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Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Hopping On One Leg While Studying Works (And Other Insane Methods Work)

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I spent years experimenting with different study strategies. I would spend hours and hours experimenting with different study strategies and then test the results. Some of those experiments were practical. For example, I spent over a week experimenting with listening to music while studying. (In case you're curious, it didn't work well.) Other of those experiments would seem downright stupid.

For example, I spent a couple days experimenting with hopping on one leg while attempting to study.

While it's a bit of a tangent from my point, I feel I need to explain why I'd experiment with something so ridiculous. I was including that experiment in a larger concept I was working on. I wanted to know how the activation of different muscles changed the effectiveness of studying. (It helps but that's a story for another day.)

That's not the only crazy experiment I've tried before though. (It's not even close to the only one.) I even spent a day trying to study for my history class in a language I barely understood. Again, this was part of a larger series of experiments that I was working on.

While I did tons of crazy experiments that seem completely unrelated to each other, there was one strange fact that most of these had in common. The crazier the experiment seemed, the better it's results seemed to be.


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It can seem odd that doing things that seem completely stupid can increase your ability to study but I have a theory on it based on some solid science.

Imagine a person talking loudly in the background while you're trying to study. You're just trying to get ready for a test but some jerk feels the need to virtually yell everything he or she says. This is the kind of noise that can drive you nuts while you're trying to study. This is the kind of interruption that I'm always hounding on getting rid of in this blog. It can completely ruin every ounce of focus you invest.

Most of my crazy study experiments can seem similar this person talking loudly. Hopping on one leg is an interruption for your brain. Every time you go up into the air your brain has to focus all of your stabilization muscles for the impact. With my studying in another language, it would seem that having to translate words from the language I barely knew, into the language I knew would be another interruption. They are interruptions but they're just a different kind.

Imagine listening to an air conditioner while you're trying to study. In fact, imagine listening to a super loud air conditioner. How much of a disruption from studying is that? I could see you thinking either way on this one but the experiments suggest a clear answer. White noise, like the kind you'll hear from an air conditioner doesn't hurt your ability to study. (In some cases, it's been shown to help because it blocks out non-white noise.)
Your brain is designed to be distracted by anything unusual. It's not designed to be distracted by something repetitive and boring. The repetitive and odd can actually help you focus even better.

Interruptions That Improve Focus

When you're studying, the hardest part is getting your brain into your most efficient level of focus. The brain is a fickle device when you're not utilizing it properly. To truly understand this, you need to train yourself for year just to achieve your highest levels of focus. That's where some of my odd experiments come in.

Hopping on one leg while you're trying to study forces your whole brain and body into the studying. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't get distracted from studying. To maintain the pace I used, I needed to keep my brain completely invested in studying and not falling over. I couldn't suddenly think about the show I watched last night or I'd fall on my... Moving on...

The language translation studying forced my whole brain into the studying.

Of course, each of these individual study methods had other mechanisms at work but fundamentally, they could have helped just because they forced me to invest more of my excess energy into the study time.

Should You Hop On One Leg To Study?


There is one fundamental flaw with all of these strange study strategies. Eventually, your brain and body gets used to the unusual factors about studying. At that point, you're brain doesn't need to focus quite as hard at it. That means the focus advantage deteriorates. (Anyway, you look like an idiot hopping on one leg to study.)

To make it even worse, your brain gets used to the excess stimulation while you're using one of these strange study methods. That will ultimately makes it more difficult to study when you're just sitting in a chair trying to learn it. (Your brain wants to be hopping while studying. That distracts you.)

Why Does This Matter?

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I personally gave up playing with silly sounding study strategies. Ultimately, I realized most of them may improve studying but they take a whole lot of management to constantly cycle through. I would have to change my study session nearly every week to keep studying at a high efficiency. And honestly, the 5% boost I was averaging wasn't worth the stress. Instead I figured it would be much better just to focus on improving my brain's focus without the extra tricks.

Through all these personal experiments I learned one important thing.

The human brain is awesome.

I'm serious.

While studying, it can sometimes feel like we've got a brick bonking around in our skull where our brain should be, but we still have the most complex machines around. The human brain is designed to learn information pretty darn well. If you feel like you're not learning something that you need to be learning then trust your brain to tell you what to do.

If you don't feel like you're learning something. You're probably not. If you're not learning with the strategy you're trying then it's time to change strategies. Stand up. Think. And do something new.

You may not understand exactly how the cogs turn in the mill of your noggin but all you need to do is trust that they're spinning in the right direction and let them turn.

Would you like to have the tricks your teachers don't tell you about how to study faster? That's what this blog is all about. Be sure to check out the archives. (And the books if you're in a hurry to learn it all.)

Do you want to learn the secrets about studying that the mainstream educators wont tell you? Follow this blog.

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