What are the best study methods?

Answer by Ahmad Ali:

This is my research on how to study over two years. I succeeded to get a distinction in 8000 students from many colleges. I did not spend more than two months in my college.

There are two important studies worth sharing before I describe my study method. The first study is about memory graph and the second one is about concentration span.

The Human Memory Graph
This study reveals to us that when you read something, your memory of what you read or heard is almost alive.  If we represent this with graph it is horizontally at 100%, and it slowly declines over time. When you review it after one day, memory connections are strengthened. Now its declination is very slow as compared to without review.  This speed decreases with every review of the thing you want to remember. It is explained in the graph below.

Instead of memorizing, try setting a review plan without any tension and be relaxed. Read with concentration, and then leave it. Read again in the evening, then again the next day, and then again the next week. Test yourself on the 15th day, and then review after one month. You'll notice that your memory, of what you heard, read, or listened, will not decline so easy now plus you remember most of it including subtle things related or within the material.

Human Attention Span

As it's clear from this graph, the human attention span is at 30% after 45 minutes. Mostly, that is the length of one class for schools below university level.  In universities it is increased to one hour or more.  You can improve your attention span by increasing the time slowly, but it is better to take a short break (~5 minutes) after about an hour of focused study.  The short break will allow you to regain about 90% of your attention span.

Another important thing regarding memory is reading a topic from many sources. It has two benefits, less boredom and many different aspects of the same scenario. Later one increases latency of information from different areas of mind when required. The more connections your brain makes with the information, the more likely it will stick in your mind.

  • Another important consideration is the productive hours. It may be different for few people but mostly early morning is the most productive time.
  • Remember to keep the room temperature a little warm. It will help in focusing.

After a lot of study about how to study I devised a plan, which was refined over time and according to the results. Now here is a refined plan, in which are inherent many researches and experiences I have come across.

Planning and managing your study

  1. Make a timetable; mine was 11 hours for study. It is first step to success. (I was studying, and interested in it, so I was giving most of my time to studying; you may have less than 11 hours of course. It just shows my dedication towards academics and the dreams I had after graduation. I was in a poor family; I knew that without hard-work, I won’t be able to get along. After getting a position, I was able to continue my study for free. I also received prize money from the government and a special training for more motivation and visits. Yes, I got a Talent Award too.
  2. Humans can concentrate for 40 minutes on a subject, or maximum 1 hour. Do change your study material/subject after every 40 minutes or 1 hour. But later on you can increase this time slowly to 2 hours. I did this.
  3. Start time table by learning new things, after looking at the last day topics. Later chapters in books mostly have references from former ones. Learning new things at start gives you hope and makes you motivated.
  4. Don’t start one subject or module after the other; take a break of 5 to ten minutes. In this time eat some chocolate, fruits and vitamins. Do some sit stands and go out to look in nature and have an analog (natural phenomena) thinking to refresh. This is a right click and refresh for you on your desktop to start another application.
  5. Study each subject three times a day, design time table such that every subject has 3 shifts per day.
  6. Take notes in the first shift, and rehearse them in second shift and so on. Notes should not be exact copy of the book text.
  7. Re-allocate time for your modules in timetable after every, maximum two weeks. Or take your exams after one week and re-allocate based on the exam results.
  8. Exam yourself sometime in the middle of the time table.
  9. Have some extra time to look topics of this day you have studied, at the end of study time table.
  10. Second day, start with looking at the topics of the last day. But never do an exam at the start of study time. Increase difficulty slowly from start to end.
  11. Do some statistics on important and less important subjects or difficult and easy subjects and divide time with statistics methods. For example by first assigning the difficulty level to each subject like 40% and 60% etc.
  12. If studying something which could be easily implemented in home or lab, don’t miss it. I, when studying biology, had tried to produce a new family of a tree though it was just a try and nothing resulted. I have been programming to simulate the physics concepts which helped a lot.

