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You Can Remember And Apply Everything You Read (With This Learning Technique)

You Can Remember And Apply Everything You Read (With This Learning Technique)

Why do some people seem to have an uncanny knack for learning things quickly while you struggle? You even try gimmicks to memorize the information, everything from creating songs and catchy mnemonic devices to more extreme approaches such as listening to books on tape while you sleep and even weird visualization techniques.. but the information just won’t stick!

While learning styles may differ, there are similarities in the way the brain takes in and handles new information and that tidbit of knowledge can yield efficient strategies for learning new things.

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Understanding your brain

The human brain[1] consists of special cells called neurons, which are made up of several parts, including brain fibers known as dendrites. As you learn, dendrites grow and connect your brain cells to one another at contact points called synapses.[2] The larger your dendrites become, the more connections they make and more connections mean a greater storage capacity for your brain.

The caveat to this is that dendrites can only be produced and increased in size by building upon existing dendrites.[3] In other words, to acquire new knowledge, the brain must build upon existing information.

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Introducing the FeynmanTechnique

The Feynman Technique[4] is a mental model[5] named after the Nobel Prize Winning Physicist, Richard Feynman[6]. It is a technique he created that streamlines and simplifies the learning process. The method enables you to comprehend and remember almost anything. It is designed to help you understand difficult concepts and easily recall information you’ve already learned.

This technique complements and assists the brain’s natural process of building dendrites and increasing synapses.

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The process is surprisingly simple yet incredibly effective. It involves three simple steps:

  1. Read the information
  2. Write down key concepts and information you don’t know in simple easy-to-understand terms—as if you were going to teach it to someone else
  3. Refer back to the information source to review information if you get stuck or for particular concepts you don’t fully understand.

Why it works

You are probably not very impressed or convinced by this method as it seems so simple. However, its simplicity masks its true power. Consider how most people normally attack learning a new concept or try to study unfamiliar material for an exam. Nine times out of ten, you read the material a couple of times and then hope you remember it… How’s that working for you?

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This method is effective for a variety of reasons:

  •  It is active, meaning it requires the learner to actively engage in learning by doing something (writing) versus the more passive activity of simply sitting and reading. The brain is stimulated by the action of writing[7]
  • It requires a series of mental functions. In this method, you are not merely copying the material. You must understand and interpret what you are reading and then translate it into your own simplified personal language. The mere act of analyzing information and then simplifying it is a much more involved and mentally intensive act than most people realize.
  • Thinking like a teacher makes you a better learner. The concept is simple: when you understand an idea well enough to explain it to others, it helps you internalize it. Learning information from the posture of having to simplify it and give it to someone else is one of the best ways to ensure true comprehension[8].

Learning is an activity. It requires action on your part. Instead of employing elaborate and outlandish techniques requiring undue expenditures of time and energy try this researched and proven method. Read the material. Write it down in a simplified form, as if you are going to teach it to someone else and then review the source material to clear up any ambiguity. It’s as easy as one, two, three!

Featured photo credit: ViktorHanacek.cz via pexels.com

Reference

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 11, 2019

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

Why To-Do Lists Don’t Work (And How to Change That)

How often do you feel overwhelmed and disorganized in life, whether at work or home? We all seem to struggle with time management in some area of our life; one of the most common phrases besides “I love you” is “I don’t have time”. Everyone suggests working from a to-do list to start getting your life more organized, but why do these lists also have a negative connotation to them?

Let’s say you have a strong desire to turn this situation around with all your good intentions—you may then take out a piece of paper and pen to start tackling this intangible mess with a to-do list. What usually happens, is that you either get so overwhelmed seeing everything on your list, which leaves you feeling worse than you did before, or you make the list but are completely stuck on how to execute it effectively.

To-do lists can work for you, but if you are not using them effectively, they can actually leave you feeling more disillusioned and stressed than you did before. Think of a filing system: the concept is good, but if you merely file papers away with no structure or system, the filing system will have an adverse effect. It’s the same with to-do lists—you can put one together, but if you don’t do it right, it is a fruitless exercise.

Why Some People Find That General To-Do Lists Don’t Work?

Most people find that general to-do lists don’t work because:

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  • They get so overwhelmed just by looking at all the things they need to do.
  • They don’t know how to prioritize the items on list.
  • They feel that they are continuously adding to their list but not reducing it.
  • There’s a sense of confusion seeing home tasks mixed with work tasks.

Benefits of Using a To-Do List

However, there are many advantages working from a to-do list:

  • You have clarity on what you need to get done.
  • You will feel less stressed because all your ‘to do’s are on paper and out of your mind.
  • It helps you to prioritize your actions.
  • You don’t overlook so many tasks and forget anything.
  • You feel more organized.
  • It helps you with planning.

4 Golden Rules to Make a To-Do List Work

Here are my golden rules for making a “to-do” list work:

1. Categorize

Studies have shown that your brain gets overwhelmed when it sees a list of 7 or 8 options; it wants to shut down.[1] For this reason, you need to work from different lists. Separate them into different categories and don’t have more than 7 or 8 tasks on each one.

It might work well for you to have a “project” list, a “follow-up” list, and a “don’t forget” list; you will know what will work best for you, as these titles will be different for everybody.

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2. Add Estimations

You don’t merely need to know what has to be done, but how long it will take as well in order to plan effectively.

Imagine on your list you have one task that will take 30 minutes, another that could take 1 hour, and another that could take 4 hours. You need to know the moment you look at the task, otherwise you undermine your planning, so add an extra column to your list and include your estimation of how long you think the task will take, and be realistic!

Tip: If you find it a challenge to estimate accurately, then start by building this skill on a daily basis. Estimate how long it will take to get ready, cook dinner, go for a walk, etc., and then compare this to the actual time it took you. You will start to get more accurate in your estimations.

3. Prioritize

To effectively select what you should work on, you need to take into consideration: priority, sequence and estimated time. Add another column to your list for priority. Divide your tasks into four categories:

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  • Important and urgent
  • Not urgent but important
  • Not important but urgent
  • Not important or urgent

You want to work on tasks that are urgent and important of course, but also, select some tasks that are important and not urgent. Why? Because these tasks are normally related to long-term goals, and when you only work on tasks that are urgent and important, you’ll feel like your day is spent putting out fires. You’ll end up neglecting other important areas which most often end up having negative consequences.

Most of your time should be spent on the first two categories.

4.  Review

To make this list work effectively for you, it needs to become a daily tool that you use to manage your time and you review it regularly. There is no point in only having the list to record everything that you need to do, but you don’t utilize it as part of your bigger time management plan.

For example: At the end of every week, review the list and use it to plan the week ahead. Select what you want to work on taking into consideration priority, time and sequence and then schedule these items into your calendar. Golden rule in planning: don’t schedule more than 75% of your time.

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Bottom Line

So grab a pen and paper and give yourself the gift of a calm and clear mind by unloading everything in there and onto a list as now, you have all the tools you need for it to work. Knowledge is useless unless it is applied—how badly do you want more time?

To your success!

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Featured photo credit: Emma Matthews via unsplash.com

Reference

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