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Your Guide to Spaced Learning and How to Apply It

What role does memory and learning have in our current world of smart phones always on hand, the cloud always accessible and a plethora of note taking and outsourced memory software like Evernote?

When most of us can open a browser window and a search engine within minutes, why is the assimilation of new information in the context of ongoing personal development important?

The reality is that, although we can argue that asking the question ‘how to improve memory‘ is really about how to improve intelligence, you have an accountability to yourself as CEO, entrepreneur or founder. This accountability as the leader of a team of people is to keep developing and refining the ways in which you can do ‘what you and only you’ can do in your business.

So, what is spaced learning, how does it assist memory and how can you apply it?

The spacing effect relates to a phenomenon that has been observed in many memory tasks and tests. People remember and learn more easily if the subject is studied a few times over a longer period of time rather than multiple times over a short period of time.

This sounds obvious, but most of our learning systems are therefore flawed if you think about most of the ways in which we try and develop: by reading, note taking, tests/ exams, lectures and intensive online programmes. Most of these traditionally involve ‘cramming’ and intensive learning and rarely have repeat/ reminder components over a longer period of time.

How to improve your personal development strategies:

  1. Use increasing time intervals – the periodic review of ideas makes them easier to remember and this works best over increasing time intervals. It appears to work by slowing the rate that we forget things. Using the example of the MyNeuroCoach service, depending on how long you have been using the service, you will see particular interventions again in roughly 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and thereafter annually.
  2. Approach the same subject in multiple ways – multiple approaches to the same subject enable your brain to map the subject from different contexts. We understand things better the more dimensions it has, and from a development perspective we can emulate this by coming back to the same subject multiple times, but from different viewpoints whilst ensuring the learning framework/ bigger picture is always clear.
  3. Framework/ bigger picture – as humans we understand things better when we understand how things fit together with other things. We are better adapted to know what things do rather than what they are. From a learning and recall perspective this means that you should constantly be contextualising. Ensure you’re developing to clear frameworks and that your learning is continually being tied back to the bigger picture.
  4. Vary the learning methods – stimulate your ability to learn by keeping your brain interested. Don’t just read and take notes. Do things to apply your learnings. Try and think about how you’d teach the subject to others:this is often one of the fastest ways to highlight your gaps in understanding. Services like MyNeuroCoach use SMS text and emails because they act as snapshots of learning that work with the ways executives brains have been geared to pay attention.
  5. Shake up the learning slots – our brains work associatively: we remember things both by context, but also by linking them to where we were and what we were doing as we were learning the new subject. Try and develop yourself away from your desk. Don’t just read things and think about things in the usual places you read and think – you’ll be surprised about how things stick within the context of a space.
  6. Attention span – recognise that you’re not a machine. Often you’ll sit with a learning objective and consume information without attention or retention because you’re not evoking any emotion around the subject. We need our attention to be spiked otherwise even minor retention is wiped out within days. Similarly, try and develop using both the spaced learning techniques described above to work with your attention slots, but also by ensuring the learning system you are using breaks subjects down into bite-size learning chunks

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About Si Conroy

Family man, founder/CEO, investor & CrossFitting ultra runner. Businesses apply cognitive science to goal setting & goal achievement for leaders. Love life.

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