All of us know how hard it is sometimes to just sit, concentrate and start to study. It doesn’t even matter how much you have to do, it can be a small task or a big essay with tomorrow’s deadline. I want to share with you my experience and tips that I found through the last 4 years.
1. Alternate between activities and sleep
The brain has two states: focused (focused) and scattered (scattered).
As you read this text, you are in a focused state. After a couple of hours, when you are rested, your brain will be distracted. It is at this point that new neural connections will begin to form in your brain.
Then new knowledge in a focused mode and the formation of neural connections in a disparate manner. And so all my life.
We’ve been familiar with how the two brain states work since high school. But not from biology lessons, but literature lessons. Remember how difficult it was, ideally, to read the poem on the day it was learned. You teach it, teach it, but there is no way to learn it. But the next morning you remember him perfectly. Why?
When we study a poem, we are in a concentrated state. But real memorization happens later – in a dream. Thus, the “learn → sleep → learn” model is much more effective than just “learn → learn → learn”. Sleep is good.
2. Take regular breaks
This tip also relates to focused and diffuse brain modes. Research shows that a person cannot be as focused as possible for a long time. We start to get distracted and do five-minute tasks for hours. Maximum focus time: 50 minutes.
To make learning easier, you need to give your brain a rest. A good option for most people would be 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of rest. In order not to get lost in this mode, a regular timer or different applications that make you put your phone down for a while
3. Don’t waste time re-reading information and emphasizing key messages
This does not work. Emphasizing key ideas is a bad approach to learning. The work done by the brain is not active enough to create solid knowledge. Rereading multiple times has the same effect. It doesn’t make the brain work.
To memorize better, you need not re-read and underline, but reproduce information from memory. Answer questions, do exercises.
4. Choose the right learning style
Learning style is how you get information. The learning style can be visual (reading, pictures) and auditory (lectures, audiobooks, podcasts).
We choose the learning style that seems easier to us. Kate finds it difficult to concentrate on audio and she always reads books or articles. And Peter, on the contrary, lacks perseverance for textbooks and he watches online lectures. But you can’t do that.
Cognitive psychology researchers at the University of Virginia examined all of the experiments with learning styles. And they concluded that there is no connection between the student’s favorite learning style and its effectiveness. It doesn’t matter if the student is an auditory or a visual, he still retains information visually better.
Another study by the same institute shows that 81% of students who read the books did well on the exam. And of those who listened to the same information in the podcast, only 59% coped.
We synthesize. If it is easier for you to watch an online lecture, this does not mean that such a format is effective.
The learning style should not depend on the subjective “likes”, but on the subject. Foreign languages, public speaking is better to study personally with a teacher or by audio and video. Management, marketing, programming do not require teacher supervision. It is better to study them in text format.
5. Go in for sports
Physical activity affects your ability to memorize and learn better. Vigorous exercise increases the production of a neurotrophic factor in the brain. It is a protein that helps build new neural connections. Even after a 20-minute walk, brain activity and memory are significantly improved. Before getting into an online course for a couple of hours, I advise you to take a walk in the courtyard.
For the most productive ones – cycling and running.
6. Join new knowledge to old
On Monday, Peter read an article on positioning. And on Friday, I developed my product funnel. Seemingly two different topics. However, Peter mentally connected them. He thought about how the positioning would translate at each stage of the funnel. I made a spreadsheet and got a better understanding of both topics.
Be like Peter. Join the unknown and the known.
7. Teach others what you already know
Information can seem incomprehensible and unstructured until you try to explain it to someone. Try to teach, not just retell. This will make the new topic clearer.
Kate began taking a product management course. It didn’t work out with big data. She wants to break the forgetting curve to remember all the information. Therefore, Keith decides to tell her little brother about must-haves, performance, and excellent product characteristics.
Her brother listened to her attentively but did not understand how the performance characteristics differ from wow. Katya realized that she did not understand the difference. Without her brother’s feedback, she would never have realized that she hadn’t learned enough about a new topic.
8. Solve problems by yourself
Problem Solving is the skill that distinguishes the good from the great. The better you are at problem-solving, the better your chances of success. If you come across an unfamiliar term in the course text, google it yourself. The key task is to learn how to solve problems on your own.
9. Think in advance about the time of study, place, and duration
Decision-making is time-consuming. The brain gets tired of it. There is already a classic study that has shown that American judges make decisions effectively in the morning. Then the brain gets tired and tends to simpler options that do not require thinking.
A person makes about 35,000 decisions a day. Whether you choose what to wear or which career path to choose – the brain will still spend energy on it and get tired. Plus, decisions are time-consuming. It turns out that the more routine decisions you make, the less time and effort you have for the really important ones.
For this reason, many famous entrepreneurs always wear the same clothes: Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg. They don’t care what they look like. They simply free their time and brain from making this decision.
Planning that you spend 2 hours studying in your living room every Friday at 8:00 pm will help you be more productive. You will not waste your resources on resolving these issues “at the moment”.
10. How to manage your time
Peter heard the phrase “eat that frog” in his productivity lecture. He realized that first, he needed to complete the most unwanted task, and then proceed to the rest. Then he decided to do the most difficult task in the project first.
Peter was so tired while doing the important task that he had no energy left for the presentation. He did it at random. The CEO was unhappy.
Kate decided to do it differently: start with the easy, and then tackle the difficult. She first filled out the weekly report, and only then took up small tasks. After a break, she prepared a presentation for the CEO. Kate was also tired, but it was easier for her to work.
The brain hasn’t watched a lecture on productivity, so it works as hard as it can. It is difficult for him to immediately get together and complete a difficult task. It is more effective to do light exercises at first, gradually complicating the tasks.
Sometimes, for example, at a university, it is difficult to do everything at once, especially when a bunch of projects is piling up, in which case it is always better to distribute tasks according to gradation from hard and easy. In such cases, you will immediately notice which tasks you should take responsibility for yourself, and which you can entrust to other people or order. For example, Kate found out that the day after tomorrow she has two deadline projects: a huge research presentation and an essay. She does not have time to do both tasks, but she understands that the presentation is a priority, in this case, she weighs the pros and cons and decides to order an essay at essay writing service, removing one thing and saving her time for a more responsible project