Remember when learning was great fun? When you had more questions than answers? Maybe it was back at a grade school learning party, or later in a high school debate or play, or later still when you dove into that “hobby” you wanted to learn about. No matter the age or place, the effortless flow, satisfaction, and memory felt natural. And it was!
Why was that so easy? Humans were built to learn and remember. And that’s the natural order: what you learn is what you recall. It’s a cause-and-effect interaction. So, when memory fails, flounders, and is downright hard to get, learning is the issue. Or, more specifically, poor learning creates a poor memory.
What leads us to poor learning? Common approaches and common advice about how to handle tasks and work hard lead us astray. But natural learning can change all of that!
Do-the-job Jon crams in a quick prep for a meeting by skimming the report that will be discussed. He sighs and thinks, “Here we go again! More needless, expert advice.” In the meeting, Jon can’t recall the important information.
Common advice tells us:
- Start with the deadline and do tasks right before they’re due.
- Cramming and skimming are good ways to learn, especially when time is short.
- Feelings don’t matter when it comes to learning information.
This advice leads to poor and spotty learning. It emphasizes finishing tasks, speed, and quantity over quality. It replaces true goals, interest, and achievement with deadlines and beat the clock races. These rushing methods drain energy and raise stress, which reduces learning. But worse yet, they skip a lot. None of that can ever be learned or remembered! The advice also ignores the role of motivation: feelings guide the mind. Positive ones increase interest, attention, and memory. Negatives do just the opposite.
Remember your natural learning experiences? They put you first. Here’s some new advice to do just that:
- Give yourself the gift of time. Allow space to create work you’re proud of.
- Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself what’s my goal? What do I want? What method would I enjoy?
- Get motivated! Look for something new, useful, or pleasing as you work. These finds are the prime movers for enjoyable, natural learning!
Work-harder Harry struggles in school. He’s been told he just needs to “work harder.” So, he tries to increase his thinking like he would his muscles during weightlifting. And he spends more time struggling on his assignments. In the end, he gets more stressed and does no better.
Well-meaning advisors often say:
- Just work harder and you’ll do better.
- If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
- Learn one thing at a time.
Hard work advice stresses effort over achievement. It’s based on the assumption that the mind and learning are like the body and muscles. While more reps can build muscles, that’s not true in the mental arena. If “it” didn’t work the first time, doing more of the same – even with more effort – is not likely to work either. Along the same lines, practicing until you get it right doesn’t work unless mistakes are corrected instead of repeated. In short, mindless or error prone efforts create boredom and mistakes, not, learning and memory.
Natural learning doesn’t have any of these characteristics. It changes working hard to working smart. To do that, follow these tips:
- Organize your work. Move from easy tasks and concepts to challenging ones.
- Ask questions; get answers. Use easy texts, videos, tutors, teachers, and classmates to fill in gaps and fix confusions.
- Train like athletes. Add variety to each session. Mix up reading, note taking, and review tasks or practice different types of problems in a single work period.
In the End…
We have all been a Jon or a Harry in school or on the job. And the results generally come at a great cost to our available time, stress management, and performance. To fix all that, return to natural learning experiences that increase your satisfaction and results. Here’s how:
Manage your tasks:
- Give yourself the gift of time.
- Start with the end in mind.
- Get motivated!
Work smart, not hard:
- Organize your work.
- Ask questions; get answers.
- Train like athletes.
What’s the truth about learning and memory? Do the learning in natural and, therefore, memorable ways!