Most fields have an endless amount of information. The mass of information provided through the internet is both the internet’s greatest benefit and drawback. Learning should be an endless process. It should not be an unguided process.

Effective learning is primarily based on what is learned and in what order.

In my second book, I introduced the D3 principle: Dissecting, Discriminating, Distributing. This is a simplified and sequential framework that can be applied to learning anything. Ultimately, effective and efficient learning is our aim, and part of that is the decision of what not to spend time learning.

Dissecting all components

Dissecting is the first step. This is the separation of the components of the topic you are learning. Breaking down into main categories of information, and then subcategories, leaves you with a “table of contents” for your studies.

If your topic is marketing strategy, you may break it down into components such as product, pricing, positioning, communication channels, branding, messaging, budgeting, and market research.

The subcategories go deeper. For example, branding may be split into product naming, visual identities, and messaging.

Discriminating each component

This brings you to the second step: Discriminating. With the learning opportunities clearly displayed, you can begin to seek out what is most relevant for you and your objectives, and what is less relevant. It can be dangerous to only remove what is not relevant, as we tend to convince ourselves everything is important.

When you see a subcategory with some relevant parts and some less relevant parts, break it down even further. In our last example, we mentioned product naming as a subcategory. Going deeper, we may identify creative thinking strategies as relevant, yet reviewing trademarks as less relevant to our current learning.

Your goal in this step is to identify the 20% of what you need to know to achieve your objective (as guided by the popular “Pareto Principle” or “the 80/20 rule”).

Distributing components in a sequence

The final step is Distributing. This is where you will organize and order the information you identified as most relevant. Sequencing the information can be difficult if you do not know enough yet, but remember structured flexibility: allowing time to plan and permission to change as you learn.

If you have a basic sense of the information, then sequencing is primarily based on prerequisites. In other words, what information would you need to know before another component can be adequately addressed? Prerequisites alone can bring you a long way.

Secondarily, if you have a glut of relatively boring information, weave in the more interesting or exciting elements where you can, provided it doesn’t disrupt the requisition flow. This improves adherence to the learning plan — and without adherence, you go nowhere.

As a final consideration, seek out areas where the interconnectedness of the materials can be made clear. Connecting learnings is an excellent way to engrain it in your mind, solidifying the individual elements through connecting them in a uniting story with overlapping meanings.

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Deciding our own mode of learning is one of the great blessings we have as humans. Take careful effort to plan your learning so you do so effectively, efficiently, and with delight.