Subject specific study techniques

  1. For math subjects, try to solve a question, if you fail, just do it with your hands by looking at some help book. After you finish copying by hands, you will infer what was missing. This is called learning with hands not mind. This is because some time an answer tells you about the solution in math.
  2. For physics subjects, start with writing the topics equation, prove it on paper same as stated above in (math method), then start with the theory. Attach equation with the topic.
  3. For English, write difficult words on the note book. Learn them first.
  4. For theory subjects, read a lot on the same topic from different sources, read the topic on book, leave it. Now read it on Wikipedia and leave it. Learn it on some other book. This is easy and very useful method. Don't try to learn from your book only this will bore you and you won’t remember well.

Exam Tips

  1. End preparing for exams about one week before. Design your exams timetable so that your intense preparation ends about one week before the first day of paper. This will help in
  2. Tension free preparation. Inside your heart you know I have one week, as a backup.
  3. One week extra preparation. The last EXTRA week is now more valuable than one month. Everything you will do in this week will be extra and very motivational for you.
  4. If there is 2, 3 days break between papers, don't stick with one subject. As mentioned above it kills productive study and focus. Change study module for the sake of attaining mind focus and refreshment, at least.
  5. Review your notes the day before paper. This will give you an overview of all topics plus strengthening the memory connections for those topics.
  6. After paper is over, don’t throw the question paper into dust bin, thinking that it’s gone now. It can help your mind settle down. Read and examine how much you did correctly.
  7. Keep calculating marks you obtained in each paper and adding to total. It will motivate you, like we do in scoring games.
  8. Don’t forget the one and only solution for refreshment and energy of mind, the exercise and healthy foods in exams.

Miscellaneous facts

  1. Don't listen to love music or such type of songs. Listen to some good motivational music like "K'NAAN – WAVIN' FLAG".
  2. Do take some time for spirituality or loneliness, for many reasons it’s important.
  3. Play some sports or exercise, not too much.
  4. Eat different things in daily life and especially in break times.
  5. Listen to news for some time. If learning English, listen to BBC.
  6. Play with children, they are also learning, observe them and their interest.
  7. Do spend some time with family and share your status.
  8. If possible, do have some time to teach someone. It will be best, if you can teach what you are learning yourself.
  9. For your tasks apart from study, make a to-do list. It’s very important to lessen the distraction and burden from your mind.
  10. Understanding the problem, half solves it.
  11. Imagine your success every day, imagine the future. You are investing on your future.
  12. Spread knowledge.

* If you note I have written number 1 for no love music, in the details, I mean we should have zero distraction outside and inside of ourselves to create a creative state of mind, give all your attention to study when you study!
Do one thing at a time. Don’t have another part of your mind allocated for the mobile phone beside, or an open Facebook tab.

Good luck.

What are the best study methods?


How can I learn to design more visually appealing apps?

Answer by Tomiwa Ogunmodede:

I usually say design can't be learnt, but you sound like you already know that. However, quoting the great Pablo Picasso, who said "Good artists copy, great artists steal"; you can 'steal' your way to expert design prowess.

Now, that doesn't mean you should outright go and steal other peoples work, what you need to do is to find designs that appeal to your sense of aesthetic and COPY them.

And by copy, I mean, try to redesign them yourself.
I've learnt from experience that here are actually no exact copies in design. Every one adds their own unique signature to whatever it is they do, inadvertently or otherwise.

Very importantly, you need to understand that great design is really not about fonts, layouts or colours. Great design is about inspiration.
If you fully understand what you're designing, who you're designing for and the effect you hope that your design can impress on the viewer/user, the outcome tends to flow naturally.

Eventually, if you keep at it you'll notice that your need to 'steal' from other design sources will diminish and your expertise in design will uber-increase.
You'll also begin to be confident in your abilities enough to conceptualize new designs all by yourself.

In no time, you'll be churning out Picasso-level designs (I kid).

