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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

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.

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

More by this author

Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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