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Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

I think you’ll agree with me when I say:

“We do not understand the difference between Information and Knowledge.”

As it turns out, most people assume they are the same thing, yet they are not. In fact, Information is required for Knowledge, but we are missing one key element… “Thinking”.

In this article, we will look into the process of learning information, and how we can really transfer it into learned knowledge.

What is transfer of learning

Professors at Cornell University and authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us that Knowledge = Information X Thinking. They are on a mission to introduce “Thinking” back into the classroom. Let me demonstrate one way in which they are doing this.

    Through the Cabrera’s Systems Thinking theory of Distinctions – Systems – Relationships – Perspectives (DSRP = “Thinking”), they show us how disparate subjects are interconnected and that DSRP increases our speed of knowing something. Essentially, it will increase our transfer.

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    Transfer is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. We can do this through a variety of ways, yet let’s examine two:

    1. Vertical Transfer (also known as Far Transfer). A child learns something in third grade and applies it in fourth grade (or even as an adult). This is the more difficult form of transfer as you are applying what you are learning to something completely different — like learning the game of Wei-chi (aka Go) and applying it to strategy.
    2. Horizontal Transfer (also known as Near Transfer). A student learns something in one subject (i.e. English) and transfers it to another (i.e. Math).

    The Cabrera’s illustrate the significance of the transfer of learning. In fact, if a student or person has a high transfer, he or she will then become their own best teacher. As mentioned in Thinking at Every Desk,

    “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

    Thinking about thinking

    When we understand the importance of transfer of learning and use DSRP to bring it about, we see phenomenal results in three important areas:[1]

    1. Increased Metacognition (thinking about thinking).
    2. Increased Deep Understanding (you learn the difference between analysis and synthesis).
    3. Increased Transfer (you are able to make vertical and horizontal connections).

      Let’s examine some practical approaches to use in the discovery of these hidden ideas:

      Break Apart + Put Back Together = Learning

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        My absolute favorite transfer of learning technique is one outlined by the Cabrera’s in Systems Thinking Made Simple:New Hope for Solving Wicked Problems. The technique is the “Parts Lessons Firetruck” and is a fun exercise to use with your children.

        Using this technique with my 3-year old daughter, I had the opportunity to demonstrate the Systems Rule (or part-whole) lesson with her by building a cardboard firetruck. By examining the firetruck through part-whole, my daughter was able to identify more parts of the truck than before.

        Applying what you already know

        Vertical or Far Transfer is the most critical. I recommend the following quick video published by Education Week for a deeper understanding of transfer of learning:

        Let’s take a quick look at the 5 strategies outline in the video for applying transfer of learning:

        • Explicit teaching. Using and applying what you are learning every day (an argumentative essay leads to persuading your boss to give you a raise).
        • Group learning. The more you are involved with a group in a classroom, the more likely you will be able to learn in a group while in the workforce.
        • Reflection. If taking notes in a class helps you learn a concept, then taking notes in other areas (i.e. class or work) will help you learn there as well.
        • Use analogies and metaphors. Analogies and metaphors take what you already know and apply it to a new situation to understand it better.
        • Generalizing. Push yourself to generalize broader principles from specific situations. If you study one thing and uncover elements needed to create something, use the same approach and discover key elements for another.

        How to apply transfer of learning (Step-by-step guide)

        You might be wondering, how can I apply this?

        It’s actually quite simple:

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        Step 1. Use previous knowledge

        Let’s say you previously learned how to play the game Wei-chi (aka Go). Using your understanding of the game, you can apply those skills in another context.

        Step 2. Applying previous knowledge to a new context (contexts that appear alien to one another)

        If you are in a position where you must understand the strategy of another country (for example: China), you could use your previous knowledge (the game of Wei-chi).

        Step 3. Strengthening connections

        The game of Wei-chi and understanding the strategy of China are two highly abstract (yet identical) concepts. As you dive deep into your learning process (understanding of China), you will find your understanding of Wei-chi will assist you in your conscious search for new connections.

