A better way to learn from video content

Art by Gabriella Clare Marino @gabriella.clare & @gabriellaritratti

If you care about self-development, and not in that typical b.s. approach of following the “10 best habits of the richest people on earth” you came to the right place.

Learning how to learn is one of those force-multiplier skills that you wish you had stumbled upon when you were 4 instead of 27. At least that’s how I feel.

But what is learning anyways? The Cambridge Dictionary defines learning as “the activity of obtaining knowledge” and “knowledge obtained by study”. In this article, we will focus on the skill of obtaining knowledge, even more specifically, obtaining knowledge through a video.

We want to keep this article short and sweet, so we included a list of note-worthy extensions to this topic t the end.

How to learn effectively

Before we deep-dive into a specific learning framework, we’d like to suggest you read about a few concepts that might become helpful when learning.

Compound Interest

Although it’s a mathematical term, people use it in multiple contexts. When it comes to learning, it’s about getting better every day by at least a little bit.

At first, you won’t notice any difference, but if you’d improve by only 1% a day, after a year you’d be 37 times better at whatever it was that you were learning. Thirty-seven times. Let that sink in for a minute.

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, wrote this great article about Continuous Improvement and the compound interest effect on you and your habits.

Deliberate Practice

Learning takes effort. Doing it well is actually kinda hard and unintuitive at first. But then again, which one is harder: a) spending marginally more time upfront, but never having to go over the material again AND actually remembering it later OR b) spending marginally less time on it upfront and then having to relearn it countless times to no avail?

Simply grabbing a book you want to learn from and reading it like you’d read fiction or a magazine is not learning. It’s just reading.

The same is true for learning from videos, with video being an even more passive format than reading. For your learning to be effective, you need to work actively. You need to set a specific goal for your studying. You can’t get good at something if you’re focusing on everything at once.

Here’s an exercise for you to figure out what exactly it is you want to study and why — using ideas from Clean Language and the CCM communication model.

  1. Figure out what you want to learn and make it Concrete, Concise, and Meaningful. It would look something like this: “I want to learn the history of Scrum software development”. This will help your brain get primed for the material.
  2. Once you have a clear goal in mind, it’s time to answer another question: “And when I learn about Scrum what would I like to happen?” Any method of introspection should work well for this. Your answer might be: “I want to be confident when this conversation topic comes up on my first day of work
  3. Then ask yourself: “Is there anything else about Scrum?” Your answer might be: “I also want to understand how it differs from the Waterfall software development method”
  4. Continue drilling question #3 until you don’t have any more ideas about what interests you about the topic.

Now you know why you want to learn. Off you pop to learn.

A framework for learning from videos

Now that you know a bit about learning, it’s time we talk about a specific framework you can use when watching videos.

It’s straightforward, but it does require time from you. This can be applied to a youtube video about how to invest your money, a masterclass about how to make the perfect omelette or something related to your profession, like studying for your physics exam using videos.

Step #0 | Prime your focus aka. eliminate distractions

For the sake of simplicity — and for the lack of a psychology degree on our part — let us divide your memory into 2 parts: 1) short-term memory and 2) long-term memory. Your short-term memory is doing the preprocessing for your long-term memory if you will.

If this processing gets distracted — by a phone call, a notification or a cute cat named Yoda (picture above) — your mental model collapses and you lose a good chunk of the material you just covered. The effect of youtube ads interrupting a video is also something to consider.

Another trick you can utilize is to study right after working out. The increased blood flow in your brain is a bio-hacking tool used by many.

Step #1 | Examine the video briefly

Basically, you want to preview the video. This exposure prepares your brain for the content it is about to receive. Is the video already divided into sections with a timestamp (something that a lot of YouTube creators are using now)?

Check the video description to see if there are any links to additional materials (or maybe even a blog post). Skim through the whole video at 1–2 min intervals. See if there are any images used in the presentation (or is it a lecture without any visual queues).

Step #2 | Watch the video

It’s time for you to watch the video for the first time. Turn off your phone, make sure nobody interrupts your learning. Don’t check Facebook. Stay laser focused!

AND DO NOT TAKE NOTES! At this point, you just want to watch the video from start to finish.

Step #3 | Divide the video into chapters (optional)

If the video is not already divided into chapters/sections by the creator, go through it quickly again and note at what time does one section end and another begins.

Step #4 | Rewatch each chapter

This is the note-taking part. The order should be 1. finish watching a chapter / a logical chunk of the video 2. create notes from memory. You shouldn’t go for perfect notes. Your aim here is to actively recall what you remember.

Step #5 | Repeat what you’ve learned before you go to bed or take a nap

Sleeping helps with memory retention.

Step #6 | And repeat it the next day (and then a week after that)

This is a real killer when it comes to remembering the material later. We won’t discuss spaced repetition in this article, but it’s worth checking out.

Use flashcards if you prefer for spaced repetition. With flashcards you also get the added benefit of multi sensory learning

Try to summarize the content of this article before reading further:)

We truly hope this article provided value for you on your adventure of learning. Now you know that studying the intuitive way is not the best use of your time. Implementing this framework should serve you well even if used for textbooks or other materials.

If you are interested in more, here are a couple areas for further exploration — things we decided not to elaborate on or outright excluded from this article, but are worth looking into:

  • Active recall — practicing remembering instead of creating notes or summaries
  • Spaced repetition — interrupting the natural tendency to forget what you learned — combined with active recall instead of rereading notes
  • Building a second brain — creating a digital network of knowledge for later reuse

Let us know how things go after implementing this knowledge. We are interested!

This article was created together with András Bozzai as a part of the Grow Together Academy challenge!




IT Project Manager.

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Albert Pałka

Albert Pałka

IT Project Manager.

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