Why you should live unbalanced.

Your brain learns faster if the same information is repeated over a short period of time versus a long one.

Every day you see many things and have many conversations. You remember stuff and compare how things match up with previous experiences. This information overload is very large, so deciding what to keep and what to lose is a very important task. Luckily most of us have subconsciouses that are adept at separating the signal from the noise. Scientists believe this process happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep; we consolidate important memories, move them to long term storage and forget most of the rest. When we wake up rested the next day we are ready to process new information.

Your mind thinks in patterns. It adds up many experiences that are similar to get a “feel” for how a situation will play out or people react. Many times we completely forget the specific instances after we have extracted the important patterns. If something happens once and is not very unusual then your subconscious will discard it as random and unimportant. Flick your arm in a certain way once, no imprint is left. Flick your arm a certain way many thousands of times and your subconscious marks it as important and does not erase it. After a while, you can do it automatically.

The difference comes in when you do the same amount of repetitions in a short, intense burst or gradually over a period of weeks or months. There are trade-offs to be made. I argue that most people spread their repetitions too thinly. They hinder their ability to learn at maximum speed by not doing it frequently enough or intensely enough for their subconscious to mark it as important.

Another factor is cross-referencing between separate parts of information stored in short-term memory. Many things that are insignificant when seen in isolation show patterns once they reach a certain density. Facts that would be deemed irrelevant and erased from short-term memory cannot be used to draw conclusions if they are spread across a large period of time. If you process the same amount of information in a shorter timeframe, then you have all the facts at your command in your short-term memory. You can draw conclusions that would not be possible with a thinner spread of information.

This also applies to coordination skills. If you hit one ball a day, every day for a year you learn less coordination than if you hit 50 balls a day for a week. Not only do repetitions need to be near enough to each other to get recognized, they also need to be repeated over a number of days. You need to refresh the memories before they fade away from lack of use.

Obviously, this only works up to a point: when you start missing sleep you are taking it too far.

It also gets hard after a few weeks to keep concentrating on the thing you are trying to learn. Make sure to also make time for relaxation and rest. But try and shuffle your schedule so that you can focus on a single topic for a few weeks or days continuously. Interruptions or a constant switching of focus rapidly degrade the quality of work that you do.

How to apply this: If you want to learn a new skill set, instead of making an hour for it every day, take two weeks or a few months to study it intensely and master it. Experiment with different densities of information or practise to see how you learn the fastest.

To happiness, and beyond!






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