        Step 4. Document and reflect on new connections

        Make sure to document your ideas and connections throughout the transfer of learning process. Reflect throughout the process and think (cognition) about your thinking (metacognition). This will improve your ability to abstract profound principles underlying the new idea being examined.

        Hidden connections between ideas

        Lastly, let me demonstrate how I use transfer of learning everyday.

        As an author of books on foster care and a former foster child myself, my mind is always coming up with ways to fix the foster care system. One of the things I am currently researching is how to build a more effective and efficient communication network to quickly help a child who is being abused.

        Due to my understanding of transfer of learning, I was able to immediately grasp the importance of uncovering the link between two completely different ideas.

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          First, I came across an article on asknature.org while searching for ways termites and ants communicate. In an article titled Collaborating for Group Decisions, I noticed two key sentences:

          • The researchers will develop ad hoc communication networks to spread critical information among first responders, similar to how a virus spreads.
          • Models of collaboration based on the study of ants and bees may be useful in understanding the basic principles and best practices when developing strategies to coordinate knowledge sharing in chaotic social settings.

          The key elements I connected were: how a virus spreads and knowledge sharing. Thus, I am working on a strategy in foster care to collaborate (and communicate) and spread knowledge like a virus (specifically Influenza A). This led me to an analysis of two key concepts:

          1. I had to analyze (break apart) the structure of the Influenza Virus and Network Theory (I chose to focus on Small World and Decentralized Networks).
          2. I then had to synthesize (put them back together as a new whole) and form my idea on how to improve communication and spread knowledge like a virus in the foster care system.

          It is only through the discovery of hidden connections between ideas and by introducing “Thinking” back into the equation that we can gain actual Knowledge. A special thanks to Derek and Laura Cabrera for introducing me to DSRP!

          I will leave you with one last quote,

          “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose!” – Dr. Seuss

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Derek and Laura Cabrera: Thinking at Every Desk

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          Last Updated on February 17, 2021

          50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

          50 Ways to Increase Productivity and Achieve More in Less Time

          If you feel like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, maybe it’s time to check-in with your time management skills.

          No one is born to be very good at time management, so that’s okay if you think you’re bad in it. But everyone can learn to boost their productivity and achieve more!

          Here are 50 ways to increase productivity and add hours to your day.

          1. Set a Timer

          Estimate the time you need to tackle different tasks and set a timer for each of your tasks. How you go about this is up to you as there are many different ways. There is the Pomodoro technique where you focus on a task for 25 minutes followed by a five minute break afterwards.

          In the event that you have a task that will take much longer than that, you can consider one of the many timer-based apps. One that comes to mind is Clockify. It’s used for freelancers and entrepreneurs alike, however it’s a good way to be setting yourself a timer. It provides reports and you can serve as a project manager of sorts too. Best of all, it’s free.

          2. Eliminate All Distractions

          Distractions include the phone, email notifications and having multiple web browsers open on the desktop. Just as it’s important to be organized offline, it’s key to have things organized online as well. This free guide End Distractions And Find Your Focus is a good tool to help you. With this guide, you’ll learn how to get rid of distractions and boost productivity. Grab your free guide here.

          You can also learn more on how to get rid of all distractions in this guide: How to Focus and Maximize Your Productivity (the Definitive Guide)

          3. Listen to Music That Boosts Productivity

          Distractions should be avoided, but sometimes a bit of music in the background can help you focus.

          Of course, it doesn’t need to be heavy rock music, but a bit of Beethoven may do you some good.

          Here’s a complete guide to help you pick the right music for better productivity: How To Maximize Your Productivity With Music: A Complete Guide

          4. Find Meaning in What You Do (And Love What You Do)

          Enjoying what you do is the ultimate way to increase your productivity.

          If you aren’t sure what you love doing yet, don’t worry. Leo Babauta has some unique ways to help you: How to Find Your Passion

          5. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.

          By listing your tasks in order of importance, you can make sure that you finish all of your most important tasks during the day.

          Learn a unique technique to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster.

