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10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of the most successful and impactful investors, scientists, and innovators don’t think the way most of us do about learning – and there’s a reason.

Most conventional wisdom about learning, studying, and education is either mis-guided or wrong.

Here are 10 quotes that will have you reconsidering everything you thought you knew about school.

1. “I have never let schooling interfere with my education” – Mark Twain

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    This popular Twain-ism refers to “education” more as your lifelong process of figuring out how to navigate the world. School is a small part of that, and in many ways can interfere with learning: imposing strict boundaries, oversimplifying otherwise interesting and complex topics, and more generally making “education” into regimented work rather than creative discovery.

    Action: Think about your coursework in the context of your life’s learning arc: how does it fit in and how can you take control and select what you want or need to learn along the way?

    2. “The one real object of education is to leave a person in the condition of continually asking questions.” – Bishop Mandell Creighton

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      The point isn’t to get the answer, the point is to develop understanding. Unlike what most formal learning institutions preach, the best way to do that is – you guessed it – to find the right questions to ask. (This is what Socrates knew 2,000+ years ago.) Only then should you pursue an answer.

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      Action: Stop thinking, “How do I find the answer?” and start thinking “What questions should I be asking?”

      3. “In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time – none, zero.” – Charlie Munger

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        Munger attributes much of his (and Berkshire Hathaway’s) investing success to accumulating as many “mental models” as possible in diverse fields, by reading widely and continuously. And like Twain believed, he thoroughly embodies learning as a life-long journey. The classroom is just society’s overly-formalized attempt at capturing that process.

        Action: Don’t limit yourself to what you’re learning in class. Read widely and often, and it will pay off across the board.

        4. “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.” – Galileo

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          No one can insert knowledge into your brain, they can only guide and point you in the right direction. In this sense, teachers aren’t really “teaching” you anything, they’re only there to attempt to facilitate your own self-discovery.

          Action: Don’t rely on someone else to spoon-feed you the answer and put the knowledge in your head; only you can do that. Side benefit: most teachers actually have no clue what they’re doing, so the more you take control of your own learning future, the further ahead you’ll jump.

          5. “Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of mental laziness — lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferriss

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            Your textbook is only important if it gives you insights that help you score well on the test.

            Your homework is only important if it solidifies your knowledge.

            Highlighting printouts of lecture slides is never important.

            So take it from the master of effective learning, and stop fooling yourself into thinking you’re being productive, when really you’re just filling your time with “studying” because that’s what everyone says you should do.

            Action: Question what you spend your study time on – and make sure it lines up with what will get you to understand the material and maximize your grade in the course. Hint: past exams and the grading breakdown on the syllabus should be the first place to start.

            6. “I’m skeptical of a lot of what falls under the rubric of education…. People are on these tracks. They are getting these credentials and it’s very unclear how viable they are in many cases.” – Peter Thiel

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              Thiel, famous for funding promising high-schoolers and early college students not to go to college with his Thiel Fellowship program, invites you to step back and think about why you’re in school. Despite your parents’ insistence, don’t get a degree just because you think you like the subject or think you need it to “get a job.”

              Action: Consider the usefulness and applicability of your degree program. And, after careful reflection, if it doesn’t make sense, don’t be afraid to get out or switch to something better.

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              7. “Some people will never learn anything for this reason: because they understood everything too soon.” – Alexander Pope

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                It’s uncomfortable to hold an un-answered question in your head for too long, but it’s a critical skill for learning.

                A typical student will try to grab onto whatever they can grasp early, and then pat themselves on the back and move on.

                A smart student will allow themselves to be confused, and work over-time to integrate a new concept with their previous knowledge, eventually developing a much deeper and nuanced understanding of the topic.

                Action: When you hear something new, wait 24 hours to form an opinion about it – let it simmer and mix with everything else you know first.

                8. “If something makes logical sense, if it’s connected to what you already know, you’ll rarely have to memorize it…” – Adam Robinson

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                  By continually building a framework for understanding the material and consolidating your notes, the information becomes cemented in your long-term memory, with the added benefit of being able to handle novel or complex test questions.

                  How much better does that sound than slogging through a 1,000+ page textbook trying to re-read the same explanation, hoping it sinks in?

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                  Action: Put away the flash cards, and start making connections to the mental frameworks you already have by practicing active learning and solving problems from scratch.

                  9. “The shrewd guess, the fertile hypothesis, the courageous leap to a tentative conclusion – these are the most valuable coin of the thinker at work. But in most schools guessing is heavily penalized and is somehow associated with laziness.” – Jerome Seymour Bruner

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                    Guessing is actually a sophisticated art that activates your brain and helps to solidify new information. It provides the initial point for a feedback loop that allows you to see if your final solution makes sense, and adjust your intuition to better fit the answer if your guess was off.

                    Action: On your next homework assignment, go through and write down a guess for each question before you go through and try to solve it – then check that guess against your final answers.

                    10. “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” – Richard P. Feynman

                    Photo credit: Tamiko Thiel

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                      If you have passion for something, and make time to focus on it, you’ll find it almost effortless to learn it deeply. Learning in your own unique way also personalizes the information, and makes it easier to pull it out of your memory when you really need it.

                      Action: Ask yourself “what am I most interested in” and write down 10 different ways you could learn about it more deeply.

                      Featured photo credit: Heisenberg Media via flickr.com

                      More by this author

                      7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It The 3 Things Elon Musk Knows About School That All Students Should Copy 10 Ways for Students to Crush It Next Semester 20 Funny Things Everyone Can Do Every Day to Get Smarter 10 counterintuitive quotes on learning that will make you a better student

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                      Published on January 16, 2019

                      How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                      How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                      We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

                      You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

                      You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

                      That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

                      Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

                      1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

                      Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

                      We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

                      To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

                      At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

                      The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

                      2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

                      Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

                      The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

                      In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

                      It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

                      It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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                      So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

                      • Are you a great strategist?
                      • Are you an effective planner?
                      • Is Project Management your strength?
                      • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
                      • Are you the ideas person?
                      • Is Implementation your strength?

                      Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

                      3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

                      One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

                      Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

                      Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

                      Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

                      4. Take Time for Planning

                      “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

                      One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

                      You can take the time to think about:

                      • What’s the purpose of the project?
                      • How Important is it?
                      • When does it need to be delivered by?
                      • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
                      • What are the KPIs?
                      • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
                      • Who is working on this project?
                      • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
                      • What tolerances can I add in?
                      • What are the review stages?
                      • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

                      Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

                      5. Focus on Priorities

                      Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

                      Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

                      One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

                      1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
                      2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
                      3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
                      4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

                      James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                        The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                        If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                        If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                        6. Take Time Out

                        To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                        If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                        Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                        In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                        Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                        7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                        Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                        I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                        Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                        If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                        8. Stop Multitasking

                        Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                        So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                        When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                        If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                        9. Work in Blocks of Time

                        To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                        I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                        Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                        Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                        Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                        Then take another 10-minute break.

                        Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                        By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                        10. Get Rid of Distractions

                        Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                        “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                        Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                        If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                        11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                        You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                        Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                        Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                        12. Take a Time Audit

                        Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                        Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                        You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                        Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                        Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                        At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                        If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                        13. Protect Your Confidence

                        It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                        When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                        Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                        When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                        Final Words

                        A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                        The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                        If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                        Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                        Reference

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