It’s the Small Steps

Have you ever given thought to the most productive way to learn? According to Robert Bjork, the director of the UCLA Learning and Forgetting Lab, in a recent article I found on Geekdad, “People tend to try to learn in blocks, mastering one thing before moving on to the next, ” which really isn’t the most productive or effective way to do things. Instead Bjork suggests we should interweave the skills. Don’t just practice one thing – a tennis serve for example – but mix in a whole range of skills like backhands, volleys, overhead smashes, and footwork. What this does is it forces you to make almost unnoticeable steps forward with many skills that are seated among each other. Over the same amount of time the improvement is much greater learning this way than if you would have spent time focusing on one element at a time. In fact this approach uses our natural ability to leverage other things already in our memory to make learning more powerful. A word of caution however this does not mean multitasking (see blog post Multitasking; Good, Bad or Downright Rude?). The skills you are trying to perfect must be related in some higher-order way. Trying to perfect your synchronized swimming and your tennis game at the same time won’t give the same results.

Bjork also states that once you learn something you never actually forget it – it’s just the recall that is tricky and he has some suggestions for that too.

Do you feel overwhelmed or burned out? According to Tony Schwartz in a recent article on Harvard Business Review between 25% and 50% of people do and I would venture to say this number is higher in our area. Tony goes on to say it’s not just the number of hours we work but the number of hours we spend juggling too many things at the same time. We no longer stop to smell the roses. We take our technology with us everywhere which means we have no stopping points, finish lines or even boundaries. And because we are constantly doing something we are burning down our available reservoir of energy. According to Tony the biggest cost is to our productivity. Any time you are partially engaged in multiple activities and rarely fully engaged in one you are increasing the time it takes to finish a task by 25%. I don’t know about you but I don’t have that kind of extra time. Apart from the obvious Tony does have a few suggestions including ‘stop demanding instant responsiveness at every moment of the day’ from the people around you and most importantly from yourself. 

Productivity is a measure of how much – work, time, effort, money, or energy – you have to put into something to get the desired outcome. For more tips and tools on how to get more productive please visit Blue Collar Consulting Inc. at


About Janet, doing it better.

I grew up and still reside in Northern Alberta. While I have numerous interests I am passionate about the Peace River region, its innovation, its people, and the creative spirit that envelopes us all.

Posted on March 28, 2012, in learning, multitasking, productive learning, productivity and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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