I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much information passes through my head and how much I actually use. Which got me thinking about how information passes through YOUR head and how much YOU actually use! 😉
Then I thought about a little piece of information that had previously passed through my head that applies to this situation. That little piece of information was about education. It told me that people learn best when what they learn is applied right away.
For instance, students learn better when tested shortly after they learn the original thought. Instead of only during mid-terms and finals. Language skills, math skills, science knowledge, historical knowledge is all best learned when it is applied right away.
Olympians get better with practice, scholars get better with scholarly research, writers get better with more writing, investors get better with more investing, everyone gets better when they apply what they learn. The sooner they apply it the better!
Which brings me to the point. Use it or lose it. Use what you have and get better. The opposite also holds true. If you aren’t gonna use it, don’t waste your time learning it. This is probably the best productivity tip I can give anyone….
“Only learn what you will use, AND apply it as soon as your done learning it.”
Bonus Tip: Once you have done that… tweak it, tweak, and tweak some more. Then your masterpiece will be complete! 😉
9 thoughts on “Use It or Lose It”
I guess the only problem with this is that sometimes you don’t know what you will use and what you won’t. If I had known what I would need to use and what I wouldn’t when I was in school, I would have ignored about 80% of the material! Ignored it and made room for the truly valuable knowledge. (I don’t know if our brains have specific capacity or if it is even possible to make room, lol.)
This post made me think of the hundreds of songs I have learned on guitar… and the hundreds I have forgotten. If I don’t revisit certain songs often enough, they escape my mind entirely. Pretty frustrating, as I am sure you know.
Still waiting to see what my masterpiece might be, I hope I have one in this life 🙂
– Jack Rugile
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I wonder if it depends on your learning style. The need to apply the knowledge would be very important for a kinesthetic learner, but for an auditory learning hearing it repeatedly would work better and for a visual learner reading over the materials repeated would work better.
I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner, so yes I need to put things into practice, but if learning comes from just hearing, it’s gone. This makes learning language very difficult for me (I moved to Spain last year from Canada) as often I need to see words written and to say them before I understand what people are saying to me.
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I think this is great advice. I know for a fact that it is true about myself and always has been. The cool thing I’ve learned as I get older is the last key thing you mention here, which is: “If you aren’t going to use it don’t waste your time learning it.” That took me a bit longer to realize but once I did it freed up time and energy to really focus on what I would use and what I enjoyed. I don’t even read books that I won’t use. I find that it just clutters up my mind, taking up space that can be better used for the things that interest me, the things I enjoy and the things I CAN use. And since I am a highly creative/intuitive person I love having my mind clear and clean for creative ideas to come. I also am a much better “hands-on” learner, so I really relate to this advice.It is a pleasure to meet you Jeremy!RobinRobin Easton’s last blog post..Every Single Day
@ Robin – Thanks for visiting. Good to meet you too. This is a fairly hard lesson to learn. I love information and devour it. Yet, I have realized over the years that more is not better. Thank you for the insightful comment.
@ Jack & Alex – I half agree and half disagree with you guys. I think those are both valid points. As for school, yes you have to learn a lot of stuff you might not use later in life. The key to learning it though is still to apply it right away (taking a test by the end of the week instead of a mid-term or final). Our minds have a vast capacity for learning.As for learning style I think it does apply but only for certain situations. For instance, someone with a visual learning capacity has to try real hard to learn by speaking or by hearing music. That doesn’t mean applying it sooner doesn’t help. It certainly does.I guess what I was trying to get across was that we can’t simply pass over information and expect to learn it and absorb it without application soon after the fact. If I read a whole book about personal development and don’t apply any of it what have I actually learned? I have to reread it to get the most out of it. Which takes time. Better to read it in small chunks and apply it right away then to read the whole thing and try to recall it at a later point in time.Does that make sense?Cheers,Jeremy
I agree with you somewhat. You do have a point.
But in my life, a lot of learning has been unintentional. I start off getting into a yoga class and I learn a bunch about life from it – things I had no idea about.
So yes, learning for the sake of learning with no use for it is pointless – but that should not prevent us form seeking out new experiences I guess 🙂
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@ Maya – perhaps in trying to make a point I kept the idea too small. and I agree with you. My main point was that we will lose our learning if we don’t apply it sooner rather than later. sounds like you applied what you learned in your yoga class fairly quickly.
I am guilty of learning way more than I will actually use. Im trying to focus my learning now.
So I say all that to say, learn anything and everything you want, dont limit yourself. just apply it sooner rather than later. 😉
It’s funny that you mention this now because just TODAY I was noticing how my calculation skills have significantly decreased since I’ve stopped playing online poker.
About a month ago I gave it up entirely, but when I did play I was super quick at doing calculations in my head. Nowadays I seem to be using my writing talents and I’m experiencing a noticeable increase in the flow of my writing.
Neat stuff. You gotta use it, or you’re gonna lose it.
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I have many friends who get education paralysis. They learn enough to know how much they don’t know and then they freeze. If you just try before learning you’ll realize just how much you already knew.
My best productivity tip – do nothing. Productivity = amount produced / amount invested – if you do nothing you invest nothing and thus your productivity is infinite – oh how I love dividing by 0.
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I got a chuckle out of your reference to dividing by zero. Its food for thought though. The Taoist’s and Zen Buddhists all have a philosophy of “non-doing”. Lao Tzu said part of being a master is doing nothing yet getting everything done. That is a paraphrase but it sure helps your mind think of possible solutions.
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