Students, and anybody who wants to learn in general, want to learn and retain information in order for them to be able to apply it later on as a practitioner.
The issue is that many people do not know how to learn this information for later use. It goes in and comes right back out.
Have you ever read something pertaining to your studies, like a textbook, a scientific study or some piece of information assigned to you by a teacher only for you to read the same paragraph over and over again?
If someone were to ask you to recall any of that information you had to learn you wouldn’t know what the hell you just read.
Even if you were able to recall, you wouldn’t even understand the underlying concepts because you weren’t fully grasping the context of which that information existed in. In other words, you didn’t learn anything.
Or, you may have studied hard for an exam, feeling comfortable about everything you studied then go into the exam only to draw blanks. All of the studying you did didn’t help you learn the required information.
These are the problems many people face when it comes to studying material they have to learn.
If you want to become a practitioner, you must learn this information, understand it bit by bit then store it for later use into your long term memory.
You want to practice long enough for you to embed every detail into your unconscious, til it becomes second nature. You also want to be able to teach others in such a way that they can learn the material also.
The below average student crams, stores a small portion in short term memory then they learn no meaningful information for exams and later, relevant application in life.
Learn How To Be A Practitioner Instead Of A “Student”
“The secrets of the craft comes to fruition when you put in your 10,000 hours of application.”
Proper learning separates true practitioners from simply being a memory dump of a modern day university student.
When you’re a practitioner you have the concepts embedded into your unconscious mind through years of learning through practice.
The secrets of the craft comes to fruition when you put in your 10,000 hours of application. You actually learn the craft because you practice it endlessly.
When you’re a student, you learn the craft but you’re filled with theory and little real world experience.
I started on my journey to learn the craft of strength training and I didn’t consult a textbook.
When I went to the gym to get after the iron, I made an effort learn as I went along only opening the textbook when I got stuck.
What I found was that many of the “secrets” of the craft revealed itself to me in due time. It was much easier to learn when I actually applied the concepts.
Many of the basic and even some of the nuanced aspects of training revealed itself to me after training for a certain period.
There are many people in the fitness community who rely too much on information. These people end up succumbing to analysis paralysis and end up going nowhere. They don’t actually learn the information in any meaningful way.
When studying, think of what you are studying as a craft. Think of yourself as a practitioner, not a student. Actually learn the information with the intent of applying it later on.
Here are some techniques that I’ve personally used in the past to learn anything I was intrigued by.
To Learn You Have To Commit
When you make the decision to learn anything at all, you must commit. This means getting rid of any consumption of information not relevant to your current path.
This means getting rid consumption of:
- Social media
- Video games
- Your friends toxic complaints
- Chatterbox drama from coworkers
All of these serve to reduce your capacity to focus on your craft. These distracts serve to replace what you learn with trash information.
Think of your brain like a computer, because it’s similar to one.
A computer has something called “Random Access Memory”(RAM).
The more random information you load onto your brain, the less RAM you have available to learn your craft.
Free up as much RAM as possible by not indulging in bullshit.
Learn By Mixing In Information Not Pertaining To Your Craft
I know that I just told you not to consume information that doesn’t pertain to forwarding development of your studies but you need to cultivate a degree of balance that promotes edification of your craft.
When you study other areas, you’re able to pull similarities from those areas to apply it to your own. In other words, learn to cross reference material. This will help you learn faster.
Mixing in information from other areas also allows for you to avoid pattern overload.
For example, I spoke about pattern overload in this article regarding performing the same movement over and over again.
When you learn only one variation of a movement, the squat, bench, deadlift, this leads to degradation of tissue quality.
Overloading that pattern for an extended period of time leads to not only degrading muscle tissue but it also leads to boredom.
This kind of psychological fatigue leads to lacking consistency which is needed for maximal development of your craft.
Switching things up offsets this.
Learn In Small Steps
Many of us underrate the power of improving a little at a time.
Instead of changing one small thing, one day at a time, we tend to try to change something large all in one shot.
The latter is like trying to drink the ocean with a straw.
We should break our big goals down into small chunks, especially big projects that need tweaking.
If you want to become a practitioner, you must discipline yourself to focus on improving one small thing at a time.
Learn By Spoon Feeding Information
If you make small, incremental degrees of change at a rate of 0.1-0.5% one day at a time, you’d be impressed with how much progress you make over the course of just one year.
