When metalearning a certain skill or subject, spend time looking for existing learning plans. For academic subjects, retrieve curriculum or syllabus. For nonacademic subjects or skills, Use expert interviews to identify best ways to learn a subject or skill. Or you can simply search how people learned the subject or skill. This is called benchmarking.

After retrieving existing plans and choosing one (or creating your own by combining different plans), look closer and remove or postpone elements that don’t support your learning objectives. This is called emphasizing-excluding. If you are a complete beginner, avoid emphasizing-excluding until you have learned enough of the subject to make informed decisions.


Young, S. (2019). Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career (Illustrated edition). Harper Business.

Benchmarking is finding the common ways in which people learn the skill or subject. If the subject is taught in school, then look for existing curricula. If you are trying to learn a nonacademic subject or a professional skill, do online searches for people who have previously learned that skill or interview an expert.

Emphasizing/excluding involves making modifications in the default curriculum you found. Omit or delay elements of your benchmarked curriculum that don’t align with your learning goals. That said, if you may not understand a lot about your subject, stick closer to you benchmark until you learn a bit more.