Sign up to Behance, Photoshop tutorials and resources and Abduzeedo Design Inspiration. 'Steal' your heart out!

Whenever you feel like it, don't thank me. Thank the miracle called The Internet.

How can I learn to design more visually appealing apps?

How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson?

Answer by James Altucher:

The other day I went out at night and fell asleep on a park bench near the beach in Miami.

When I opened my eyes I pretended I had just landed on the world. I knew nothing. Now I had to learn everything.

That's the way I should've been when I was younger. Maybe I would've avoided many problems if I just realized I knew nothing.

ALL SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE started off knowing nothing.

They studied the people who came before them. Who studied the people who came before them. And so on.

I really admire Richard Branson. He's one to study.

Richard Branson is the perfect example of "Ready. Fire. Aim." He starts something. He does it. Then he looks to see if he hit the target. If not, he starts something new.

I love the story of how he started Virgin Airlines. He was already successful from Virgin Music. Note that now he has nothing to do with Virgin Music.
I don't even know if Virgin Music still exists. All that is left is Virgin Air.

A plane had gotten cancelled. Everyone was upset.

But Branson wasn't upset. He found a plane that would take him. But he didn't have the money.

One good thing to start with always is to imagine the obstacles gone. Imagine, "if I wasn't worried about money, would I still make this trip."

I call this IDEA SUBTRACTION. Subtract the perceived obstacles to an idea and (BAM!) you find that many more ideas are born from that.

First, he arranged to rent the private plane, even though he still had the obstacle ("no money").

Then he put up a sign: "$29 for a plane to Puerto Rico." And everyone signed up. Suddenly he had the money for the plane.

That was his proof-of-concept for an airline. Now that is his main business and it's worth billions.

Here's ten quotes from him that I think are valuable.

A) Richard Branson: "Listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak."

B) Richard Branson: "Start making suggestions for how to improve your workplace. Don’t be a shrinking violet, quietly getting your job done adequately. Be bold, and the sky is the limit."

Note he's not suggesting start a company. You can always create inside ANY surrounding and you will be infinitely rewarded for that.

The first employee at Google is now a multi-billionaire even though nobody knows his name (Craig Silverstein). He was an employee and he created and blossomed.

C) Richard Branson: "Age isn't as important so long as you are surrounded by people you love, doing things you passionately believe in."

I truly believe this. We all have things we love to do. And it's the people around us who love us that help us unlock these dreams.

It's ONLY when you find the people you love, you can create and flourish. Henry Ford was 45 when he started his third car company and created the assembly line. He did this once he eliminated all the people who tried to control him at prior companies.

Colonel Sanders was 65 when he started "Kentucky Fried Chicken".

Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she wrote her first book. The book that would turn into the series, "Little House on the Prairie".

This was after she had been totally wiped out in the Great Depression and left with nothing but she started to surround herself with people who encouraged her and pushed her to pursue writing to make ends meet.

D) Richard Branson: "What I personally know would make up a dot so minuscule it couldn’t be seen. What humanity has collectively learned so far would make up a tiny mark within the circle. Everything we all have to learn in the future would take up the rest of the space. It is a big universe, and we are all learning more about it every day. If you aren’t listening, you are missing out."

The other day someone asked me if I believed in "God". There's no answer. Always have reverence for the infinite things we will never know. Our brains are too small.

This next quote I slightly want to change:

E) Richard Branson: "To be a real entrepreneur you always have to be looking forward. The moment you rest on your laurels is the moment your competition overtakes you."

I think 'entrepreneur' can be changed to 'human'. We all have to survive and succeed first as humans. And the job description changes every day.

Every day there is room to finish this sculpture that began the moment our mothers released us into the world.

F) Richard Branson: "There is no such thing as a boring person: everyone has stories and insights worth sharing. While on the road, we let our phones or laptops take up our attention. By doing that, we might miss out on the chance to learn and absorb ideas and inspiration from an unexpected source: our fellow travelers."

