Meta Learning and Gardening
What is Meta Learning?
Meta Learning is learning how to learn. You maybe asking at this point why the hell does this matter and what does this have to do with gardening? My answer to that question is that learning is involved in everything. Learning is how you acquire the knowledge required to do things such as gardening. So knowing the best way to learns things will help you improve recall, increase learning time, comprehension, and finally makes learning more fun! I have used these techniques to learn quickly and balance my gardening and blogging goals on top of my full time job, family life, and other responsibilities. In this post I will offer some techniques for learning that I know will help you.
I have spent the last several years doing meta learning. I wanted to do some many things and only had limited time so maximizing what I could do in the time I had was of major importance to me. As I sat around and thought, I realized this could be some great information for all of you to use. I have learned different learning techniques from different people. Here are the ones that I feel will be the most beneficial for you.
- Pomodoro Technique
- The Tim Ferris Techniques
- The Mind Palace
Modeling is the process of analyzing and copying the behaviors of those who are already having the success you desire. I originally learned this from Tony Robbins, and then more from Tim Ferris. The simple truth is many times those who are having success in something when you are not are either doing something differently than you, have more experience, or both.
Modeling is an important meta learning tool to use because it can help you to pick the appropriate things to focus on. It can also help you save time and not waste efforts on things that have been figured out already. We are in the information age and there are plenty of examples of people you can model from for gardening. Here is a list of resources I have used to learn more about gardening. (Note:The books are affiliate links.)
Gardening Websites I Use Consistently
The Pomodoro Technique
Interestingly the Pomodoro Technique is a meta learning technique I learned while reading a book on learning mathematics called a mind for numbers. The gist of the technique is that you set a 25 minute clock for a task. After 25 minutes of executing take a 5 minute break. Once you complete that 4 times 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off, then take a 15-30 minute break.
The purpose of the breaks is to plan your procrastination. Understanding that the human attention span isn’t endless and this gives you a time to look forward to if you don’t like the task you are doing. It also helps to take your mind briefly off the task with a focus that sometimes allows for new insight. I have been able to use this technique myself at work to stay locked in on tasks and get them done.
I have also used this when reading gardening books or sites. Generally the break allows for me to break away from the task and mentally digest what I have reading. I find it to be an effective method to have sustained work on a task, especially if I am not looking forward to it.
The Tim Ferris Meta Learning Techniques
I have named this section after the man who has contributed more to my thought than probably anyone over the last couple of years, Tim Ferris. For those of you who don’t know Tim check out his blog here. For me his unconventional methods and innovate thought on the meta portion of life is truly inspiring. It also unlocked a lot of great things for me. He has helped me to think differently and change the way I do things to
Tim is the king of 4 hour everything. I have put some affiliate links to his books below. I have read all of the 4 hour books, and have read part of Tools of Titans. That one is where he outlines some of the most successful people in the world and gets their habits. That is using the first meta learning method I discussed, modeling. The best book for meta learning that I read of his is the 4 Hour Chef. He uses cooking as the subject he applies his new learning methods to.
In the book Tim goes through the following meta learning ideas:
Pareto’s Law states that 80% percent of outcomes are the result of 20% of the inputs. This is very true and important reality. I suggest you test it in your own life. I did at work and found that roughly 18% of the products sold constituted 80% of the sales which was crazy! The thing to note here is that when learning something in gardening focus on the 20% of information that will give you the knowledge you need.
It is really about efficiency and focus on what matters. I have found this to be a great and true fact in my own learning. For example when I read blogs I used headings and bold words to skim through articles for the information needed. Normally posts have some examples or information that doesn’t contribute to what I need. So I focus on the most important parts to quickly get what I need. I would suggest you do that as well when you read this blog and other mediums. Pareto’s Law should also be used when you are designing gardening processes. Implement and focus on process that drive most of your results.
Minimum Effective Dose: MED
Tim also uses this in the 4 Hour Body when talking about exercise. The idea is to identify the minimum amount required to get a desired result and then move on. Simply put do what you need to do to get done what you want and no more. Doing extra over top of what it takes to get a task done has a diminishing return and is not efficient.
