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But we can’t maximize the time we spend learning because our feelings about what we ‘should’ be doing get in the way.
If we are learning for work, then in our brains learning equals work. So we think we have to do it during the day, at our workplace.
We think that walking is not learning. It’s ‘taking a break’. We instinctively believe that reading is learning. Having discussions about what you’ve read, however, is often not considered work, again it’s ‘taking a break’.
When mastering a subject, our brain has two general modes of thinking: focused and diffuse, both important in the learning process.
The focused mode is what we traditionally associate with learning. But we need time to process what we pick up, to get this new information integrated into our existing knowledge. We need time to make new connections. This is where the diffuse mode comes in.
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Our brains have two modes:
The mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming—something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower.
When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve.
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Learning how to learn is critical for everyone. Most of us have to deal with a changing world and to learn how to manage tons of new information.
However, most of our learning methods are outdated and far from optimal. It may even be giving us an illusion of learning, like re-reading and highlighting that don't provide proper feedback to show what you haven't learned.
Focused and diffuse modes provide two models for how we develop, elaborate, deepen and broaden connections. Both methods are important.
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It costs you money and time, but it may pay for itself by changing your life for the better. It’s an experiment. And the more “smart” experiments you perform, the more likely you are to find a breakthrough experiment that changes everything.
Inherent in being a good experimenter is being OK with the losses. Therefore, remember that every time you purchase a book that turns out to be a dud, you are just one step closer to a book that will change your life.