Archive | January, 2016

Trust yourself – recent things I’ve learnt about learning

12 Jan

These few days have been very interesting as I’ve come across a few disparate nuggets about learning:

Time management: read Two Awesome Hours by Josh Davis. I tend not to spend my time on self-help books as I find a lot of it written by people whose careers are based on the self-help consultancy. This book was recommended as offering neurology-based practical advice. I found the first portion of it amazing, and the end basically a recap. But a few takeaways I found particularly useful:

  1. Take the time to consider your next move: this is something my husband does. He’s amazingly efficient at entering fields he has previously little knowledge about and learning the job. Part of this is due to his strategic use of time: instead of just taking the tasks that he comes across (such as slogging through 80 unread messages in his inbox), he actually tries to be aware of what would be the best use of this next segment of time he has coming up. This is probably why he finds my way of working around the house rather bewildering – I would stop on my way to do something I had determined as important – to do a little cleaning up here, a little crafting there – and leave partially finished projects all over the place, whilst my main work is disregarded. My husband actually plans ahead what he’s going to use this segment of time to do (ex: “I need time to cleanup X’mas tree + tie up loose travel plans for vacation Saturday evening”). This has also made our partnership easier as I am informed that this time I’m expected to mind the kids.
  2. Notice what effects your energy level and mood: If I do small crafts and chores in the morning, when I’m more alert after coffee, I hit an energy lull that pretty much dumps my afternoon for productive mind work down the toilet. However, if I study in the morning, I can do small crafts and chores when I hit my energy lull, because it requires much less alertness, and at that point I’m usually buzzing with the studying endorphins I got in the morning. I’m also becoming more aware of how social media taps my attention so that I might feel falsely refreshed whilst physically being really exhausted. Plus, that’s also a large segment of time that I’m not actually making progress in the things that matter. Besides social media, there are other rabbit holes I have to be aware of: I now know that reading about child abuse and mass murders can be very emotional and absorbing for me, so now I’m consciously trying to avoid clicking on these headlines or looking into the history of these things. If I know I’m going to be picking up the children next, I have to make sure that I’ve achieved something in the day so I don’t (irrationally) resent them for interrupting my time, and the things I do just before I pick them up have to be something I can just drop at the moment.
  3. The environment: Sitting upstairs vs sitting downstairs. I’ve always found myself more alert when there’s good lighting. Turns out the color of the lighting also matters: lightbulbs on the blue spectrum foster productivity, lightbulbs on the yellow spectrum foster creativity.

    Info from other sources I found useful:

  4. Staying challenged with new material/hobbies/levels: As a child, I’ve been pretty lackadaisical about practicing, because I was required to. Now that I realized I actually want to play piano, I’m finding out that I need to make sure I’m working on something harder while recapping pieces I’ve become more fluent at. This keeps me challenged and wanting to keep practicing.
  5. Recapping things to oneself instead of simply reading. Simply reading, underlining, and making notes from the book only gives one a sense of accomplishment. When I was studying for Organic Chem and Biochem, I was drawn to sitting in front of a blank note pad (interestingly, I even found that it had to be a certain size and placed horizontally), where I would recap what I had learned. I was particularly inspired by how this lady presented the information. It’s definitely something she learned well enough to explain so methodically. A delight to listen to.

    When studying for Immunology, I was drawn to making my own flashcards to test myself. And I wouldn’t be writing the flashcards out from the textbook, but from what I’d recalled I’d just read. After finishing a ‘set’ of flashcards, I would then refer to the textbook to make sure I’d gotten everything right. Usually by the time I’d prepared the flashcards, I only needed them for as refreshers when I felt I had gone foggy on the specifics. Writing out the flashcards on a notebook format was so slow though that I stopped doing it after a few chapters. Recently, I read about two online programs that let you create your own flashcards for free! Will have to try them out next time! ( & )

    Recently playing with duolingo, I’ve found myself gradually drawn to writing new vocab down, from memory, as I find my recall of new vocab slipping when I simply learn from the program (what I’ve heard people call the saturation point for new information). It’s a pretty awesome program btw. Which brings me to:

  6. Not telling people about your big goals: You know as a kid you often get asked what your dream is? When you’re applying to programs? My parents have often found me “noncommittal” when I chose not to tell them about certain goals that I was actually working for. It appears my instincts were right. The more you tell people, the more gratified you feel about it in the moment and the less likely you will work towards your goals.

    So Imma gonna go shut up now. : )