You should be learning a bit of information a little at a time over a long period of time. This requires a lot of patience but it’s guaranteed that you will retain much of what you learn this way.
Cramming for exams never work.
Becoming a master overnight is impossible.
The only way to be an overnight success is by putting in 10 years of work.
It’s All About The Reps
Combining spaced repetition with spoon feeding information is a powerful way to become a master at any craft.
Strength training is a perfect example of this.
Strength athletes don’t just design a 16 week program, head to the gym and do all 16 weeks of repetitions in one hour.
They space out that volume over the course of 16 weeks, maybe even longer depending on how well they recover from the volume over that period of time.
Some people ask me:
“How do I gain muscle fast?!”
“How do I get as big as you?!”
One time this dude stopped me in the locker room and asked me:
“Hey, boss, how long it took you to get like that?”
When I told him it took me 6 years he seemed disappointed.
It’s almost as if dude thought it was realistic to do 6 years worth of volume in a few hours.
Not gonna happen. You’re going to have to space out your practice.
Studying For Intervals and Parkinson’s Law Improves Your Ability To Learn
I know after explaining in the above two sections about how important patience is, you’re still motivated to get as much done as possible in a short period of time.
I heard about this technique from Elliot Hulse.
In one of his videos he said that he does 33 minutes worth of work at a time, working in intervals and oscillating with walks or other activities in between.
Here’s how it’s done:
- Pick a desired time interval of 15-60 minutes and set an alarm to go off when that time as elapsed.
- Work your ass off for that time frame.
- Take a walk, read a book, spend time with family, etc for a set period of time.
- Repeat first step.
Simple. This allows for your subconscious mind to soak up information/practice during that time interval.
You can also utilize this little technique with “Parkinson’s Law.”
Parkinson’s Law States:
Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.Wikipedia
All you have to do is assign a certain amount of work to your interval of 15-60 minutes and work on it.
You’ll work your ass off during that time frame and before you know it, you’ll be done.
Caution: Do not try this with something like strength training. If you try to fill an hour with a weeks worth of volume you will snap your shit up. This is only meant for mental tasks. Things that aren’t strenuous on the body.
Memorization Technique: Note Taking
When I was studying anatomy I use to take a shit load of notes. But I did it in such a way that I was copying whole paragraphs of information then re-wording it.
I went on to receiving an A in that class.
Copying information and putting it in your own words is a powerful way to boost your recall.
The 80/20 Method
The lab portion of my anatomy class was a bit different. It was based in demonstration to serve the purpose of contextualizing the content.
In order for me to ace the lab portion I allocated 80% of study time to teaching material I learned and 20% of study time learning the actual material.
Strict memorization through note taking might be sufficient for recall on multiple choice exams but if someone were to ask you what your answers meant and why you chose them would you be able to tell them? I doubt it.
The best way to learn something is by teaching it to someone else. This is because you have to break the information down into terms that the lay person can readily understand.
The degree to which the lay person understands the topic you are teaching them is the degree to which you understand the material.
This is where the practitioners shine. A practitioner can show you the ins and outs of their craft because they practice day in and day out.
They apply their knowledge to many different applications and contexts.
This is also why as much as people rag on content marketers who sell courses, I value them. Because these courses’ success is predicated on how well the teacher can relay the information.
It separates the practitioners from the snake oil sales people.
Learn By Sleeping Properly
Sleep plays an important role in learning.
Now I can get into sleep spindles and learning but I’ll put it like this.
Let’s use the computer analogy again. If you’ve never heard of “disk defragmentation” it is the process of putting fragmented pieces of data together in order for the computer to run smoothly.
Sleeping does something similar in that it consolidates information learned over the course of the day.
Failure to get the appropriate amount of rest results in failing to retain information we want to learn.
The quality of sleep is important for proper memory consolidation.
Getting good quality REM sleep should be a priority if you want to learn and retain information as well as embed your ability to apply what you learned in proper context.
The mind is a wonderful thing.
We become what we do on a consistent basis as well as what we think on a consistent basis.
Combining learning, thinking and action is a powerful way to become the strongest version of yourself and a master practitioner.
But don’t take my word for it. Give these techniques a try.
– Anthony Boyd