Have you ever walked across a sandy beach? Take a moment to imagine the heat from the sun on your face and the slight cooling breeze coming in from the sea. Can you hear the soft sounds of waves breaking against the shore? You are heading home holding you shoes in your hand as you walk across the warm, soft sand. You have ended up with some sand, in between your toes, on and under your feet. So as you leave the beach you stop and brush yourself off.
It doesn’t matter how good and thorough job you do, there’s always some tiny little grains of sand left behind. They are almost invisible to the eye. So small that some escape your attempt to remove them, getting into everything. A few grains of sand left in your socks, shoes, between your toes and they powerfully effect how it feels to walk. Poor man’s pedicure or not, your experience of walking is completely different.
In life some of the best habits are tiny almost invisible acts like tiny grains of sand, that can transform your life in the most powerful and positive ways with almost no effort from you.
How do I get through the boring stuff and still learn a lot?
I remember being told to “sit up and pay attention” in school over and over again, when I had zoned out, of a boring or difficult class. I did as I was told, good girl that I am, and sat up – although before long I would have zoned out again.If anyone had asked me after leaving the classroom, what I had just learned I would not being able to tell them anything but the headline themes with confidence.
It has been years since I left school, so many in fact that I prefer not to count. It is only in the last few years that I have learned that my teacher shouting “sit up” at me was the greatest grain of sand to learning ever. If only it was explained or I was taught to understand how to put into practice this tool for successful learning and information retention.
Sit Up and Pay Attention
These days I always sit up, lean in, ‘act’ interested and engaged. It may sound so simple! Please don’t discount it as too simple because like that grain of sand stuck between your toes, the act of sitting up has the power to affect your learning experience. The most effective way to get through boring situations such as meetings, lectures and seminars is to ‘act’ interested and engage.
I hope you noticed the word act sneaked in there. I know that when I am interested in something my whole body is aligned differently. I take notes, I ask questions, I contribute. Now, when I am not so interested in a meeting or seminar, I do the very same things I do for situations that do interest me.The results of what I am able to learn are amazing!
As soon as you sit up straight and lean in, your whole body and mind engage. Somehow our senses are fooled into absorbing so much more information than you think possible. Sometimes I have even managed to turn around my feelings around enough that I might start out bored out of my mind but end really interested and motivated. Although to this day I have never managed to find any meeting to do with finance interesting, I still approach those meetings in the same way. Maybe one day!!!
Noted it down
Where there is one grain of sand, you will generally find more. I mentioned earlier‘take notes’ but not the dry crisp bread kind of notes that consist of just headline themes or ideas. Make notes of every single thought you have.If it makes you think, ‘oh’, ‘a ha’ or ‘umm’. Note it down! Note down your action points and those of your team around you. If any king of process or system is mentioned. Note it down! If someone says anything relevant to you. Note it down! The discussion changes and goes off on a tangent. Note it down! Just because it may not seem to be relevant now doesn’t mean it won’t be. Note it down!
If you sit in a meeting for an hour and you usually leave with have half a page of notes try to actively double what you note down.Imagine that we are hunting for gold in amongst all the dross and by dross, I mean the rubbish, waffle and irrelevant information that doesn’t apply to what you are trying to achieve.
Try to listen for that one thing that is a little more engaging or relevant to you, shining out like a diamond in the rough. At first you may find it hard to identify your diamond but as we British say, ‘You wait ages for a bus and then three come at once.’ Once you start finding your diamonds, you will find them scattered all over the place. It is those diamonds that help me to connect everything else together and they will help you also.
Rest assured your notes don’t have to make sense to anyone else but you. Unless it is a meeting, and you are the official note taker, then maybe you might need to be a little more of a team player. That’s if anybody’s actually reading the notes.
Aim to use your notes like your second brain or active brain dump and free up some headspace. I would always recommend taking loads of notes and not rely on your memory. Our brains are like computers with only so much headspace available to use at any one time. Once you hit your headspace limit, the store closes, the shutters come down and nothing else gets in.
Now that you have taken copious notes, please ensure that you have actively reviewed them within 48 hours. Not just a dry read through, feel free to add any new thoughts or insights to the notes as you read through.
Think of your notes as a prompt that will help you recall every last detail. The amount you absorb and recall will greatly increase when you use your notes as memory and inspiration aid.
Talk it out!
One more grain of sand to deal with and that’s – Talk it out! Before you go to sleep that night, you need to debrief. If you’re at work, tell a colleague about the meeting, be the guy or gal who offers to bring the person who couldn’t make it up to speed. If you are a student, make it part of your regular study budding briefing.Tell them absolutely everything like they were there in the actual meeting, lecture, seminar, etc. etc.You get the idea!
If you don’t have someone to tell, 99.9% have smart phones that can record what we are saying so speak into your phone and record yourself. Just talk it out in as much detail. You can review your notes and use them as a prompt then put them down and start to speak.
Remember – Sit up! Note it down! Talk it out!
It is a 1-2-3 step process but you can get away with just trying step 1 and you will see an immediate improvement in what you have learnt and retained.The more reference points and connections between what you have heard, learnt, recorded and acted upon the more the information is anchored into your memory.The key is to actively participate, actively take notes and actively recall.