A gardening example that I have implemented for Deep Water Culture is pH measurement. I started by measuring the water much more frequently than I do now. I may measure at the beginning of a fresh reservoir or if I want to see if I can wait a day or two before changing the water. I also will measure if it looks like the plants are having pH issues.
While it may seem like you should measure the pH everyday, why do it when you know that your medium is good because you have used it before and normally the growing solution will give you the proper pH. Your plants will tell you if something is wrong. To do more frequent measurement it makes sense in my mind to get an automated sensor. The time to check a reading is much less than doing a full reading yourself.
DiSSS and CaFEThe final two of Tim’s methods are DiSSS(dissect,selection, sequencing, stakes) and CaFE(compression, frequency, encoding). These are real magic. The idea behind DiSSS is to break up a task or goal into its parts, selecting the important 20%, ordering it appropriately and efficiently, and making stakes for achieving the goal. Really this is about planning and setting the roadmap for success and is a great process for learning. One thing he mentions in the book is to create stakes for yourself so you follow through. Stakes meaning a penalty or reward for following through or not.
Stakes provide more motivation and energy to the task. Sequencing is about planning the order for doing something. Tim mentions to always question conventional wisdom on this because sometimes changing the order can be better.
CaFE is about compression the 20% of tasks down to a page, really restrict it so you can stay focused on a small amount of things. Frequency references how often you should practice to ensure you learn. Also to learn faster can you cram more into your schedule? Finally encoding is picking the best ways for you to remember things. I will go through a great way to do that in the next section.
In gardening I would suggest the following application of the above techniques. To properly learn gardening you need to understand, how the environment impacts plants, how nutrients impact plants, and how plants grow. You also need to learn tasks like seeding, watering, feeding, pruning, harvesting, and land preparation. This isn’t an exhaustive list but as you can see there is a lot. Understanding things about plant biology is interesting and is very helpful but can wait in my mind.
I would select a good book like Botany for Gardeners, and use a website like this one 🙂 or one of the sites listed above to get answers quickly. I would also suggest starting planting and growing some microgreens at home. You can do this before you have a mastery of all the topics involved with gardening. One important thing about gardening is doing it and getting in tune with the plants you are growing. Even though planting may seem early before you know everything it will actually help you learn more about gardening than many other things, because you are gardening!
Note: I couldn’t get a link to a cheaper version of the 4 Hour Chef book so search around to find it for around 25 dollars.
The Mind Palace
The Mind Palace is a great learning technique I got based from a book called Unlimited Memory written by memory Grand-master Kevin Horsley. He has won memory competitions and go through a ton of great memorization techniques. While memorizing is not necessarily learning, it is a key part in linking things together. To be able to use information you must remember it. So to memorize things for later use my favorite method he uses, he doesn’t name it specifically but I will use the name the Mind Palace.
The Mind Palace was a method used in a story about Simonides of Creos where he used the seating chart to memorize the faces of the deceased members of a dinner party in a collapsed banquet. Check this link for more information on the history. This method is also know as the method of loci. The idea is to used an organized visual and spatial place and assigning things you want to remember to them.
As an example if I want to remember what nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium do for plants. I would imagine a shed with shelves on it. On those shelves I would have one for each nutrient and maybe an a wacky item that is linked to the fact in someway. On shelf one I might have nitrogen and think of a muscle magazine sitting next to it because nitrogen is key in building proteins in plants. I would do something similar for the other two.
While this seems very counter intuitive to memorize more information than just the fact itself, it actually works! I have tried it with complex mathematical formulas and other things I need to remember. The reason it works is because our brains are better at remembering visuals than they are just facts. So linking the facts to a visual greatly helps recall. This method does take practice but is worth learning
ConclusionMeta Learning is a very important thing that seems unrelated to gardening but it is in fact related to everything. Knowing the best way to learn for yourself will allow you to have the success you want with gardening or any other task or skill you choose to learn.