By Leo Babauta

So we’ve talked about a bunch of different learning methods, but you might be (rightly) asking yourself, “How the heck am I supposed to use all these ideas in my learning challenge?”

And the answer is that you don’t need to use all of the ideas. Pick the ones that apply most to your learning topic, and experiment to see which ones work best for you.

That said, let’s take a look at a couple sample study plans to give you an idea of how you might incorporate these methods. These aren’t supposed to be cookie-cutter plans, but something you might use as inspiration for your own plans.

Study Plan 1: Learning a Sport

Maia wants to learn basketball, and she knows the basic moves but isn’t very good and wants to improve her fundamentals. She starts watching online videos that give her techniques to practice, drills to do every day, tips for playing better. But she wants to incorporate our effective learning methods so she uses her practice time best.

Daily Plan
Every weekday she has a 20-minute practice session that consists of:

  1. Pre-test: Before she watches a 5-minute video, she looks at the title and tries to think of all the techniques she knows related to the title. Basically, she’s testing herself before she learns. (1 minute)
  2. Studying: She watches a 5-minute video on a new technique or drill. (5 minutes)
  3. Practice: She then goes outside, and practices the technique she just learned, trying her best to apply it. If she doesn’t get it right, she might watch the video again to see what she forgot. She’ll also quiz herself by reviewing past techniques and drills so she doesn’t forget them, interleaving the drills so she’s not just practicing one thing. (10 minutes)
  4. Review: She reviews how she did, what her weaknesses are, and what she learned today. (4 minutes)

If she feels like it, she might play a fun game with her brother while trying to use the techniques she’s been learning. She also teaches her brother what she’s learned.

Weekly plan
She spends her week like this:

  1. Mon-Fri: She does the daily plan above, 20-minutes per day.
  2. Saturday: She reviews what she learned during the week, doing some quick drills in the morning as a review. Then she goes to the gym and plays a pick-up game with some friends, trying to practice what she’s learned, but under game pressure. Eventually she wants to join a league with twice-weekly games. After the game, she thinks about how she did working on her weaknesses.
  3. Sunday: At the end of her week, she writes a short review about how she did during practice, what her successes were, what mistakes or weaknesses need to be worked on, and what her plan for the next week will be. She thinks about all the videos she watched, the drills she’s been practicing, how she did during her game, what her progress has been.

Study Plan 2: Studying Chess

Leo knows the basics of chess, but wants to improve his tactical skills and learn the fundamentals of positional play and endgames. He’s been reading books and practicing online, and eventually wants to join a local tournament.

Daily plan
Every weekday he has a daily session that goes like this:

  1. Review: He will go over endgame and tactical techniques that he’s learned, and quiz himself about basic positional concepts. This review is mostly self-quizzing. He has a list of techniques/concepts to practice daily (things he doesn’t know well yet), every 2 days (knows them slightly better), every 4 days, every 7 days, every 14 days, and so on, depending on how well he knows them. (5 minutes)
  2. Studying: He’ll work through the positions and read the text in one of several books, switching between them each day so that he’s interleaving and varying his practice. (10 minutes)
  3. Drills: He does tactical drills and endgame drills using online software. This practice is varied and interleaved, and it’s a form of self-quizzing. He’ll also do this during the day when he gets breaks. (10 minutes during his practice session, but probably an hour throughout the day)

In addition, he’s slowly learning a few openings by practicing them each day and trying to study the games of masters who played these openings so he understands where the openings go. He does this as additional practice if he has extra time at the end of the day, but it’s not a priority.

Weekly plan
He spends his week like this:

  1. Every day: He does the daily plan every day whenever possible.
  2. Weekends: When he has more time on weekends, he’ll play one or two games online — not a blitz game, but longer one of 30-60 minutes. He then reviews how he did in the game, seeing what opening moves he missed, what tactical errors he made, whether he applied the positional ideas he learned, what his major weaknesses were that he could improve through learning and practice. He also takes time to teach his kids some of what he’s learned.
  3. Sunday: At the end of the weekend, he takes a few minutes to review how he did with his studying, what progress he’s made, what major things he learned, what weaknesses still need to be worked on, what could be improved with his studying.