Is it surprising that the things we remember best are the most ridiculous events, the most colourful sites or the most sensational experiences? If it is, it should be equally unsurprising when we spend so much time in school, bored, and find that we do not manage remember anything. What I would like to focus on today is creating a habit of being more engaged, more creative with the opportunities we have when we are learning. I know how hard it can be to push ourselves to study, let alone enjoy it but even the simple act of smiling and engaging our imagination can do a lot for our focus and memory.
Boring = Forgetting
When we force our mind upon something it is not interested in, we enter into a state of boredom. And when we are bored, we are quite seriously looking for anything and everything to take our attention away from what we are doing. So when we check our phone during a lecture or switch over to social media in the middle of our work, it is 100% of the time because we are bored.
Even if we were to try our very best to focus on something that is completely uninteresting to us, we would struggle to retain any of the experience in the long-term. The reason for this is because our brain has nothing to attach this information to. We are throwing facts and numbers and problems at it without anywhere to store it all. It will quite literally, go in one ear and out of the other.
So without any glue for those bits of information to stick in our memory, they will sail through and be forgotten in a matter minutes.
Interesting = Remembering
This is the first step in becoming an effective learner. When we find a way to be interested in what we are learning, we have infinitely improved our chances of learning it. It grabs our attention, our focus and the hungry brain that constantly wants more and more stimulation will be satisfied.
There have been many examples during my time working with students where they have absolutely no interest in. Believe me, it is very hard to sell people on the importance of coordinate geometry and the movement of tectonic plates.
So how can we make these mundane-sounding topics just a bit more interesting? I have got three tips to help you ACE them:
Take a deep breathe, sit back get comfortable and just say to yourself: “Wow”. Be in absolute awe of what it is that you have just learnt. Whether it be knowledge or a skill, there is always room to be amazed by what others have discovered in the past, or what you are now capable of doing. Then before you move on to having another thought, I insist that you smile to yourself and pat yourself on the back for taking the time to learn something new.
Even the most boring of topics become more interesting when we use our minds to create connections between what we are learning and knowledge we already have. In doing so, we can see the applications at the same; how we can use it in the future and why it might not seem as useless as it originally was. As soon as we can connect some purpose with the information in front of us, the brain will begin to file it away appropriately, making it easier to recall.
Use your imagination. Picture the words, the images, the actions in your mind and think; what does it remind you of? Where will I be able to use this? How does it make me feel? All of these small questions help engage our minds with what we are learning and by taking the time to engage the right side of our brain, we are able to make a more impressive network that will hold the information in place for longer.
Often times, we approach topics with the wrong questions. We ask “why is this boring?” as opposed to “why is this interesting?”, “why do I have to know this?” instead of “how can I use this?”. So when you are stuck in front of another topic which you find not interesting at all, first, use the ACE method and you will find yourself many reasons to be interested in it instead.