          6. Batch Similar Tasks into a Single Batch.

          Tasks like blog writing, phone calls, email and errands can be grouped into a single batch. You will save time by completing similar tasks in one session. One way to help you with organizing all of those things is through the app Todoist. It’s an easy and simple way for you to plan out your day, set reminders, and group all of your most important tasks in a convenient spot.

          7. Complete Your Most Dreaded Tasks First Thing in the Morning.

          Whichever activity you are dreading the most is probably the one you need to complete first thing in the morning.

          Many people tend to check emails in the morning because after checking a list of emails, they feel fulfilled. But that’s just an illusion of having achieved more.

          Doing simple tasks like checking emails first in the morning is bad for you. Instead, do the difficult tasks because you have more energy in the morning to tackle them!

          8. Reward Yourself for Finishing a Big Task

          To stay motivated for whatever you do, reward yourself every now and then.

          Keep track of your small wins and milestones and celebrate them. So whenever you struggle about your progress, you see how far you’ve come!

          Find out more about this 2-Step Approach to Self-Motivation: Track Small Wins and Reward Yourself.

          9. Don’t Multitask

          Research has shown that multitasking is not productive. If you think you can multitask, think again.

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          For optimum productivity, focus on one thing at a time.

          10. Step Away from the Computer

          The Internet has become one of the number one distraction. To increase your productivity, try to do as much of your work offline as possible.

          I do this a lot when I try to brainstom new ideas and have found it to be very beneficial to simply unplug.

          11. Use Focus Tools

          Make good use of apps and technology to help you remove distractions.

          Here’re 18 Best Time Management Apps and Tools to help you stay focused. This way, you’re not distracted by the web, e-mail, or IM.

          Also, join the free Fast-Track Class – Overcoming Distraction, and you’ll learn the one simple method to work even when you’re surrounded by distractions. Join the free session now!

          12. Just Start

          Often times, starting is the hardest part. People tend to wait for the perfect time with perfect condition to start. But there’s no perfect condition.

          Once you get going, you will quickly get into a rhythm that could last for hours.

          13. Find out Your Productive Hours

          Everyone has a certain time of the day in which they are more productive than others. For me, it’s the morning.

          Find out when your prime time is for productivity and optimize your work schedule accordingly.

          14. Keep a Notebook and Pen on Hand at All Times

          This way, you can write down your thoughts, to-dos and ideas at any time. The key is to get everything out of your head and onto paper. Your subconscious mind won’t be reminding you about it every other second. Another consideration is getting the app Evernote. Not only does this save you on ink and paper, Evernote is a convenient place for you to jot down notes and thoughts and then share them with the team. In certain circumstances, this can prove useful if you’re the type of person that has a lot of ideas that you want to share.

          15. Write a Blog to Chronicle Your Own Personal Development and Achievements

          The blog keeps you accountable and always working towards self improvement and personal growth.

          When you write down all the small achievements you’ve been having, you’re also more motivated to move forward.

          And you know what, this is how I started Lifehack too! What also helped me in starting Lifehack is WordPress, which allows people to set up a website for free. WordPress has simplified a lot of the process of building a site to the point that virtually anyone can build a website now.

          16. Write out a To-Do-List Each Day

          I like to plan my day the night before. This way, I can get started on my most important tasks as soon as I wake up. The Full Life Planner is a nice tool to help you organize your days and get things that matter done. Check out the planner here and start to plan your day ahead easily!

          Make sure you don’t make any of these common to-do-list mistakes!

          17. Write Your Most Important Tasks and To-Dos on a Calendar.

          The key to good time management is knowing where to be and what to be doing there at any given time. Effective calendar management goes hand in hand with good task list management.

          Learn here How to Use a Calendar to Create Time and Space.

          18. Reflect on Your Productivity Constantly

          As you go throughout your day, repeatedly ask yourself:

          “Am I currently making the best possible use of my time?”

          This one simple question can be an excellent boost to your productivity.

          19. Get up Early Before Anyone Else

          I know it could be difficult for some to wake up early in the morning but nothing beats a quiet house!

