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Find your atlas

2 min read

When I started medical school, I was reading up on a lot of resources at once. I would jump from one book to another, even though I’m studying the same topic. One week I’m doing questions from this book; the next week, I’m doing practice questions from another book.

At first, I was clueless, as my school didn’t give me an exact list of things I need to know for my exams.

After doing this for quite some time, I realised how unnecessary it is. The knowledge I got from each resource was too superficial. I couldn’t get the basics right—jack of all trades, master of none.

It got me thinking: Why don’t I pick one or two resources, make it my syllabus, and master it well?

Find your map

Whatever subject you are taking, one or two resources will cover everything you need to know well.

Take charge of your learning and pick your syllabus. This is especially true for subjects where you don’t know what might come up in your exams, like Medicine.

When your path is hazy, pick a path and stick to it.

Pick one resource as your syllabus, your roadmap, your atlas to navigate the road to mastery. Your atlas might not be perfect, but sticking to one is better than selecting many maps and ending up lost. You can always correct course along the way.

Why pick an atlas

Whether or not you like it, you can’t know everything there is to a topic. That’s impossible. It’s better to know one resource well rather than stress yourself trying to know everything.

In medicine, there are myriads of resources for you to pick. By picking too many resources, you’re making it more challenging than what it should be.

Picking too many resources can also give you anxiety from thinking about all the books you have yet to read. Mastering one resource well gives you confidence. Your progress becomes visible.

If you can understand one resource well, you can skim through other books. In fact, you might only discover one or two novel ideas to supplement your current knowledge.

Think of it as a pyramid. Your atlas is the base and foundation of the pyramid. It is stable and dependable. Once you have a solid base, you can build the top of the pyramid with other resources.

Picking too many resources only leads to overwhelm and unnecessary busyness.

“Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness - lazy thinking and indiscriminate action,”

Tim Ferriss.

By sticking to one resource, you don’t have to decide about what to study. You have one map, and you can stick to it. The time you spend choosing is time you could spend studying.

Simplification makes everything easier.

When Instagram launched in 2010, they had competition from Facebook, Flickr and Hipstamatic. Their competitors had great full-feature experience and more money and infrastructure. But everyone used Instagram to share photos because of how simple it is. You could only take a picture, put a filter on it, and share it with people—no fluff, simplicity.

How to pick your atlas

The best way to pick your atlas is to use the 80/20 Rule. What are the 20% of resources that will get you 80% of results? Make the 20% your north star.

If you have trouble finding the 20%, find the experts in your field and ask their opinion for it. Ask them about the resources they used that led to 80% of the results. Don’t be afraid to stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from their mistakes.

Don’t compare your atlas with someone else’s. What works for them does not mean it will work for you. Stick to what works for you and improvise if you need to.

You are responsible for your education. Find your atlas and stick to it.

Effective Learning


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