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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.

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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.

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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]

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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.

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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

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Lindsay Shaffer

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Last Updated on November 19, 2019

7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy

7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy

“Busy” used to be a fair description of the typical schedule. More and more, though, “busy” simply doesn’t cut it.

“Busy” has been replaced with “too busy”, “far too busy”, or “absolutely buried.” It’s true that being productive often means being busy…but it’s only true up to a point.

As you likely know from personal experience, you can become so busy that you reach a tipping point…a point where your life tips over and falls apart because you can no longer withstand the weight of your commitments.

Once you’ve reached that point, it becomes fairly obvious that you’ve over-committed yourself.

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The trick, though, is to recognize the signs of “too busy” before you reach that tipping point. A little self-assessment and some proactive schedule-thinning can prevent you from having that meltdown.

To help you in that self-assessment, here are 7 signs that you’re way too busy:

1. You Can’t Remember the Last Time You Took a Day Off

Occasional periods of rest are not unproductive, they are essential to productivity. Extended periods of non-stop activity result in fatigue, and fatigue results in lower-quality output. As Sydney J. Harris once said,

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

2. Those Closest to You Have Stopped Asking for Your Time

Why? They simply know that you have no time to give them. Your loved ones will be persistent for a long time, but once you reach the point where they’ve stopped asking, you’ve reached a dangerous level of busy.

3. Activities like Eating Are Always Done in Tandem with Other Tasks

If you constantly find yourself using meal times, car rides, etc. as times to catch up on emails, phone calls, or calendar readjustments, it’s time to lighten the load.

It’s one thing to use your time efficiently. It’s a whole different ballgame, though, when you have so little time that you can’t even focus on feeding yourself.

4. You’re Consistently More Tired When You Get up in the Morning Than You Are When You Go to Bed

One of the surest signs of an overloaded schedule is morning fatigue. This is a good indication that you’ve not rested well during the night, which is a good sign that you’ve got way too much on your mind.

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If you’ve got so much to do that you can’t even shut your mind down when you’re laying in bed, you’re too busy.

5. The Most Exercise You Get Is Sprinting from One Commitment to the Next

It’s proven that exercise promotes healthy lives. If you don’t care about that, that’s one thing. If you’d like to exercise, though, but you just don’t have time for it, you’re too busy.

If the closest thing you get to exercise is running from your office to your car because you’re late for your ninth appointment of the day, it’s time to slow down.

Try these 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.

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6. You Dread Getting up in the Morning

If your days are so crammed full that you literally dread even starting them, you’re too busy. A new day should hold at least a small level of refreshment and excitement. Scale back until you find that place again.

7. “Survival Mode” Is Your Only Mode

If you can’t remember what it feels like to be ahead of schedule, or at least “caught up”, you’re too busy.

So, How To Get out of Busyness?

Take a look at these articles to help you get unstuck:

Featured photo credit: Khara Woods via unsplash.com

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