How to write a thesis or capstone 10 minutes at a time | How I learn deeply and permanently

I think the most challenging aspect of school is learning how you learn. Ironically, “smarter” people tend to get away with less need to reflect on their own process to learn 1. The are simply able to just absorb more “naturally”.

I have not been such an individual. My learning required a deliberate process. This thing I’ve found that works best is diligent regular practice. This however has the benefit of being useful for busy people. Previously, I wrote about the learning process up until that point2. Since then however I discovered the work of Nikolas Luhmann and his Zettelkasten. His method is unique. Luhmann used his Zettelkasten system his entire professional life. It behooves us to at least evaluate his process and implement the things that work for us.

In the vein of implementing the aspects of Luhmann’s process I’ve defined two macro steps: acquisition, and distillation. Both phases are simultaneous. It’s not a linear process. Rather one learns and iteratively deepens understanding. Kuhn refers to this as a “bulb study” 3. This is the hardest part. I found that it’s the time when it’s easiest to procrastinate. The deeper you get into a topic, the more challenging and more esoteric the next step becomes4. do you drive yourself to keep getting deeper… I think the answer is the same as at the beginning, 5 minutes at a time, and follow the interestingness


  1. Edward Kmett, Stop Treading Water: Learning to Learn by Edward Kmett. (Dec. 05, 2017) [Online]. Available: [Accessed: Mar. 30, 2022] ↩︎

  2. J. wright, “Learning Questions”, May 2020. [Online]. Available: ↩︎

  3. B. Kuhn, “In defense of blub studies,”, Dec. 2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: Apr. 24, 2022] ↩︎

  4. Hillel Wayne uses this property as a litmus test. He asks the question, “What is your favorite book on that subject?” Hillel correlates the more esoteric and hyper specific the book, the deeper one understands that topic. For example consider two individual’s favorite Java book: Head First Java vs Java Concurrency in Practice. Who of these individuals have likely spent more time within Java? ↩︎