to live. Giving up a vacation for 12-16 hr study days plus exercising sounds (beep) to me. If you claim you have no life, get one ! Mathematical (and a lot more other) maturity comes by itself if you give it a chance. Over-hurry and you run the risk of developing a resentment, get burnt-out and what have you. As the other nerd says: pace yourself!

    Really look forward to your blog thread: post a pointer here too so I get notified !
  6. Mar 3, 2015 #5
    I'm not sure what the healthy limit is for a day of work. Maybe 14 hours at most?

    Another thing is that I think taking breaks can help learning. Beginnings and endings stick in your mind more. Also, there the whole Stanford 50 idea that learning falls off after 50 minutes.

    You'd be really interested in this:

    I have some points of disagreement with him, but he gives a lot of the advice I would give.
  7. Mar 3, 2015 #6
    Oh, and also, don't underestimate the importance of non-technical stuff like social/communication skills. Once you get of school, you'll probably wish you had given that more thought.
  8. Mar 3, 2015 #7
    Oh yes, I didn't plan on studying 16 hours straight. I figure my day will be something like this:

    Wake up, eat, exercise
    Study 3 hours, rest 1 hour
    Study 3 hours, rest 1 hour
    Study 3 hours, rest 1 hour
    Study 3 hours, rest 1 hour

    And eat my lunch/dinner/shower/etc during that 1 hour break
  9. Mar 3, 2015 #8


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    So you'd actually be studying 12 hours a day, not 16. That sounds a lot more workable. It's not how I would have wanted to spend my summer, back when I was a student, but hey, it's your summer. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

    Maybe take one day off per week to do something completely different and re-charge your batteries?
  10. Mar 3, 2015 #9
    Yeah, I was planning on doing this. You know of anything good to do during this day to recharge?
  11. Mar 3, 2015 #10


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    Well, I never tried to do what you're planning to do, but when I was a grad student, my usual thing to do on weekends was to go on long bicycle rides in the country with the local bicycle touring (not racing!) club.
  12. Mar 3, 2015 #11
    I'm also a computer science major. My advice: If you want to learn algorithms, read an algorithms textbook. I'm currently reading "Introduction to Algorithms" by CLRS because I have only two soft courses this semester. I'm just finishing up chapter 2, and let me tell you... the exercises in this book are intense. I have learned how to mathematically prove the time complexity of algorithms using recurrence relations and induction, and how to formally confirm the correctness of loops by looking at loop invariants.

    Then again, it took me four days just to finish the 7 exercises on Chapter 2, Section 3. I personally recommend spending large amounts of time on hard problems.

    Here's three problems from the section I just finished:

    Use mathematical induction to show that when n is an exact power of 2, the solution of the recurrence:
    Code (Text):

           { 2            if n = 2
    T(n) = {
           { 2T(n/2) + n  if n = 2^k such that k > 1
    is T(n) = nlg(n)

    Referring back to the searching problem (see Exercise 2.1-3), observe that if the sequence A is sorted, we can check the midpoint of the sequence against v and eliminate half of the sequence from further consideration. The binary search algorithm repeats this procedure, halving the size of the remaining portion of the sequence each time. Write pseudocode, either iterative or recursive, for binary search. Argue that the worst-case running time of binary search is O(lg n).

    Describe a O(n lg n)-time algorithm that, given a set S of n integers and another integer x, determines whether or not there exist two elements in S whose sum is exactly x.

    Finally, I recommend simply immersing yourself, out of genuine enjoyment - not as a sense of duty or work. Also, if you get even the slightest bit sick of it... do something else for a while. Else you will burn out. If you do that blog thread thing, I will follow it.
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2015
  13. Mar 3, 2015 #12


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    I would recommend that you study in a non-structured, not too focused way during the summer, for the classes you will take in the Fall. Play with the material explore, but don't push yourself too much. I tried it twice and worked really well for me.
  14. Mar 4, 2015 #13


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    This schedule doesn't indicate you researched REM sleep.

    I also believe homomorphic's suggestion to study in 50 minute intervals is also appropriate.

    My own plan if I were to jump into such an aggressive schedule would be the following:

    Get up early (if you are a Morning person, this would be 5-6 am.)
    lite breakfast or fruit 10-15 min
    Review previous days work 30-60 minutes 10 minute break

    Jump into new material +problems for 1-2 hours
    rest: 10-15 minutes+ smart snack such as fruit
    Review for 10-15 minutes, then new material for 1hour
    10 minutes rest + snack ( I would probably break down at this point and grab a chocolate bar, weak willed and all)
    10 minute review
    1hour of study

    Repeat one or two more times and then, review all morning material, and POWER NAP ie Remember the REM, you might need to sleep for only an hour, but I suggest you get 2-3 and you might need 3-4 too.
    Basically every Power Nap you take is actually squeezing in another productive day of study. REM sleep is your brains unconscious activity of sorting through the days information and storing it for you.

    Wake up.
    Review for 30 minutes
    Shower to refresh or just go and burn off some calories then shower.30 minutes to shower or 1-2 hours to play and then shower!

