Written by Lynn Gaertner-Johnston, Syntax Training
Apply these tips to improve your language:
There are two ways to eat a cake.
You can eat it in small pieces.
Or gobble the whole thing down.
Most of us would like to gobble, whether it comes to cake or learning
And like cake, learning needs to be tackled in small portions. Small portions not only help you learn, but help you learn a lot faster. Here are three core reasons why:
1) The sleep factor
2) The tiredness factor
3) The mistake factor.
Let’s start with the sleep factor
When you learn something, the brain tries to make sense of it. And then it goes about doing whatever it’s supposed to do. Then you go to bed. You might get just 6 hours of sleep, but in that time your brain is processing parts of your day. And if you’ve learned a new skill, there’s a good chance it’s doing just that—processing your new skill.
My niece, Marsha is just 8 (at the time of writing this article)
And she comes across to my office to learn to implement a concept called Bal-Vis-X. It’s a combination of skills that make students sharper and smarter than ever before. But here’s what happens during our exercise.
At first, Marsha struggles with a new exercise (there are over 300 exercises in the entire program). And we don’t force the issue. She just goes home and goes to sleep. Then she comes back for the next session. In between those two sessions, nothing has changed. The only difference is the sleep factor. Yet, almost immediately you can see the difference.
And the same applies to your learning
You can learn just about anything. And then it’s time to sleep. The very next day there will be a difference. Whether you will be able to discern the difference or not isn’t relevant, there will be a difference, nonetheless.
Over weeks and months you’ll be able to see a chunky difference. And sleep, believe it or not, plays a massive role. So yes, turning off that stupid TV (yes, stupid) will make you a lot smarter. But then, can’t bulk learning make you smarter? Surely the brain can absorb a lot more information at one go. Yes it can, but there’s a problem called tiredness that steps right in.
2) The tiredness factor
Bulk learning is plainly ineffective when compared with daily learning—and you don’t need a research scientist to tell you that. If you’re flirting with a new skill, the brain is under tremendous pressure. It’s trying to absorb what’s being written, work out the context and—because it’s a skill—apply it to your job or your life. Think about the amount of glucose that sucks up from your body. Now multiply that learning over 3 hours, or a day, and what you’ll find are drop outs.
It would seem that you’ve heard it all, and yet unless you have a phenomenal ability, there’s a chance you lost little chunks past the first ten minutes of instruction. As the learning advances, you start losing bigger chunks.
Now admittedly this depends on your level of skill. Let’s say you already know a lot about Photoshop, and you’re sitting in a Photoshop seminar, your brain doesn’t strain too much. But the moment some new features come up, your brain has to do a fair bit of work. The more facts you have to remember the more tired it gets and dropouts are inevitable. It’s only when you see the work of others, working on the same exercise, that you realise how many subtleties you’ve missed.
When you do daily learning, you get to re-examine what you’ve learned—and what you’ve missed. And this brings us to the third part: The mistake factor.
3) The mistake factor
If you do something every day, you learn from new mistakes every day. If you bulk your learning the mistakes are all a blur. But daily mistakes get highlighted. And not just your mistakes, but in a group, the mistakes of the entire group. There’s more than a good chance that a group of just 5-7 people will make as many as 5-15 mistakes in a single day. This is because everyone interprets information differently, and executes differently.
So you get to learn—and more importantly, revise what you know. And what you don’t know. Bulk learning is not as efficient, because the mistakes are made en masse, and the teacher may not be overly keen to point out 35 mistakes in one day. Over a week, 35 mistakes are just 5 mistakes a day. Every mistake gets its own spotlight and hence you get the chance to eliminate those mistakes systematically.
And yet most of us believe in bulk learning
And this is because we’re in a hurry. Yet, the best way to learn something, is to slow things down considerably. It takes most people about 2-3 years to become extremely proficient at a skill like writing or drawing. Yet with the right teacher and the right system this can be shortened to just 6-8 months. And that’s because the pace slows down considerably. You detect and fix more errors. And what is talent, but the systematic reduction of errors?
You’ve done the gobble-gobble learning and you know the results.
Now try the daily learning. Better still, try it in a group.
And prepare to be amazed.
