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Why Aiming For a Less Than 100% Can Optimize Learning

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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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 May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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