Use Periodic Reviews

What's your phone number? Easy to recall, right? That's because it is stored in long term memory. Want to know how to shorten an idea's journey from short term to long term memory? The first technique is to use periodic reviews scheduled at the following intervals:
  1. 10 minutes after first learning the material
  2. 24 hours later
  3. 1 week later
  4. 1 month later

The key to making these review sessions practical is to organize yourself so that they can be done in just two or three minutes. Mind Maps are great for making short review sessions effective. Using a yellow marker to highlight key ideas you want to transfer to long term memory, is another way to make short review sessions effective.

After each study session, do something else for 5 or 10 minutes. When you return to your studies, quickly review the key points from the previous session before moving on to the next set of ideas. Before you begin studying the next day, take a few moments to review key points noted on the previous day. Once a week, schedule some time to review the prior weeks topics. Likewise, once per month, schedule a review of the prior months lessons. Grouping review sessions in this way doesn't follow the recommended schedule precisely, but it is more practical in cases where a large number of new ideas are being absorbed. The best way to anchor new ideas into long term memory is to actually use them for something.

If you don't invest the time to review what you learn, you will end up wasting time relearning the same material over and over. In addition, the more information you transfer to long term memory, the easier it becomes to learn new information. In other words, learning compounds just as interest in a savings account. This occurs for the following reasons:

  1. The more you know, the more you can skip over when reading a book.
  2. A larger vocabulary of both words and concepts allows you to understand the ideas behind the words more efficiently. Not having to stop and look a word up in a dictionary has obvious speed advantages.

Look at the following compound curve:

The next time you get bogged down while learning a new topic, keep the faith that as you move down this curve, learning will get easier at an increasing rate. It's the beginning that is the tough part.

Audiotapes lend themselves well to the review process. Because they can be listened to in the car, it is much easier to listen to a tape several times than it is to read a book several times. The disadvantage is that we don't as yet have a way to "yellow highlight" an audiotape for selective review. It appears that a very small percentage of the population truly understands the power of turning their car into a "university on wheels" by listening to educational audiotapes. Such tapes are available in public libraries and can be inexpensively rented at some book and video stores. The best source for purchasing quality audiotapes is Nightengale-Conant (800-323-3938).

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