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How to Decrease Time Spent Studying and Remember More

How to Decrease Time Spent Studying and Remember More

My resolutions this year included learning something new. So I decided to learn a new language (French, if you are wondering), and also how to code. I know, easier said than done. Sounds just like any one of those hundreds of New Year’s resolutions that are bound to fail, right? They’re the resolutions that you regret as soon as you wake up tired from the New Year’s party you attended.

I must admit, my last year’s resolutions met an abrupt end due to constraints forced on me by the realities of my life (excuses, right?). This year, however, I decided that I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to make it. (It’s July and I am making great progress on both). In the Japanese culture, there’s a concept called Hansei. It’s a process of self-reflection in which you acknowledge your own mistakes and pledge to improve. As they say, self-awareness is the first step to improvement.

Remembering my mistakes from years past, I knew that I needed to plan exactly how I’m going to achieve this year’s target, so I set down and conducted a thorough Hansei. What I found out was truly extraordinary. Not! I simply didn’t have enough time. I didn’t want to disrupt other habits in my life by introducing a new time consuming daily practice. It’s a common problem, right?

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I set out to look for ways to maximize the time that I was wasting. Here are some examples I’m sure we can all relate to. I listened to recorded lessons in my car, read simple texts while waiting in line and tried to optimize my time so that every minute of my day was accounted for. This was definitely a good start, but not the magic bullet I was seeking. I was looking for a way to learn new things as efficiently as possible.

I dove even deeper, I looked for method that will help me decrease the amount of time spent studying significantly and increase the amount of information I’m able to retain. To my surprise, I found two…

1. Spaced Repetition

The spaced repetition technique spreads information in specific time intervals and repeats that information in specific points in time so you’ll remember more indefinitely. How can that possibly work?

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When our brain is exposed to information over a long period of time, it tends to remember that information due to the Spacing Effect. It is a psychological phenomenon that ensures we remember information which is presented to us through repeated long termed spaced studying.

How the method works:

  • You memorize a piece of information (be it a word in a foreign language or code syntax) and then after a few minutes you repeat; exposing yourself again to the same information in increased intervals.
  • The intervals begin with few minutes, than increase to hours, days, weeks, and eventually months.
  • An example to such an interval can be seen in Pimsleur’s graduated-interval recall – 5 seconds, 25 seconds, 2 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, 1 day, 5 days, 25 days, 4 months, and 2 years.

Spaced repetition works so well because it uses your long-term memory instead of your short-term memory to process information.

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Tip – I use an app called Anki to help me with learning code and foreign grammar; it’s effective and fun using spaced repetition principals with flesh cards.

2. Mnemonic Techniques

The mnemonic technique translates information you’re trying to memorize into a pattern your brain remembers better than the original form. There are many types of mnemonic applications including remembering sets of numbers (numeric), remembering lists and I also found it’s extremely effective when trying to remember new words in a foreign language. An example of mnemonic application can be learning the names of the stars in our solar system:

  • My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nachos
  • Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune (source).

A foreign language mnemonic I use is associating words I find hard to remember to “link words” in my mother tongue, for instance:

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  • In Russian, the word cow (pronounced roughly “karova”) can be associated to “I ran my car over a cow.”

Linkwords work in the following way:

First, you create the linkword > then you associate it with a story> the story leads to the meaning and there you have it.

Linkword > Story > Meaning

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After a while you’re able to remember the link word and meaning without the story, and eventually you remember the meaning, without the help of the link word or the story.

More by this author

Haim Pekel

Haim Pekel is an entrepreneur and shares tips on productivity and entrepreneurship at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on June 1, 2021

7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

7 Signs That You’re Way Too Busy (And Need to Change That)

“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 this video:

And these articles to help you get unstuck:

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Featured photo credit: Khara Woods via unsplash.com

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