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If You Want To Be Smarter, You Need To Use This Phrase Carefully

If You Want To Be Smarter, You Need To Use This Phrase Carefully

Learning new things is one of the best ways to better ourselves and implement self-development and growth. But when you’re expanding your knowledge pool are you doing it as efficiently as possible?

How often do you come across an article, book or any kind of instruction tool that goes towards gaining better knowledge in the area you’re expanding your mind, and see the phrase “for example”? After all, examples are the best way to apply your new-found knowledge to a real-life scenario, helps connect the dots and makes things much clearer. Or do they?

Why “For Example” Isn’t As Helpful As You May Think

Don’t get me wrong, throwing examples into the mix can go a long way in spelling out what you’ve learned. Seeing a way that the fundamental theory can be applied practically helps the brain put it into context.

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However, this isn’t exactly the smartest way to do this and here’s why.

While “for example” creates a pathway in the brain to understand the concepts, it’s coming from the mind of somebody else. In other words, an example doesn’t really teach us the underlying mechanisms or allow us to come to our own conclusions. We may read the example and get the ‘light bulb’ moment but we tend to accept that one example instead of thinking up several more of our own.

Thinking up different, unique examples and even making them more applicable to yourself is much smarter than taking in analogies cooked up by someone else.

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Reasoning By Analogy Versus Reasoning By First Principles

There are two ways we can make decisions and come to conclusions; one is reasoning by analogy and the other is reasoning by first principles.

Reasoning by analogy is when we base our conclusions and decisions on pre-existing ideas. Examples that are fed to us only allow us to apply what we’ve learned to an already established idea and what others are telling you. However, this is how most people work – our mind often finds the easy way out by building on an idea that is already out there. As a result, we take on problem solving from a space of assumption rather than questioning.

Reasoning by first principles is something Elon Musk has been an advocate of and praises his success on. This is when you take the basis or fundamentals of what you’ve learned and come up with your own application. In other words, come up with your own ideas free from any of the pre-existing ideas and allows us to potentially see something in much finer detail.

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The Difficulty Of Putting Examples Into Practice

You could be given all the examples in the world, and while the writer or teacher is trying to be as helpful as he or she can, it’s not allowing you to easily put these into practice. For sure, it’s helping you to remember the concept but when it comes to applying it, you could become stuck pretty quickly undoing the work you’ve put in to thoroughly learn the subject.

To really understand the concept, come up with multiple examples that fit the rule to confirm in your mind that you have fully understood. In addition, don’t use “for example” when explaining things to others. Encourage them to think up examples of their own and watch how they begin to formulate the new ideas themselves.

So next time you come across “for example” when learning something new, take it onboard but be cautious with it. Make sure you think up different ways you can transfer it into different situations and see it form a new angle breaking free from limited, existed thinking.

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Featured photo credit: tookapic via pexels.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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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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