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Why Aiming For a Less Than 100% Can Optimize Learning

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Why Aiming For a Less Than 100% Can Optimize Learning

Your friends call you a perfectionist. As a child, you sat eagerly at your desk, awaiting the results from your latest exam. Despite most of your friends being content with a B+, you were only truly happy with 100%. While achieving 100% on school tests is possible, the habit of demanding 100%in order to be satisfied with your performance, may limit your learning later in life. That’s because real-life is not about perfection. In fact, if you regularly ace everything you try, you aren’t adequately challenging yourself. To remain optimally engaged in the learning process, you must push yourself beyond what you have already mastered. Otherwise, you will become bored and lose your edge.

Why We Learned to Aim for 100%

Society sets us up at an early age with a massive fear of failure. While most young children are willing to try almost any activity, we lose that enthusiasm by the time we hit puberty. We worry what people will think of us if we don’t do well, and we learn to give up on things that we don’t master right away. Yet, staying in that fearful mindset will cause you to miss out on both the joy of the learning process and your ultimate success. You are unlikely to grow if you don’t make any mistakes. Staying in activities that you easily master may give you a momentary feeling of comfort and security, but it will limit your learning in the long term.

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Why 80% Success Is Better for Optimal Learning

In order to maximize your learning potential, aim for a success rate of 80% during the learning process. For those over-achievers out there, I imagine you are now twitching with discomfort. Yes, 80% means that occasionally you won’t be successful in what you try. The important thing to remember is that we don’t actually receive a grade in life. As adults, we get to decide our own measurements for success. Keep in mind that as soon as you achieve your goal, or learn what you set out to learn, you will naturally raise the bar. That keeps you engaged, allows you to learn faster, and constantly increases your skill. Consistently aiming for a success rate of about 80% will give you a feeling of mastery, while ensuring that you continue growing.

1. Write down what you want to learn each week

The simple act of writing down what you want to focus on will keep the information fresh in your mind. That way, when other things come up, you can stay focused on your specific goals. Remember to choose goals that will keep you at the optimum 80% success rate.

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2. Keep track of how you spend your time

Before you start any new project or take on a new activity, spend some time writing down how you currently spend your time. You likely have a busy schedule, and any new activity will give you less time for what you already do. Decide what is essential in your schedule and what you would be willing to replace with your new activity. Be careful not to overload your schedule. If you are already working at full capacity, don’t add more. Instead, replace a less important activity with the new one you’d like to learn.

3. Increase or decrease difficulty based on your rate of success

Keep track of your success rate each week. If you are regularly mastering more than 80% of what you planned for yourself, consider increasing the difficulty of your activity. On the other hand, if you typically achieve less than 80%, ease up and make next week less challenging. In this way, you will stay optimally engaged on a consistent basis.

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Don’t worry too much about the exact numbers. The most important part is to keep yourself stimulated by taking on challenges you haven’t yet mastered. The overachiever in you, who strained forward in her desk to see her exam score, may feel a little disappointed at first but that’s ok. Once you get in the habit of challenging yourself, the acceleration in your learning will speak for itself. Soon you will find yourself able to tackle challenges that your old perfectionist self never dreamed possible.

Featured photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo via unsplash.com

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More by this author

Lindsay Shaffer

Lindsay is a passionate teacher and writer who shares thoughts and ideas that inspire people to follow their passions.

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Last Updated on January 27, 2022

5 Unexpected Places to Boost Your Productivity

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5 Unexpected Places to Boost Your Productivity

The environment of a typical office or a quiet library may sometimes lessen your productivity as the unchanging views fail to stimulate your senses and keep your brain running. If you are the kind that dislikes absolute silence or minimal noise when working, these unexpected places to work may boost your productivity level!

1. Coffee shops

Research has shown that an adequate amount of ambient noise stimulates your senses and keeps you alert. Where else better to find some chatter and clatter to boost your creative juices? Working in the coffee shop also guarantees something else: unlimited supplies of caffeine!

Caffeine wakes you up by fooling adenosine receptors and speeds transmitting activities up in your nerve cells.If you do decide to try this place out, make sure that your work computer is facing the coffee shop customers so you will be less likely to procrastinate or go to inappropriate sites because people are secretly watching you.

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If your workplace requires you to be in the office, try this website and/or phone app that provides you with sounds from coffee shops around the world. Want to work at a cafe in Paris? No problem, it’s just a button away.

2. Cafeterias

Similar to coffee shops, company cafeteria or food courts provide consistent noise and the smell of food. The aroma of food makes you look forward to your next break and should motivate you to complete your work.

The act of eating likewise keeps your brain alert and produces dopamine. But make sure only to snack and stay around 60% full so that each bite is rewarding and invigorating. Snacking every 90 minutes should keep your brain balanced enough to focus on the work at hand.

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3. Empty University Classrooms  

Whether or not you’re an university student, we have all been a student at some point in our lives. And when you’re in a classroom, your brain is primed to stay focused because you have been conditioned to concentrate in class. In comparison to your bedroom, where your brain is primed to relax, sleep and have fun, the environment of the classroom triggers your memory to stay alert (unless you never listened in class) and work.

If you do decide to try working in an empty university classroom, be sure to bring a studious friend. Once you see that your friend or coworker is working hard, you would feel guilty for procrastinate and be more competitive.

Ever heard of environmental context-dependent memory? Research has shown that environmental context influences the way we encode information. If you study in the same place you first learned the material, your chances of recalling the information are significantly increased. Use environmental cues to your advantage so you spend less time doing more work!

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4. Outdoors

Fresh air, sunlight, cool breeze. Talk about getting your vitamin Ds the natural way. A healthy body is crucial to being productive. If you have a porch, use it to maximize your productivity!

On a cool day, the crisp air is good for waking your brain up. If your work station is indoors and poorly ventilated, the build up of carbon dioxide will cause your brain to be less active, hence, less productive. Try to bring some work to a park nearby or an unsheltered town square where you are exposed to the sun. Fresh air will vitalize your brain and the warm sunlight will bring a smile to your face.

5. The Shower 

Many people experience their “Aha!” moments when they’re in the shower. Why is that? The hot water helps with circulation and improves blood flow to your brain, giving it more oxygen and nourishment to break down your work block.

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If you aren’t motivated to work or feeling bored, a good shower will not only open up your pores, but also give your brain a boost of energy. Keep a waterproof white board and markers in the washroom so you will never lose those wonderful ideas again!

Featured photo credit: Thomas Franke via unsplash.com

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