Have you ever attended a seminar and returned home excited about what you learned that day? Filled with new ideas. Filled with enthusiasm. Full of ideas for using information that will make your life better, easier, and more enjoyable. A week later you noticed that you had difficulty explaining to a friend what exactly made you slow down so much. It was harder than you thought it would be to implement the ideas you remembered in practice.
Or, have you ever practiced or tried for an upcoming event, or did you really get it right? Then, a few days later, when it was time to perform, you did much worse than you hoped you would do.
If you answered yes to these questions, you are not alone. Most of us have experienced these two situations more than once in our lives. Psychologists in Dartmouth, who specialise in how we learn and remember, have discovered some secrets of the mind. Here are two of their discoveries:
First, we learn better and remember longer when we engage in “interval learning”. We shouldn’t accumulate knowledge in large, “mass learning” pieces as in a seminar or at night before a test. Our minds learn better when we do a little at a given moment, more often. We learn faster and remember five one-hour sessions, separated from each other by other activities, than when we have one long marathon session. That makes sense. This gives our mind time to “let it in”. This supports the idea that moderation and consistency in time become a significant efficiency.
Secondly, when we exercise or try, we should do so in environments and situations that are as close to life and natural as possible.
We want where and how we practice to be as close to the real event as possible. When soldiers prepare for combat, part of their training includes “live fire”, real bullets. Soldiers need to know that their training is as real and potentially fatal as real combat, otherwise they will not know what they need to know to survive.
Fortunately, most of our experiences are not as critical as those of a soldier. However, if we want to give a good conversation or presentation, we should practice in front of living bodies. If we want to put ourselves in a better position, we should practice on real greenery with other people observing. Then our practice closely resembles the real situation. This kind of practice will help us to prepare and improve.
When we practice in isolation or in conditions very different from what we can expect from this experience, the practice is worse. We can combine two discoveries from Dartmouth into one learning technique: to learn and practice regularly for short rather than long periods in real life conditions. Then we will learn better and remember what we have learned for longer. And we will reduce the chances of experiencing stage fear, mental blockage or crushing under pressure.
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