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I'm majoring in computer science. The amount of stuff we learn is already overwhelming. Topics I'm learning about so many stuff (networking, security, web development, and software development). Not to mention the extra stuff such as Personal Productivity(duhh!!), Languages, or other stuff in general.

My problem is that my mind keeps telling me to learn the ins and outs of everything I see. If I don't do that, I won't feel satisfied or I keep thinking that I didn't learn enough about that subject and thus I should learn more the next day. Because of this, my mind feels worn off and I end up doing nothing productive.

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5 Answers 5

It sounds like you are suffering from an academic form of Analysis Paralysis. Wikipedia defines it as:

Analysis paralysis or paralysis of analysis is an anti-pattern, the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.

While you are not facing a specific decision, you are overwhelming yourself with options. It's easy to do when faced with so many. Computer science, in particular, as one of the newest sciences, is changing at a pace faster than educational curriculum can keep up with. Even technology experts today predict that the pace of technology will continue to mature faster and more complex until one day soon all humanity won't be able to keep up with the changes. Google's new director of engineering Ray Kurzweil is a well known modern proponent of this theory he helped popularize in a book called The Singularity Is Near and predicts this event occurring in 2045. According to Wikipedia:

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a hypothetical moment in time when artificial intelligence will have progressed to the point of a greater-than-human intelligence, radically changing civilization, and perhaps human nature.1 Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be difficult for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is often seen as an occurrence (akin to a gravitational singularity) beyond which the future course of human history is unpredictable or even unfathomable.

Image Credit: Time Magazine

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The bottom line is that you cannot keep up with learning all available technology. Learn to accept that.

That leaves you on the growing path of Generalization to Specialization. You might be a Jack-of-all trades but master of none. Forget trying to be a renaissance man. Even modern polymaths are specialists, the best of which have mastered five domains ( http://www.moreintelligentlife.com/blog/ed-cumming/hunting-modern-polymaths).

Too much specialization can also be bad as the ever changing pace of technology can quickly disrupt older ones. Imagine spending all your time mastering Adobe Flash and seeing all that skill falling at the wayside of the touchscreen. (http://www.extremetech.com/computing/134551-why-flash-failed-on-android-and-what-it-means-for-adobe) Creative disruption is the norm in this economy.

This is why you need to build up a large knowledge base to keep you flexible. According to Forbes Magazine article "New Problems, New Approaches, The Rise of The Generalist", generalists are needed now, more than ever, to help organizations solve problems that specialists can no longer handle. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2013/12/28/new-problems-new-approaches-the-rise-of-the-generalist/)

Your goal should be to become a "T" shaped learner. Build up a general base of knowledge and master one thing really well.

Image Credit: Create Jobs London blog, "A T-Shaped Learning Future"

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If you aspire to be modern renaissance man then work towards becoming an "E" or "Comb" shaped learner mastering more subjects as you go along, but remember: you can't know it all. It's just not possible.

Consider your first mastery choice starting with the field that you enjoy and are the most skilled at currently. Pick something and go with it. If you don't analysis paralysis will keep you from a desirable outcome.

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Sounds like you need to break up these things into subjects and then prioritize them based on necessity.

Each class you have, should be a project with several subjects that need to be learned. As tests approach or new topics are introduced, you need to prioritize feeling comfortable with the previous subjects in the project.

This way you will always stay on top of class. Anything else you want to learn is extra, prioritize by how important it is to you and then approach those projects or subjects as you have extra time, assuming you want to spend time on them.

Also, you need to become comfortable with the fact that you're not an expert in everything, or really, anything by now. You have plenty of time ahead of you to focus in on specific topics and gain expertise, but again, priority is most important.

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The field of Computer Science changes too quickly to EVER become an expert in the whole field. Focus on learning three sets of things:

  1. What your classes require (in slightly more detail than the class requires.)
  2. Things you are interested in (like productivity) in some detail
  3. One or two things to learn in great detail. This is satisfying so you shouldn't put it aside. But limit yourself to a small amount of things to master at a time. And have them be specific so you can actually attain mastery. For example, maybe you decide to master writing a regular expression. (This is way harder than it sounds. Once you delve in, you'll see there is a lot to learn.) So maybe you don't want mastery. Maybe you want enough understanding to have your mind feel full.
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There have already been some very good answers to this question.

The small thing that I would like to add is that the thirst for knowledge can be a little like a sugar rush. It satisfies you and you may be drawn to it to such a degree that it drives you to distraction when you try to put it to one side.

Perhaps one way around this matter would be to control the quantity of learning of what you regard non-essential subjects. This could be a time limit of, say, 5 minutes in a given day (perhaps once a week or more often if it keeps nagging you), or it could be limited to one 'element' of the subject.

Of course if you are dedicating yourself to learn a given 'element' it is important to make sure that you are not assigning yourself an element that is much larger than you bargained for. If this is appearing to be the case then simply outline the various 'sub elements' of the element and put it to one side for continued digestion at the next allotted time slot.


A further, potentially very simple method of easing the thirst for non-essential knowledge is to keep a diary/ journal whereby you actually jot notes about the things you would 'like' to learn.

This trick may relax the nerve that compels you to learn by telling yourself that you can go back to your journal at any time you like - you no longer need to fear forgetting it and you may feel less compelled to learn it.

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Reconsider your identity. Remember your life's mission. In case there is none, focus increasingly on finding one (I can tell more about that). You clearly have no teacher or spiritual guide.

Buy performing one's own duty, even imperfectly and partially, one is still protected, and can be peaceful and happy. (Bhagavad-gita 18.47, 2.64-66).

More to the practical point: renunciation. You have the impression that by sifting through piles of garbage you will collect great value. Actually, you become increasingly affected by the weapons of mass distraction. To counter that, you can do the opposite, only concentrate on the best, most reliable, time-tested and universally accepted knowledge. Even as you start approaching it, you will be immensely rewarded. The entire material creation is made out of a very limited number of ingredients (24, accordingly to sankhya philosophy). By reviving your spiritual nature, the material permutations will gradually fade into obscurity.

From personal experience

After more than 20 years of study and knowing most of the major computer languages (Fortran, Lisp, Pascal, C, ML, ... Java, Scala) I have the impression that erudition alone has very little value. I can certainly impress colleagues, but it gives no satisfaction. It is only the first step in the evolution of consciousness. Broaden your knowledge only as much as you can with joy and enthusiasm. Steve McConnel has recapped much of the Software Engineering knowledge in his book Rapid Development. This is what I read with joy.

The next step is concentration. It is superior to erudition in significance. Steve Siebold's #3. The one who controls his mind has already attained God (Bhagavad-gita 6.7). Pick the objective you are ready to die for, subject everything else to that objective and you will attain world-class.

The ultimate step in development of consciousness is purification. Half-truths are a liability, not an asset. Bloated 1Gb framework is good to get your program started quickly, but limits your ability to deploy or sell it. Ultimately, it is people, not technology that make sense. Earnest seekers reach this conclusion. Everything can be given up unrepentantly (Bhagavad-gita 18.66), when you have a permanent, infinite source in your hands (or heart). The highest happiness is within. Dependency on external factors can only decrease it. Only pursue technological knowledge to the degree that you can apply it and then get rid of it. If your happiness would become dependent on computers, that would be a terrible limitation.

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