“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”
– Henry Ford
When I was at a university pursuing Masters in International Marketing Management in 2018, I vaguely remember my first introduction week to Marketing. Being a marketing enthusiast, I knew the basics of marketing, or so I thought I did.
At the end of the week, while casually talking to one of my classmates, I blurted, “ The lectures are easy, basic, and obvious.” After listening to those overconfident words coming out of my mouth, he kept quiet. I wondered why.
Slowly, I noticed that I was learning with this heavy crapload of ego that I was carrying within me.
Ego related to how little knowledge I had. Gradually, I identified the problem, let my ego take a back seat.
I replayed the first-ever lecture video with a fresh perspective, took notes, and researched further on the critical keywords.
As time passed by, I realized how dumb I could be even to think I knew everything.
The more I dove into the realm of fundamentals of marketing,
Diving into the fundamentals of marketing made me curious and want to learn more about the topic all the time.
Moreover, I fell in love with the process of learning. I loved reading research papers, articles, watching documentaries, and having meaningful conversations with friends. That, in turn, made me feel a dumb and intelligent piece of S at the same time.
I discovered that learning is an exciting process that can be learned through how you perceive the world.
I recently went through a Coursera catalog to learn something new; I found this exciting course on learning by Dr. Barbara Oakley.
I highly recommend everyone who wants to explore the untapped area of their brain beautifully.
Anyone willing to learn how to learn can take this course for free, and you will be amazed to discover how our brain has an immense potential to capture exciting ideas and apply them in creative ways.
This article consists of essential takeaways, including two significant learning modes and four techniques to learn anything effectively.
Focused vs. Diffused Modes of Learning
The human brain operates on two modes of learning, namely Focused mode and Diffused mode.
Focused mode operates on a straight, well-defined path. It is the outcome of a product by following a set pattern.
The diffuse mode of learning, on the other hand, randomly bumps on to the possibilities and is open to thinking. It allows your mind to wander & gain access to new opportunities and ideas. The product here is an uncertain process.
Think of focused mode as traveling with an itinerary and diffused mode as traveling without an itinerary.
When you go with a plan, you discover selected places. You know what to expect out of your trip. Everything could be calculated in advance. Whereas having an itinerary gives you the freedom to explore. It allows you to experience the unexpected that could lead to a more adventurous trip.
My approach is I note my thoughts and ideas while in diffused mode; later, I can start expanding them by focusing on important ones.
Learning can hence reach every nook and corner of our brain. If we try reaching those areas, we will discover objects that are less certain but more accurate.
Best of Both Worlds
To develop your learning, a particular emphasis should be given to both the learning modes combined. For example, if I want to write a creative article, I should first create ideas. For this, I should allow my mind to wander and fetch the best ideas that come into my mind. That usually happens when I go on walks or when I work out.
Then, I sit with an intent to focus and write.
Learning How to Learn
When you want to learn something, you should be able to fall in love with the process rather than the product. When you enjoy doing what you do, learning becomes easier and obvious.
With that being said, everyone goes through rough days, where you do not feel like showing up.
Here are 4-research backed techniques that you can apply in your daily learning for them to be effective even in your rough days.
Technique 1: Pomodoro Timer
Our brain has natural instincts to react to urgent things.
Research favours a little stress. It is good in its limits. If you are not under any pressure of a deadline, you are less likely to do that work before it can be done.
For chronic procrastinators who tend to put tasks to the next day, to over pressurize themselves at the “last minute,” Parkinson’s Law could be a great solution.
- Set up a deadline for yourself to get an initial breakthrough
- Use the Pomodoro Technique and Focused mode of learning
When you know that you have no other option but to do the most important task in a limited timeframe, you do it. You enter a Flow State where you gain momentum. This has a snowball effect on your productivity.
For example, if you decide to work on a task for 2 h, and set 4 Pomodoro cycles of 25 min each with a 5min short break between, you will get done more than you would have imagined.
Technique no 2: Chunking
Chunking is a method to break your learnings and put them in packets. You have separate access to these packets. You can focus on them separately until you get a bigger picture of the packets and then you can finally build some of your own understandings related to the information by linking them together.
Technique no 3: Build Analogies and Metaphors
When you interlink your learning and build relatable stories around it, you tend to remember them quickly.
Research suggests building metaphors and analogies helps engrave fundamental concepts in our brains and make our visualization strong. This can strengthen our memory.
When you learn to create analogies and metaphors and try linking ideas, they are more likely to deepen your neural structure.
Technique 4: Spaced Repetitions
To be able to recall what you have learned, you should not cram up the whole subject in one go. Rather, you can fix a certain time of the week to recall the learnings and repeat the cycle after specific days consistently.
Learning should be a lifelong process and should not be defined only by our learnings at schools and universities. Learning with techniques can turbocharge your efficiency in doing any work that you want.
The 4 major techniques discussed are
Pomodoro timer: Learn more with a structured time barrier.
Chunking: Break the information into separate packets so that each packet can make sense.
Analogies/Metaphors: Helps increase memory and visualization.
Spaced Repetitions: Actively recalling what you have learned after a certain period of time consistently.
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