Before I fall asleep each night I think about what I learned from the day. I like a long list. In the spirit of using my potential and making tomorrow better, I ask my “mentor-within” to grade me for the day. Because I spend a lot of time learning new things that can help my clients, I want that learning to stick. It’s a huge investment of time and money to find the good stuff and then to listen to it; I want a solid return.    

If most of your learning is through podcasts, audio books and talk shows, can you retain enough of the content to teach it to somebody else days later?  If you can’t teach it, you don’t know it. The average person retains only 50% or less of what he or she hears within a day or two. By day three, recall is 25% or less. Several days, recall is reduced to a few key words. The approach I’m about to share can switch you from a passive “hearing-just-to-forget mode” to one of long term retention. Plus, you’ll be building more cognitive reserve – the war chest of cortical circuits that come in handy if you have a stroke or a predisposition to dementia.

To be fair, distraction has much to do with poor retention – interruptions break the chain of thought, or listening while you’re driving or eating etc. Then there’s you inner dialogue that competes with the speaker in the form of worries, fears and negative self-talk. So, given that our attention spans are equal to that of goldfish, what can we do to remember more of what we heard?    

1. Get a notebook (better to write than to click on a keyboard) with lined paper and a pack of colorful tabs big enough for a title.

2.  Before you listen to something you hope to retain, print the title of the item on the tab and set aside a few pages for notes. You now commit to be accountable for new learning.

3. Listen for a few minutes at a time, in chunks and jot down a summary of what was said, perhaps a phrase or a sentence or two. Do this after each topic or chapter. If you have trouble doing this, you need to go back and hear it again until you can digest it into your own words. You may prefer to create a picture or a mind map with the information.

4. When you’re finished, look over your notes and tell back silently or aloud what you learned and how it may apply to something you’re working on. With practice, this process of integrating and consolidating information can become quite quick and automatic. Your chances of benefiting from these efforts pay off, because your brain has processed the information to much deeper levels than the average person.       

5. For an extra boost of retention once a week or every other week, look back over your notes to refresh your memory. Spice up your dinner time table talk with your new knowledge; this gives your brain a chance to hear it again.

When you fall asleep each night, it will feel good to know that you spent your learning time well, and that you’re a better expert today than you were yesterday.   

 

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Warmly,

Becky