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          Here’s How to Start Your Day at 5:00 AM and some Simple Things Early Risers Do to make waking up early easier.

          20. Get Plenty of Sleep

          When you work online, sleep can become a long lost memory. However, it’s important to get plenty of sleep so that your working hours can be as productive as possible.

          Try out this night routine which I highly recommend for productivity: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

          21. Exercise

          Research has shown that midday exercise boosts productivity and morale in the workplace.

          Take a short walk at lunch or do some simple stretches during your break to maximize your productivity.

          Here I have some exercises recommendations for you:

          22. Outsource as Much as Possible

          If you want to achieve more in less time, learn to delegate or outsource work. Here are just a few of the companies that will help you outsource your everyday tasks:

          Also, read this guide to learn how to delegate effectively: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

          23. Set Some Exciting Goals

          Without worthy goals, you will never be motivated to get things done.

          Set goals that are challenging and achievable. The best goal setting framework is a SMART goal. That said, there are other tools that can help you out as well. For example, The Dreamers’ Guide To Reaching Your Goal is a great guide to help you set and reach goals effectively. Grab your free guide and learn how to make your goals happen this year!

          24. Tell Other People About Your Goals

          When you tell others about your goals, you will instantly be held accountable.

          25. Listen to Podcasts

          Listen to educational podcasts or audio books while you’re driving to work, cleaning the house, exercising, or cooking dinner.

          Audio learning has the power to add hours to your day. Not to mention, your cranium is sure to thank you for it.

          Some recommendations for you: 11 Podcasts To Inspire Yourself

          26. Read David Allen’s best-selling book Getting Things Done

          This is one of the most important productivity books you will ever read. Read it, apply the tips in your daily lives and get more things done.

          Here’re more great books about productivity too: 35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

          27. Learn to Speed Read

          When you can read faster, you will read and learn more! Check out these 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed.

          You can also make use of the app OutRead to help speed up your reading speed!

          28. Learn to Skip When You Read

          When you’re reading a book, just read the parts that you need and skip the rest. But you have to read with a purpose.

          Learn how to make it work here: How to Read 10X Faster and Retain More

          29. Focus on Result-Oriented Activities

          Pareto’s law (also known as the 80 20 rule) states that 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. This means that 20% of our actions result in 80% of the results.

          We must find the 20% that is creating the 80% of our desired outcomes and focus solely on those activities.

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          30. Take a Break

          You can’t always be working at optimum productivity. Instead, you should shoot for working in short bursts at your most productive times.

          31. Start a Polyphasic Sleep Schedule

          What is polyphasic sleep?

          Polyphasic sleep is a sleep pattern specification intended to compress sleep time to 2-5 hours daily.[1] This is achieved by spreading out sleep into short (around 20-45 minute) naps throughout the day. This allows for more waking hours with relatively high alertness.

          While you can learn more about it here, you’re recommended to take some naps during the day to recharge your energy too.

          32. Learn to Say “No”.

          We can’t do everything and therefore we must learn when to say no in order to save our sanity.

          Learn the Gentle Art of Saying No from Leo Babauta.

          33. Go on an Information Diet

          Most of the world lives on information overload. We must eliminate mindless Internet surfing.

          Stop reading three different newspapers a day and checking your RSS feeds multiple times a day. Otherwise, you’ll never get anything done.

          The key is to limit yourself only to information that you can immediately take action on. Here’re some simple tips you can try: 10 Simple Productivity Tricks To Manage Overloaded Information

          34. Organize Your Office

          The piles of paper around your desk can be a huge barrier on your productivity. Optimize your time by organizing your office, setting up a system and dumping the junk.

          Check out these 21 Tips to Organize Your Office and Get More Done and 20 Easy Home Office Organization Ideas to Boost Your Productivity.

          35. Find a Mentor

          By modeling after those who have already achieved success, you will save yourself a lot of time and energy.

          A good mentor is hard to find, so here’s a guide to help you: What to Look for in a Mentor

          36. Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

          With technology’s help, you can double your work efficiency. Even better, you learn all the shortcuts when using technology, for example keyboard shortcuts.