    Review for 30 minutes
    Back to previous schedule
    End day with 30-60 minute review
    Deep REM Sleep 5-8 hours whatever you need, adjust schedule as needed.
    Remember, with an afternoon power nap, you may not need a full 8 hours at night, but don't be afraid to use 8 hours either.

    Next day: Repeat

    I suspect my schedule above might only have a real 8-10 hours of real study if you break it down, but I believe it would be more effective than your organized schedule.

    However, once summer is upon us, you will likely try a couple different methods and then settle on which seems to be working best for you.
  15. Mar 4, 2015 #14


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    The problem I see with the OP is that your mind/brain is not always receptive. What will you do if you are sitting there in front of the material, feeling brain-dead? You may get better results by studying just 2 hours after watching a movie and relaxing than by staying 8 hours in front of a book Maybe together with research on REM sleep, look up the 80%-20% law. Basically, the point is to have a back up plan if/when your mind is not receptive.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2015
  16. Mar 4, 2015 #15
    That can be an issue, as I have experienced quite a bit lately. You can then ask the question of whether it is possible to make your mind more receptive by design. I don't know that you can have complete control, but I think you can have some control. For example, exercise would probably increase the probability of your mind being receptive, being upset about something would decrease the possibility and so on. There's always the risk of over-working yourself if you take the 3 hours in front of a book approach. When I was studying for my oral exam, I think I did like 6-10 hours of reading and thinking a day on it for a couple weeks towards the exam date, with 50 minutes of work and 10-minute breaks, and it was fairly successful. I don't know if that type of thing is sustainable, though.
  17. Mar 4, 2015 #16
    x86, or homeomorphic, you might be interested in nootropics.

    What are nootropics, you ask? Well, the term nootropics refers to a wide range of artificial and natural compounds which are thought to enhance cognitive function. Think of coffee, only optimized for effectiveness and non-addictiveness.

    For a brief period, I tried it myself... Specifically, I took L-theanine (green tea extract) and caffeine in pill form, around thrice a week, on days when a cognitive edge might be helpful. Let me disclaim this by saying the nootropics community is quite focused on safety, and discourages adderall and other harmful drugs.
  18. Mar 4, 2015 #17


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    It's easy to assume that you can mechanically devote that much time to studying each day, but in practice it's not so easy. It takes our brains time to sort through things and commit them to memory. If we try to overload, we aren't really going to be learning the material. There are times that reading new material just doesn't work. If you're still trying to figure out the material you covered before the current material, you're not likely to get the current material. Something more like CalcNerd described seems more reasonable.

    Either way though...is there some compelling reason that you need to finish 10 math books in 4 months? I can appreciate wanting to learn everything, but that's a big undertaking. It may be better to pick a few of those books and really focus on them.
  19. Mar 4, 2015 #18


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    Ultimately, the best way may be that of learning to recognize the cues that your body, your mind/brain send you telling you what they respectively need, so that you can be in balanced state . Being in a balanced state as often as possible may be your best bet. I mean extending the idea from obvious cases like recognizing the signal of hunger to other needs.
  20. Mar 5, 2015 #19
    Yeah. I'll def try a few methods out and pick the one that works best for me.

    I want to attain mathematical maturity and be really good at math and solving problems, because you never know when it will come in handy.

    As an engineering student, I regularly studying 10 hours a day already (I'm taking thermodynamics, material sciences, electricity, circuit analysis, calculus 2, dynamics, engineering design project (which probably consumes 2x the time of my other courses)), and I have absolutely no fun in my life; so I'm actually looking forward to studying some math, maybe a little coding & cracking this summer. I'm excited.

    But I think my biggest challenge will be not interacting with anyone/staying home all day and doing math; because I sometimes go to my lectures/have team meetings to not go totally insane.

    As is, I finish 7 books in a 4 month period, and these books are maybe 800 pages long, I regularly skip lectures and tutorials too, as I think I'm pretty good at self-learning. I'd say only 3 of these math books are hardcore, the rest are introductions, maybe 300 pages long. I also know some of the stuff, as I've taken linear algebra/calculus and did some spivak calculus last summer (will probably redo it though, as I've forgotten). If I have even more time, I definetly want to look into some theoretical linear algebra and get a deeper understanding.

    My plan is this, stuff to learn: (all theoretical topics, two books mentioned)

    -how to prove it (for sure i should do this one first)
    -set theory
    -number theory
    -graph theory
    -spivak calculus (taken calc 2) (
    -abstract algebra
    -more advanced graph theory (
    -probability and statistics
    -linear algebra (I've already taken an engineering version of this course)

    Does anyone thing I should maybe change the order of this list?
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
  21. Mar 5, 2015 #20


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    I'm wondering what you mean by "finish" a book. Have you finished when you've read the whole book? Or when you've read the parts you think matter? Or when you're read what you're going to read and solved the odd numbered problems? Or solved all the problems? Or read all the solutions (which only some books have)?

