September 9, 2020
Hi there! This is Part 4 of my series on guaranteed ways to learn. I hope you had the chance to implement some of the tools we talked about in the last few weeks. This week’s post is about what NOT to do when studying or learning something new. Like everything in life, it’s not only important to understand how to do something but also how NOT to.
3 Things NOT to do:
- Multi-tasking– When people talk about multi-tasking, they almost wear it as a badge of honor. The more things they say they are doing, the busier and more important they feel. The truth is that no one can really multi-task. The brain is able to only focus on one thing at a time consciously. So even though you think you are doing two or more things at once, your focus is on one and the other is sub-conscious. When it comes to studying or learning something new, trying to learn two concepts or two subjects is not only impossible but it will give you the illusion that you are learning, when in reality you are not.
- Illusion of Competence – Illusion of competence it looking at how a problem was solved and thinking you understand it because you saw how it was solved. Looking at a solution and the problem solving is not the same as solving it yourself. In order to fully understand how to solve a problem, you need to cover up the solution and try to do it yourself.
- Procrastinate- Ah! Procrastination! Our brains are great at avoiding what we don’t want to do or what we associate with discomfort. So if a particular subject is difficult for you, your brain will do everything it can to avoid doing it.
Here are some strategies to help you avoid procrastinating.
- Exercise 20 min. prior to sitting down to study. Exercise stimulates your brain, decreases your anxiety and helps you to learn faster (Try taking a 20 min run prior to studying). When you are sedentary, it’s sending a message to your brain that it’s time to rest. This in turn makes it harder to study.
- 20 Second Rule – The 20 second rule is making something 20 seconds easier for you to do it. For example, if in order to start studying, you need to walk upstairs to get your book, leave your book open to the page you want to study, ready to go on your desk. This stops your brain from making excuses by removing what is perceived as barriers to getting started.
- Stacking Habit – Attach what you need to something that you do every day. For example, if you always have coffee in the morning, place your book next to the coffee maker to remind you to just get started.
- 3 Second Rule – The 3 second rule is about counting backwards from 3 to 1 when you think of something you need to do. Instead of coming up with a million excuses of why not to get started, you focus on counting down from 3 to 1 and you start.
- ** As an aside, these tips can be applied to any habit that you want to change.
So, to summarize what not to do, remember we should
1) Try to focus on one subject or concept at a time
2) We need to solve problems on our own, not just look at how someone did it and trick ourselves into thinking we know it.
3) We need to stop procrastinating and be proactive about ways to just get done what we need to do.
Now lets look at 3 ways that ARE effective when you are learning something new:
- Recall- Read something and then try to repeat out loud what you read
- Solve your own problems-When learning how to solve a problem, simply looking at how someone solved it does not mean that you understand how to solve it for yourself.
- Instead of highlighting, take notes on the margins-Highlights gives you the illusion that your brain will later remember what you highlighted. Actually, the opposite is true. Highlighting tricks you into thinking you will come back to it later, so you spend very little mental energy in actively learning it. On the other hand, note taking to summarize what you read is very helpful.
So there you have it! Our last post on 4 ways to maximize your study time. I hope that you picked up some practical tips that you can start implementing either for yourself or your kids.
I created a download with a “cheat sheet that you free to download and put up somewhere to remind you of the easy techniques. Remember, old habits are hard to break. Start implementing these strategies and stick to it for at least a month. I would love to hear if your retention improves and/or if these strategies have helped you with your kids.
Have a wonderful week!
Elizabeth Vainder, M.D.
To review Parts 1-3 see below: