Advertising
Advertising

Repeated Practice Without Strategy Won’t Help You Learn Faster No Matter How Hard-Working You Are

Repeated Practice Without Strategy Won’t Help You Learn Faster No Matter How Hard-Working You Are

When you are excited to learn a new skill, progress seems to come naturally. The first few weeks of practice fly by with tremendous growth and a feeling of satisfaction. Yet, all of us are familiar with what happens next. You grow bored, your progress slows, and you feel like you’ve hit a wall. At that point, you may be tempted to quit, but here is a better alternative.

Take Breaks when Your Progress Slows

Instead of giving up on your new skill when you hit a wall, give yourself permission to take a break. Remind yourself that any new ability takes time to develop. You would not expect a young child to become an expert reader overnight, but we often set ourselves up for disappointment by demanding that we achieve mastery in a similarly unreasonable timeframe. Free yourself from this kind of unnecessary disappointment by planning to take a break when you need to.

Advertising

When to Take a Break

For many people, progress slows after 4-6 weeks of consistent practice. While you can take a break to practice a completely separate skill or work on a different goal, you will benefit most from turning your attention to a similar or complementary skillset.[1] For instance, if your goal is to learn French, you can take a break to cultivate your poetry skills. Even though you will be writing poetry in English, you will still be focused on improving your confidence with language in general. When you return to practicing French, you will approach your lessons with a fresh energy and greatly reduce the chance of burnout.

Advertising

Research Says: Add Variety

For years, musicians and athletes were taught to practice the same skill over and over again in the same way. The idea was to create unconscious competence or “muscle memory” in a certain area. Results from a recent study at John Hopkins University, however, show that adding variety to practice sessions increases learning and retention.[2]

Advertising

What the Research Showed

The study followed 86 volunteers as they learned to use a squeezing device to move a cursor on a computer screen. Volunteers were placed into one of three groups, with each group given a different way to practice the skill. All three groups completed the same first training exercise. Six hours later, one group completed the same exercise, another group completed a variation of the original exercise, and the third group did not get a second practice session. The researchers wanted to see which group would perform best on a subsequent test of their skill mastery. Defying previous wisdom about the importance of repetition, the researchers found that the group who completed the second, slightly varied practice session performed the best.[3]

If you are just starting the journey toward learning a new skill, congratulate yourself! Most people don’t even get that far. They either get distracted, lose interest, or tell themselves they will begin tomorrow. If you have already overcome these challenges, you are well on your to mastery. As you practice, remember not to let your enthusiasm push you past your limits and lead you to burn out. Make sure you take breaks when you sense your progress waning and that you add variety to make the most out of each practice session. With no burnout and lots of variety to keep you engaged, you will be able to tackle each new challenge that comes your way.

Advertising

Reference

[1] Better Humans: How to Learn Many Things at Once (And Stay Sane Doing It
[2] John Hopkins Medicine: Want to Learn a New Skill? Faster? Change Up Your Practice Sessions
[3] Science Alert: Scientists have found a way to help you learn new skills twice as fast

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.

We Must All Face The Choice Between What Is Right And What Is Easy do what you love Do What You Love and Love What You Do to Achieve More Psychology Explains Why Busy People Should Always Make Fun A Priority In Life Having a Mentor Doesn’t Mean You’re Not Smart Enough, It Actually Means the Opposite 10 Best Sites That Offer Gorgeous Free Images for Blogs

Trending in Productivity

1 10 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills 2 The Ultimate Morning Routine for Success of Highly Successful People 3 10 Good Habits to Have in Life to Be More Successful 4 Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthier Life 5 How to Increase Willpower and Be Mentally Tough

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Read Next