At high school I routinely scored over 95% in most subjects, at a highly competitive private school I was at the top of my class for every subject I took at one time or another, often most of my subjects, most of the time. All the while barely paying attention in class, and not doing my homework. I had a lot of piano practice to do (I was aiming to be a professional pianist), so “ain’t nobody got time for that”!
What I did do though, was spent hours every night, weekend, and often during class time trying to prove everything I was taught wrong. When we were taught relativity, for example, I spent literally hundreds of hours tearing apart the equations to find out “where Einstein got it wrong”, or trying to devise alternate explanations, or when we were doing electricity and magnetism, I spent hours designing an earth-sized electrical generator, figuring out how much copper would be required to generate enough electricity for the whole world, how fast it would need to rotate, how to get the electricity back to the ground, etc. For biology, I wrote short novels based on fantasy worlds, where I described in great details the ecosystems and drew animals and described their biology and evolution. I invented a new model for light (neither wave nor particle) when we were learning about that. I invented a new language and alphabet (was a massive Tolkien fan!), etc, Etc.
So, by only using my textbooks and teacher as a resource when I needed to know something for my next design, invention or “proof wrong”, I ended up knowing all the work far more intimately than anyone, often including my teachers 🙂
That was my only “study” method – it came naturally to me. I wasn’t trying to do anything, I was just ridiculously curious and couldn’t help myself…
When I went to university, studying piano, I had a one hour commute on the train. While on the train I would memorize my scores (as a concert pianist you must play just about everything from memory). Visualizing / “auralizing” every note until I knew the whole piece by heart, before ever touching the keys. To achieve this, I would set a strict timetable, mapping out the piece before starting to learn it, with a certain amount to be learned every day. I would switch between 3-4 pieces, spending several minutes on each one alternately.
In (mostly) this way I memorized over 24 hours of complex classical piano music in four years, along with countless popular songs.
At 30, I stopped being a musician and became a programmer. I applied the same approach to learning this. I examined and played with source code, not so much reading tutorials, and definitely no attending school again to learn stuff. There was no “study”, only trying to quench my curiosity.
Now, I’m directing a non-profit, developing a new model to eliminate poverty through entrepreneurship – I’m learning about how to chair a meeting by chairing meetings (and noticing how others do it well), how to fundraise by actually fundraising, etc. When problems arise – I find someone (or a book, or a website) and look for the answer to the problem.
My personal view is that if it feels like “study”, then you’re doing it wrong. It has to be so much fun that you jump out of bed each day, breathless to learn more, wishing you could sleep less so that you could find out the answers sooner…