Awwwards

4 Great Tips That Will Make You an Effective Learner

by Ciprian Paraschiv on 20th October, 2015

Management

Information is everywhere, the more you learn about something, the more other topics you discover that you would like to get deeper into. Becoming an effective learner can turn you into one of your greatest assets in an age of information overload. Our brain is a relly complex structure, and knowing even the basics of how it works helps you to ease your learning efforts and avoid the pain.

1. Switch between the focused and diffused mode

Researchers have discovered that we have two fundamentally different modes of thinking:  the focused and the diffused modes. Our minds can only work in one of these two modes.

The focused mode it’s quite familiar to us. It’s when you concentrate on a particular subject; when you struggle to keep the information in mind. But most of us are not aware of the diffused mode. In the diffused mode, your mind is getting relaxed; you are looking at things from a big-view perspective.

When you’re learning something new, especially something that’s a little more challenging, your mind needs to be able to switch between these two different learning modes.

To better understand this two modes I’ll give you as example – Salvador Dali.Everybody remembers him for the originality of his drawings. Dali used to have his unusual approach to help him come up with his creative ideas for his Surrealist paintings.

He was sitting relaxed in a chair and let his mind free, allowing the ideas he was previously focused on to shade away. He was having have a key in his hand, swinging it just above the floor. Once he would fall asleep, the keys felt down, and the noise would wake him up, just in time so he could bring all the connections established in his diffused mode of thinking and bring those ideas to life by reverting to the focused mode.

2.Fight procrastination

Procrastination is whatever action you choose to take in order to avoid the activity you were planned to do. You are supposed to start a new chapter of the book you read, instead you Ctrl+T-> Facebook, have a cigarette, a tea, take a snap … you know better than me when you procrastinate. The truth is, we all do it up to a point, and those who are taking it to extreme will end up having a low productivity.

When you are working on something that you rather not do, it seems that you activate some areas of your brain linked with pain. Your brain reacts and looks for a way to stop that negative stimulation by switching your attention to something else.

But here comes the interesting part: it has been discovered that this is only a threshold you need to concentrate on passing. As soon as you start concentrating and doing that troublesome task, the neuro discomfort gets away.

3.Use a time-boxing technique such as Pomodoro

An effective time boxing tool that can help you deal with procrastination is a method invented by Francesco Cirillo in the early 80’s called The Pomodoro Technique. It supposes the use of a timer. In the original form of the technique a kitchen timer has been used, which usually can be found in a tomato shape (this is how the name is explained). But now there are many apps (mobile, desktop) that can be downloaded (I use Pomello Chrome extension for Trello).

One Pomodoro Cycle

The technique is easy to understand, but for those who suffer from procrastination, it can be challenging but useful. All you need to do is to choose a task, set the timer to 25 minutes and start working on it. This period you need to stay focused and fully engaged in your task. Do not allow any distraction to diverge you from your task. When this happens, write a note somewhere where you can keep evidence of all the reasons that kept you away from your task. Try to plan your next Pomodoro by avoiding such situations.

Once the 25 minutes are completed, allow yourself 5 minutes of relaxation. Make a cup of tea, do some stretching exercises, play an instrument, do whatever brings you joy, then come back to your task

4.Don’t neglect your sleeping schedule

Yes, sleep is crucial in the learning process, although sometimes it seems like such a waste of time. If you have a closer look at the plot, you will find that all of the great thinkers allowed themselves around 8 hours of sleep, the amount of time recommended for an adult.

Only by being awake, our brain creates toxic products, affecting the concentration and our thinking capacity. How does the brain eliminates these neurotoxins?

It has been discovered that when you sleep, your brain cells shrink. This way the space between the cells increases and, like unblocking a stream, a fluid starts flowing, draining the neurotoxins away.

But this is only one way that sleep contributes to your brain fitness. Sleep is also extremely important for the memory and the learning process. While sleeping, your brain tidies up all information that you gathered during your learning process. It removes the irrelevant chunks of memory and strengthens areas that you need or want to be stored. Also during sleep, the neural patterns that are being created in the learning process are strengthening.

If you are making a retrospective of all you’ve been studied right before going to bed and you set your mind that you want to dream about what you acquired, the chances to happen are substantially increasing. Dreaming about what you are learning can be extremely beneficial for acquiring all that information.

Conclusion

To sum up, alternate your moments of maximum concentration with some minutes of joyous relaxation. Short breaks may increase your procrastination habits, but using a time-boxing technique such as Pomodoro can help you develop your personal learning cadence. Last but not least, pay attention to your sleeping schedule, don’t underestimate it.

Ciprian Paraschiv

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