Every day has stories hidden inside of them, like a treasure hunt. When you find those stories, you get rewarded. Not by money, but by…I don't know. Something. You feel it when it happens.

G) Richard Branson: "It can be easy to find reasons not to do something. However you might be surprised by how much help is at hand if you put yourself out there and commit to a project. It doesn’t have to be a case of struggling along by yourself."

We live in a world of connection. The barriers we've erected by storytelling (religion, nationalism, corporatism) are breaking down.

You can crowdsource a revolution with a single tweet now. There are a million ways to ask for help and a million people who want to help you.
But it's hard to ask. There's the old fears of rejection. Fears of people viewing asking as weakness. Fears of infringing on someone by asking.

Offer value in your ask and then the reasons to not do something start to go away until there are none left.

And again, Branson is referring to "idea subtraction" which has constantly propelled him from success to success.

H) Richard Branson: "When most people think about taking a risk they associate it with negative connotations, when really they should view it as a positive opportunity. Believe in yourself and back yourself to come out on top. Whether that means studying a course to enable a change of direction, taking up an entry level position on a career ladder you want to be a part of, or starting your own business – you’ll never know if you don’t give it a try."

Another example of how Branson would use "idea subtraction" to come up with tons of ideas.

For instance, sometimes people say, "If only I knew how to program I could do X". Well, imagine you could program. Subtract that worry. Now what ideas would you implement?

You can always subtract a worry. Whether it's putting up a sign ("$29 to get to Puerto Rico") or, as Branson suggests above, taking an entry level position.

When I started my first successful company my job title was, "Jr. Programmer Analyst" at HBO and I had $0 in the bank.

I took an entry level job so I could move to NYC and start making connections. I stayed at that job for three years while building my network.

For more than half of those three years I had my first company on the side, building up.

I was afraid all the time I would get caught doing two jobs at the same time.
But I did learn that these almost insurmountable obstacles were the EXACT reason I had huge opportunities.

When people think a problem is impossible they value it at zero. Successful people buy ideas low (zero) and sell them high.

You ask "why can't I?" as in the following quote from Branson:

I) Richard Branson: "I’ve always had a soft spot for dreamers – not those who waste their time thinking ‘what if’ but the ones who look to the sky and say ‘why can’t I shoot for the moon?’"

Does he really mean the moon here? Or does that sound cliche? Let's look.

When Branson was a teenager and started his first magazine devoted to music, I doubt he was thinking about shooting for the moon.

But who knows? Now his biggest investment is Virgin Galactic. That magazine (which he started despite severe dyslexia) literally turned into a company that is now shooting to land a ship on the moon.

Why not? Why not?

J) Richard Branson: "Together we can make the products, services, businesses, ideas, and politics for a better future. In this ‘new power’ world, we are all makers. Let’s get making."

Sometimes people write me and say, "not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Some people like being employees."

I agree with this. There is nothing wrong with being an employee. It's what you make of it.

I've been an employee many times. The key is to realize that an "employee" doesn't mean you give up on creating, on making, on coming up with ideas.
In fact, an employee often has more opportunity for abundance than an entrepreneur. The playing field is much larger in a big corporation where everything is possible.

I went to graduate school with Astro Teller, who was recently on my podcast. He runs the special projects division at Google called GoogleX. He's an employee at Google.

He was asked to "dream" at Google and now Google, a software company, is making driverless cars. It seems insurmountable: "What if we can make a car without a driver?" But that's where the opportunity is.

Every day I wake up and it's a constant battle in my brain against obstacles. Usually not business obstacles but emotional ones. Fears. People. Ideas. Hopes. This is life. A stream of obstacles and fears in a tough world.

I wish I had paid attention to the many wonderful virtual mentors, the Richard Bransons of the world, when I was younger.

To simply admit, "I don't know" and reap the benefits of curiosity.

I hope I learn something today. If not I'll go back and reread these quotes and maybe sleep on a park bench.

How can I be as great as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Richard Branson?