Photo credit: http://homebrewedchristianity.com
While most exercise is focused on strengthening and improving your physical body and muscles, there is very little focus on keeping your brain sharp and healthy. This is interesting because the brain is obviously the most important organ in your body, not only controlling the muscles people spend hours working to build up, but also your memory, thought process, attitude, etc. Don’t get me wrong, abs are great, but the brain needs to be supplemented too. It is far more important to your overall well-being. Here are the best exercises/activities that you can do to keep your brain in tip-top condition:
1. Challenge Your Brain
The majority of people are stuck in ruts. They go to the same job everyday, hang out with the same friends and eat at the same places. While that may feel safe, it’s not the most stimulating lifestyle for your brain. Those synapses have been built up enough, so try something that you do NOT know how to do! Buy a model car kit, master the art of sudoku or crosswords, or go pick up another major at your nearest college. The point is you need to be learning new things to keep your brain honest. Form new synapses by forcing your mind to work in ways it has not worked before. Just like physical workouts, doing too much of the same exercise will eventually give no results. Switch it up!
– Sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, mainly fatty fish and grass-fed animals. Omega-3′s are instrumental in making your brain membranes fluid, allowing signals to be passed back and forth. Obviously communication is pretty important in the brain, so keep those signals flowing!
– Enough food everyday! Your brain needs energy too, not just your muscles.
Do Not Eat:
– Too much cholesterol, high amounts are linked to brain diseases like Alzheimers.
– Too much fat, sugar, etc. All of that bad stuff is linked to brain health in addition to overall bodily health! System-wide diseases like hypertension, Type-II Diabetes and obesity have been linked to loss in cognitive ability and memory loss. If it’s not good for your physique, it’s probably not good for your brain either.
3. Sleep Well
R.E.M. sleep is critical for the for being able to retain information and maintaining learning ability. Sleep is the time when your brain resets, builds new synapses and brain cells and rids itself of the by-products of normal use. Sleep deprivation leaves you feeling not only tired, but less able to perform simple to advanced cognitive functions. So make sure you are getting that healthy minimum of 6, if not 8 hours of sleep per night. If that’s impossible, take a short nap during the day. Naps can do a lot more than you think, so use the info below to decide how long of a nap you need:
2-5 Minute – Reduces sleepiness
5-20 Minute – Increases alertness, stamina and cognitive performace.
20-30 Minute – Perks of the 2-20 minute nap, plus helps with muscle memory and clears the brain of information build-up, hence improving memory ability.
50-90 Minute – This get’s into the REM sleep cycle, so it helps with memory consolidation and virtually everything else. REM sleep is the one cycle that we as humans need to live without going. Alternate sleep cycles adjust the body to going directly into REM sleep, skipping out on the other non-important cycles. This nap will leave you a little groggy but will reset everything and restore complete cognitive power unless you have a massive REM sleep debt built up already.
4. Remember Stuff!
When it comes to memory, the use it or lose it rule applies. And considering your cognitive ability is relatively useless if you cannnot remember what you learned yesterday, you should probably start using it. Try pulling out an old photo album and recollecting entire days or events related to the photos you see. Really try to recall even the most insignificant of details; this should be a workout for your brain. Even try to remember a full conversation that you had yesterday, anything that get’s your memory going. If you’re having a lot of trouble with even those exercises, start a journal to get yourself to remember at the end of each day. That will build you up immediately so that you can start remembering less recent events.
5. Relax Regularly
With constant activity, overthinking and stress, your brain can get very over-loaded with a bunch of thought that just does not need to be there. More importantly, stress increases the chances of dimentia and Alzhiemers. Stress relseases the fight-or-flight hormones into your brain, reducintg your ability to think clearly. So throw out the insticts and relax instead: Take 15-30 minutes during the day and just sit in silence. Eyes open or closed, breath deeply for a little bit and try to empty your mind. Think about nothing. Then meditate, pray, do yoga, or just sit there. Whatever suits you. Just get that relaxation break in during the day so you can clear your mind.
The ability to concentrate is obviously huge in terms of cognitive ability. You will dramatically increase your ability to think clearly and efficiently if you are able to concentrate better. So:
1. Practice! While you are relaxing, concentrate on something. One thing that you want or a problem that needs to be solved. Keep your mind on that topic for the length of your relaxation period. This is much more difficult than it sounds so just keep doing it. If you space out, shake your head and go back to concentrating!
2. Realize when you are distracted and what is causing it. If it is something that is weighing on you, address it right there and then! If you keep getting distracted, you will just be inefficient at whatever you are consciously trying to accomplish.
7. Alcohol is a poison, you know…
Don’t go overboard. Alcohol is just bad for the brain in large amounts. Check out this page which lists a seemingly infinite amount of brain functions that alcohol abuse impairs. Memory gets hit pretty hard in addition to overall cognitive ability. If you feel the need to intoxicated, try other safer drugs (like marijuana) instead of the “devil’s juice”.
In real world, the smarterst people are people who make mistakes and learn.
In school, the smartest people don’t make mistakes.
P.S. “If you’re not embarrassed by work you did years ago, you probably haven’t evolved or developed much.”