I hacked my brain to be addicted to learning using one question from Ali Abdaal's new book, Feel Good Productivity.
By asking this question yourself, I'm confident you can learn more in less time, remember more effectively, all while having more fun. But first, we need to understand why you aren't addicted to learning right now. The problem is much of traditional education teaches you learning should be done for the grade. You're motivated by tests, quizzes, and homework, which leaves many associating learning with anxiety, even after school.
What do people do instead?
We turn to more engaging and interesting forms of learning.
I'm talking about Tik Tok, YouTube, Video Games and more. While many associate these platforms with entertainment, they're actually disguised learning platforms. On them you learn about things like how to be cool, how to build a Lord of The Rings Lego set, and how to dominate Civilization 6 as Gandhi. In high school, I used to play video games like Total War Warhammer 2, Terraria, and Minecraft all the time.
Hours. Every. Day.
What if you could become addicted to productive learning pursuits rather than entertaining ones?
The possibilities are endless.
You could learn how to build a business. A second language for a country you're visiting. A hobby like singing. I have learned how to make this transformation by hacking my brain to be addicted to learning. For the last three years, I have created online content showcasing my journey and even making a business by creating products like Obsidian University and The Art Of Linked Reading.
It happened after I learned of one life-changing question from Ali Abdaal's book Feel Good Productivity--using the question you can make the same transformation.
That question is:
How Can I Make This Fun?
The trick is making a learning endeavor so enjoyable you would want to do it without extrinsic reward.
This is what makes video games, TikTok, and YouTube so enjoyable. They are so fun you do it for the sake of the activity itself.
The question is, how can we make productive learning endeavors this fun?
I won't lie to you, it's not possible to make a productive learning endeavor as fun as video games. But there are a few principles we can use to make something more fun. Let's go through these principles and how I applied them to learn something as seemingly boring as notetaking.
Firstly, find a way to tie it to something you care about.
Humans don't learn through knowledge transfer but through our emotional connection to things.
So, a great way to learn more effectively is to tie new information to something you care about. I'm interested in psychology, content-creation, gamification, and meta-learning. For any learning endeavor, I try to tie it back to one of these interests. I did this for notetaking and came up with this: Notetaking helps you think more effectively, remember more, and create novel insights. This connects to meta-learning. Plus, I can share my notes with others to help them learn more effectively--like I'm doing in this video!
Tying notetaking to things I care about made me more motivated to learn it.
Secondly, define a breakthrough moment.
A breakthrough moment is a major leveling-up moment in pursuing your learning endeavor.
For example, attaining a new strength, skill, or achievement. To make your learning more fun, define an interesting breakthrough moment and visualize yourself achieving it before every learning bout. For notetaking my breakthrough moment was this: create a guide for gamers on how to use games to 10x their learning effectiveness in real life. I have been interested in the connection between these two things for years but never had the notetaking system to allow me to flesh out my ideas.
By learning to take better notes, I could finally write the article I dreamed of!
Thirdly, create a challenge.
Framing learning obstacles as challenges makes us more energized to tackle them.
In games, challenges like boss fights test our skills and increase them. Adopting the same mindset in real life can make us more resilient when the learning gets tough. To better my notetaking, I adopted a challenge mindset. I saw the obstacles along the path--what notetaking tool to use, how to connect my notes, how to create out of them, etc.--as boss fights to improve my skills.
Framing my notetaking as a challenge motivated me to keep going in the face of challenge.
Fourthly, listen to music while doing it.
Listening to music is inherently enjoyable.
By associating a difficult learning activity with music, you hack your brain into finding it fun. I like to listen to Terraria, Witcher 3, or Civilization 6 music. Preferably music without lyrics because lyrical music can make it harder to focus.
While taking notes, I listen to music to make it more fun.
Fifthly, do it with others.
Humans are social creatures; we like doing things with others.
Getting positive feedback from friends, especially early on, is a fantastic way to stay motivated. To learn note-taking, I found my best friend, John Maverick, online and learned to take more effective notes alongside him. This partnership worked so well that we eventually crystalized our learnings into Obsidian University and The Art Of Linked Reading.
How Can I Make This More Fun?
Using these five principles to make something more fun, you can hack your brain to become addicted to learning.
This will help you learn more in less time, remember more effectively, all while having more fun.
If you want to get Feel Good Productivity yourself you can here.
And if you want to learn to take more effective notes like I did, you should check out my Obsidian Beginner Resource List.
Obsidian is a revolutionary linked notetaking tool that allows you to upgrade your thinking to a new level. Save yourself countless hours of time and energy looking for the best Obsidian learning resources. The resource list includes all of the resources I wish I had on Obsidian 3 years ago, including the best creators to follow, links to immerse yourself in the community, and my most popular curated content on Obsidian.