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The One Process That Marks the Difference Between Quick Learners and Ordinary Learners

The One Process That Marks the Difference Between Quick Learners and Ordinary Learners

Do you have difficulty comprehending a new concept after you read? Do you refuse to even attempt to improve your math skills? If this sounds like you, stop worrying because there is a simple approach you can use to improve. The trick is to simply apply what you are learning.

    Without any additional application, we will only retain 10% of what we read. 10%! Yet, if we attempt to teach others a new concept, we find that we are able to retain 90% of the information. Even simply discussing the concept with others will help us retain 50% of the information. Essentially, reading or learning a new concept will provide us no practical good without practice.[1]

    So, let’s look at what it actually means to apply what we learn and how we can use some powerful techniques to improve.

    Learning = Download + Process + Apply

    Think of the application of knowledge through this analogy: You have two islands separated by a river. One island represents knowing, the other island represents understanding. The application of new knowledge is like building a bridge between the two; hence, applying new knowledge bridges the gap between knowing and understanding.

    We should strive to create a habit of always considering ways to immediately implement what we are reading or learning into our daily lives. Let me show you why this is important by looking at a formula for learning called The Learning Formula (TLR).

    With TLR, we start by learning something new, followed by actively processing new knowledge, then applying it as soon as possible; thus, demonstrating that learning updates in our brain by using the following formula: Learning = Download + Process + Apply.[2]

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    Let’s briefly breakdown each component of the TLR.

    Download

    Similar to how a computer downloads information, we must first download knowledge. We can do this through the following ways: reading a book, listening to an audiobook, watching a video online, or listening to a lecture.

    The first thing we should do after downloading new information is to deconstruct it. Elon Musk has mastered this concept and found that knowledge has a logical structure. Drake Baer writes, “Over 2,300 years ago, Aristotle said that a first principle is the first basis from which a thing is known and that pursuing first principles is the key to doing any sort of systemic inquiry.”[3]

    Process

    We process new knowledge when we connect the dots between new and old ideas. Essentially, we are connecting new chunks of information with something we already know. Here are two great ideas to use when processing new information.

    • Analogies. An analogy is simply a comparison between two concepts for the purpose of explanation. Here is a brilliant (and a favorite of mine) example of an analogy (could also be a metaphor) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carol.

    When Carol’s expedition into whimsical absurdity opens, a young girl (Alice) is strolling through a meadow, when a rabbit suddenly appears. She thinks nothing of it at first, until the rabbit pulls out a watch and looks at it. She realizes this is not an ordinary rabbit. This represents the new and unexplored or a burning curiosity. Alice runs after the rabbit like chasing a new idea. She decides to follow the rabbit down a rabbit hole, never considering how she would get out. This represents following through with a new idea for the excitement of discovery is like chasing the rabbit or idea down the rabbit hole. Alice is unsure where this chasing will take her, yet she is excited to pursue the idea without question. [4]

    • Diagrams. A diagram is a drawing that represents the appearance or structure of something in graphic form. This could be anything from a simple sketch to a detailed outline of the universe. For example, let’s look at a diagram to help us understand how objects interact in the classic book Flatland.

      Apply

      Let me ask you a simple question. What good does it do you to read or learn new information if you are not going to use it? Unless you are reading something for pure enjoyment (think Harry Potter), you must have the mindset of using the new knowledge to improve yourself.

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      By applying what we learn, we are able to secure it in long-term memory. One of the best ways to apply our knowledge is to teach it. Teaching forces us to dive into the concept and really start to understand it. However, the best way is to start applying it in your line of work and immediately use it. Once you gain practical experience with this new concept, try to explain the technical information to someone. For example, write a blog about it. It’s amazing what this can do for you retention of new knowledge!

      Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of applying new knowledge.

      • Improved Problem Solving. By applying what we learn, we become better problem solvers. The more we read and learn, the more information and knowledge we come across. If we apply it in our daily life, we will start to notice we use this new knowledge daily.
      • Improved Memory. The more we apply new knowledge, the better it will stick in our memory.

      Let your mind go wild and go down the rabbit hole

      If you find that you are the type of person who consistently goes down rabbit holes when learning or discussing a new concept… embrace it! Yes, embrace it! Here is why.

      I recently created a new theory for learning. I call it the Deep Rabbit Hole (DRH) Learning Theory[5]. I constructed the theory on the following premises.

      Premise #1. Learning a new concept takes us down a rabbit hole.

      Premise #2. Inside the rabbit hole, we find new ideas are easily connected to old ideas.

      Conclusion. Therefore, learning a new concept is easier by allowing yourself to go down a rabbit hole.

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      The key to this approach is to allow yourself the freedom to freely fall down the rabbit hole. When you chase the rabbit down the hole without any hesitation, you will be amazed where you end up! Here is how I construct my DRH (with a brief example).

      Restate the question.

      Clearly define the purpose.

      Use a DRH. Similar to a semantic tree: deconstruct the concept, question, or idea.

      Clearly identify the parts of the rabbit hole you want to apply. Here, you are coloring or circling those components you would like to further apply or break down into their own DRH. This is important, because a DRH will lead to lots of new ideas to get lost in!

      This is going to sound completely crazy, but I used a DRH to conduct a thought experiment. This approach allowed me to create a new (and crazy) theory. The Color of the 4th Dimension. The image below is an example of this creation. [6]

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        Elon Musk’s brilliant approach

        In my opinion, there is no one doing more to move the world forward today than Elon Musk. Musk is an advocate for learning across multiple fields. If we embrace learning across multiple fields, we find that we possess an information advantage as most people are solely focused on just one field.[7]

        Learning Transfer

        Musk has a large thirst for knowledge. He regularly exposes himself to numerous subjects. He also practices a skill known as the Learning Transfer. Essentially, this is taking what we learn and applying it to something else. Think of learning something in physics class and using it in sociology. For this, Musk has a two-step process.

        • Contrasting Cases. This is where you deconstruct something and look for the deeper understanding of it. For example, suppose you wanted to find the deeper principle for what makes the letter A an A. See below.

          • Reconstruct the principles you learn into different fields. To effectively do this, we should ask ourselves the following questions: “What does this remind me of?” and “Why does it remind me of it?”

          Other powerful techniques

          Lastly, there are quite a few additional techniques and examples we can use; however, I have narrowed the list down to two powerful techniques.

          1. ADEPT. When trying to comprehend a difficult concept, try the following: Find an Analogy, use a Diagram, Experience it, explain it in Plain English, and describe the Technical Details. [8]
          2. Solo Taxonomy. Structure of Observed Learning Outcome. This is a model describing the levels of increased complexity. Here, you move from an abstract thought, to a clear image, then to a creative and better outcome.

          I encourage you all to embrace the application of new knowledge. To me, this is common sense. Unless we use it, we will lose it. Learning plus thinking equals creating! Lastly, remember this powerful advice from Marianne Williamson:

          “You must learn a new way to think before you can master a new way to be.”

          Reference

          More by this author

          Dr. Jamie Schwandt

          Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt & Red Team Critical Thinker

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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

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