          When you use keyboard shortcut, you gain 64 hours every year!

          Not sure what shortcuts to lear? Check out these 22 Tricks That Can Make Anyone A Keyboard Ninja.

          Besides learning the shortcuts, you can also create keyboard shortcuts with AutoHotKey.

          37. Improve Your Typing Speed to Save Time

          Do you know you can save 21 days per year just by typing fast?

          You don’t really need to take some serious courses to type faster, try these typing games online:

          38. Work from Home and Avoid the Daily Commute

          If your job is a flexible one, consider working from home. This saves you the commute time and you’ll find yourself more energetic throughout the day as you have saved the long ride.

          Take a look at these tips to help you stay productive while working from home:

          How to Work from Home and Stay Ultra-Productive

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          39. Get Rid of Time Wasters

          Common time wasters include Instant Messenger, video games, Flickr, checking your stats 10 times a day, television and extraneous Internet surfing.

          Don’t rely on your willpower, make use of some of these useful tools to help you stay focus: 10 Online Apps for Better Focus

          40. Plan Your Meals in Advance

          Plan out all of your meals a week ahead and make your grocery list accordingly. This allows you to focus on the necessary – saving you time and money. You can also save yourself even more time through a wide variety of apps. One app that I find helpful is Mealime. It’s an app that provides you with a wide selection of recipes and also a convenient spot for your grocery list as well.

          Considering the fact that over 4 million users have this app, it goes to show that there is a good selection of meal plans that you can follow and that the app is friendly to use.

          41. Cook Your Meals in Bulk

          When you cook your meals in bulk, you will have plenty of leftovers. This can avoid having to cook everyday.

          Find out more about how to make cooking in bulk works: Once a Month Cooking: Productivity Hack or Overrated Time Suck?

          42. Protect Yourself from Unnecessary Phone Time with Caller ID

          The minutes you spend on picking up unnecessary phone calls are time wasted. You can prevent that from happening.

          Check out this detailed guide how you can deal with those unnecessary phone calls: How To Lose the Useless Items that Weigh Down Your Day – Cellphone Calls

          43. Take Shorter Showers

          This one may sound silly but it’s actually something I struggle with. I spend up to 30 minutes in the shower. Think of the time I could save simply by speeding up a bit.

          44. Save the Trips to Bank by Taking Direct Deposit

          Many employers now offer direct deposit. If yours does, then be sure and take advantage of it and save yourself from a number of trips to the bank.

          45. Auto Pay Your Bills

          How many times have you been worried about whether you missed the bills deadline?

          Auto paying your bills will save you time and eliminate late fees and increased interest rates.

          46. Shop Online

          Whenever possible, avoid going to the store. When you shop online, you can be more focus about what you’re getting.

          47. Speed up your Internet With a Broadband Connection

          Many people are aware of the slow speed of internet but aren’t doing anything about it. In fact, this is the number one Internet time-saver!

          If you must use dial-up, then you can use accelerators like Propel and SlipStream to double or even triple your speed.

          48. Keep up the Speed of Your Computer

          If you’re a Windows user, use Windows hibernation feature to avoid the slowdown of exiting and restarting Windows.

          Or maybe, consider switching to Mac as there’re plenty of Advantages You Probably Don’t Know About Switching To Mac From PC.

          49. Turn off the TV

          The average American watches more than 4 hours of television every day. Over a 65-year life, that’s 9 years glued to the tube.

          For better health and productivity, turn off the TV. Here’re 11 more reasons to tell you to stop watching TV so often.

          Turn off the TV and you are sure to get more out of life.

          50. Use a Tivo or DVR

          This can help you cut an hour-long television show down to just 40 minutes. You can save time while not missing the fun.

          So, here’s the ultimate list of techniques you should learn to boost productivity. Pick the techniques that work for you and make them your daily habits. As time goes, you’ll find yourself being a lot more productive.

          More Time Management Tips

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

          Reference

          [1] Medical News Today: What is biphasic and polyphasic sleep?

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