    If you are actually going to learn the material well you have to do the problems. For some math books, much of the material is learned by doing the problems. It's easy to make sure you've done the useful stuff if you do all the problems, but is that what you mean? The pace of working problems can be quite unpredictable. Problems you find particularly hard may take you hours, or days, or weeks (and some you may never solve). Typos can be a big issue. How do you know when to give up and look up the answer (if you can find one)? Without a knowledgeable mentor that can be a difficult problem, especially if you are trying to hurry.

    I'm not questioning whether your project is doable, but I am wondering what exactly you mean. It sounds like an admirable goal, but your idea of becoming adept and "mathematically mature" tends to be something that requires hard thinking over time, and is more a product of depth than sheer quantity. In effect, you want to become good at a new (for you) way of thinking; this is a very different thing from just gaining knowledge. Is that something you find easy?
  22. Mar 5, 2015 #21
    I agree with that! I would do it in a relaxed way watching some Moocs and Youtube lectures. I would actually love to have the time to watch all Susskind's physics lectures (20ish courses). You will probably learn a lot more and with a different angle.
  23. Mar 5, 2015 #22
    "As is, I finish 7 books in a 4 month period, and these books are maybe 800 pages long"

    What do you mean by finish... That amounts to about 1400 pages a month, or reading about 1.5 Atlas Shruggeds'. Assuming 16 hours a day, reading 20 days a month (5 days a week), that is 4 pages every hour. That does not include actually doing any problems, which should be taking up the majority of your time, eating, going to the bathroom or any kind of socialization. Lower that to 12 hours a day, we get 6 pages an hour. Now, what might be feasible is if you read 4 hours a day and work on problems for 4, 6 out of 7 days a week. Assuming 5 pages an hour, which might be reasonable given you're only reading 4 hours a day, you get 480 pages a month, which is equal to about 1 textbook a month. I think that is a much more realistic goal that will give you quality results.

    I don't know about you but the only way I can read complicated material that fast is if I'm not absorbing anything. And this is coming from somebody who has an extremely strong memory for reading/writing and to a lesser extent pictures. Maybe you are gifted, I don't know of anyone who could read and absorb that quickly except von Neumann or William Sidis.[/quote]
  24. Mar 5, 2015 #23
    If you are planning to take a nap in between, make sure its not more than an hour. If you sleep more than an hour, you will feel less energetic.

    When you start feeling bored, stop studying and listen to music for some time and come back.

    Also, if you forget things easily like me, write down important points in a neat sheet of paper and keep it under your pillow before you sleep. Go through the points after you wake up. Use red and green ink pens to write the points. Circle formulae using a blue pen. This makes it interesting.

    Even if you feel confident, solve ten more problems as it can increase speed. Solve problems in a neat diary and book mark the pages which contain important problems or those which contain many concepts.

    A psychologist ( he does hypnotherapy) told me that sleep contains 4 cycles of 1.5 hours each and after every 1.5 hours, your body will move or change position. We require only 4 such cycles which is 6hrs of sleep.

    Take some dry fruits and nuts in between. Figs can help you become more active.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
  25. Mar 5, 2015 #24

    Jano L.

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    I also made similar plans for studying theoretical physics.

    The reason I made them was : I felt something is missing in my studies; I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I felt there has to be more - more knowledge, more joy in it, more success.

    I thought "This is because I do not study hard enough. If only I could spent 16 hours reading textbooks, I would advance much more quickly and it would be a lot more fun".

    I tried, but the plans of programmed studying never really worked for me. I think I know now, why that was so. If you're like me, it may be useful for you to know this before you waste lot of time and get frustrated.

    The reason I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I should is the quality of faculty teaching sucked and continued to get worse with every next semester.

    But organized self-study of the above kind did not work. I like to understand the bottom of things and for that you cannot afford to read such quantity of texts by force. I believe most people can't.

    The thing is after some interesting part, with all textbooks you come to a point where the text is not interesting at all, because it gets incomprehensible, make impression of uselessness or looks plain wrong. My brain just does not work as a hard-disk stored database and it stops right there. It needs to process what it acquires and I do not mean after chapter is read, but after a sentence is read. This can and should take some time, especially if you're reading something valuable.

    So, if you're like me, you need to spend most of your time on thinking/working instead of reading.

    This is very important in any theoretical science, whether mathematics or physics or others, I believe. You need to actively participate in your study. Reading textbooks all day effectively kills that.

    Good studying begins with posing simple questions you are intrigued to know an answer for. E.g. for me, these can be things like: Does rigid body always rotate around some straight line or is its motion more complicated? How can electron radiate energy if it is at rest? Or How to make Cantor's demonstration that real numbers are not denumerable clear and convincing?

    It does not matter what subject or level of difficulty the question is; the important thing is it has to be interesting for you, and if it can be formulated easily, so much better.

    If you pose yourself a really good question, it will launch you into incredible mental ride where your mind works in the most efficient and enjoyable way: you think much more than you read. You still do read, but briefly; most time is spent on thinking, writing, searching for the source that is probable to be helpful for the next step and be interesting. One almost gets high from it, and this is what keeps you working 16 hours a day. Some call it flow.

  26. Mar 5, 2015 #25
    10 books in four months sounds a bit ridiculous... why don't you set a more realistic goal of one book per month, and actually enjoy your summer?
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