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If You Want To Be An Effective Learner, You Need To Develop These 4 Skills

If You Want To Be An Effective Learner, You Need To Develop These 4 Skills
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Say your thirtieth birthday is approaching, and as a sign of this new level of maturity, you’ve decided to add a bit of value and refinement into your life. You’ve toyed with several ideas, including becoming a wine connoisseur, a poet laureate, a yoga instructor, a ukulele player, or a juggler. You finally settle on learning a new language, Korean. You are inspired and sprint at maximum effort for three or four weeks. Then your energy and enthusiasm dwindle, and by week five you’ve learned enough Korean to order badly at a restaurant and offend the regulars. So, you decide to take up the ukulele. A month later you’ve learned to play a poor rendition of Happy Birthday. Bored and disenchanted, you quit again.

So, the question becomes, how do you become an effective learner and expand your horizons?

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1. Assess the value of what you are considering learning

Assessment is a very important first step. Learning something new requires the expenditure of time, attention, effort, and energy, and in most cases, money as well. Before you invest in learning something new, determine if it is something worth your effort. Two questions you should ask yourself:

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  1. How will this new knowledge or skill benefit me and what purpose will it serve? If the skill will not meet a need or serve a real purpose in your life, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon learning about it–it should, however, dictate the amount of resources the endeavor should consume.
  2. How badly do I want to learn it? Again, the answer to this question will help you adequately budget how much time and energy you should give to the activity, or decide whether it is even worth the time and energy.

Sometimes, we lie to ourselves about what we want, or we think we want what others have. The key here is to assess why you want to acquire that knowledge or skill, then determine if you REALLY want it.

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2.  Set realistic goals

Establishing realistic learning goals is a major key to effective learning. When learning something new, 100 percent mastery is a lofty and oftentimes unrealistic goal. The brain works best under an optimal amount of stress, but not under copious and burdensome amounts of stress. The level of stress must be high but manageable. Setting a goal of 80% mastery of a new skill is the sweet spot. It is challenging yet doable. [1]Success fuels motivation, while failure kills it. Allowing yourself room to fail, while still setting high learning goals, is the best way for learning optimization to occur.

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3. When your learning plateaus, move on

Once you hit a mental plateau and your learning has considerably slowed, your brain is ready to tackle something new. The most effective way to take advantage of the brain’s malleability is by learning something that is related to what you were previously learning. The brain naturally organizes and categorizes information, and “chunking” previous learning with new learning is the most effective way to attain and maintain new knowledge and skills.[2] For example, if you were taking a public speaking course, you could then transition to taking acting lessons. When information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things you already have in your memory, learning becomes so much more powerful.[3]

4. Multitasking is the enemy

Multitasking, in its true sense, is a mythical beast. It simply doesn’t exist. Research shows that it is impossible for the brain to simultaneously work on multiple tasks at once.[4] Instead, the mind constantly switches between the tasks and their contexts, spinning only one plate at a time. Multitasking is a highly inefficient way of going about getting things done. In fact, the brain’s inability to focus on two processes in tandem is precisely why texting and driving are forbidden. Effective and efficient learning occurs quickest when there is 100% focus.

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Reference

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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