What most people don’t know, however, is that Newton’s three laws of motion can be used as an interesting analogy for increasing your productivity, simplifying your work, and improving your life.
Archives for August 2014
You must do the things you think you cannot do. —Eleanor Roosevelt
…It’s the only way to grow and be better than you were yesterday.
Reading Time: 2 Minutes
Today I want to tell you about RunKeeper.
RunKeeper is the only thing to ever make me enjoy going for a run. It’s a fantastic piece of software that I would recommend to anyone whether you’re a beginner runner like myself or an advanced runner that I’ve always despised (kidding, sort of). RunKeeper motivates me to get up and go for a run, which makes me a more effective person, which is why I’m addicted to it, which is why I’m telling you about it (got that?). Here’s my brief history with running and how I became addicted to the “junk” that is RunKeeper and why I think you should give it a shot.
Reading Time: 3 Minutes
I Threw Away Every Highlighter I Own.
Last week I did something I never thought I’d do. I ran through the house, collected every highlighter I could find, and threw them away. I threw all 11 highlighters in the trash, and you should do the same. Here’s why…
My History With Highlighting.
I’ve been an active highlighter since elementary school, 4th grade I’m guessing. I’ve been a highlighter ever since then. My guess is that you were introduced to highlighting at a young age as well. You may also remember, like I do, that some teachers even listed highlighters as part of their course materials.
And thus it began. I highlighted history textbooks, novels, course handouts…you name it, I highlighted the hell out of it. The older I got, the more I highlighted. Deep down, though, I knew that highlighting was not helping me learn. That is, I knew that when I did well on a test, it wasn’t due to my highlighting efforts. When I did poorly on an test, though, it probably was due to my highlighting. In other words, because I spent so much time using an ineffective learning technique like highlighting, I wasn’t truly learning the subject matter which resulted in low test scores. And yet, I continued to highlight. Again, I knew that highlighting wasn’t helping me learn.
So why, then, did I continue to highlight? There are two reasons I can think of:
- It felt like studying…it felt like learning. “Look at me…I’m so engaged in this textbook on Ancient Rome…I’ve highlighted so many important sentences…I’m going to kill this exam!”
- I didn’t know how else to study. I vividly remember that my best learning sessions occurred in a small study group where we discussed the material and asked practice questions to one another. But these study groups took place on rare occasions. For whatever reason, I had a difficult time getting people to study together in a group setting. So, I studied alone most of the time. It only makes sense that highlighting was the method I used to learn. Afterall, it was taught to me by my teachers starting in elementary school and continued on through high school. It was all I knew. I didn’t know how else to study.
I was reading a book the other week, highlighter in hand, and I highlighted a sentence. I continued to the next paragraph, and then stopped. I went back to the previous sentence that I just highlighted and reread it. “…students continue to highlight despite this practice has been proven to be an ineffective learning technique.” The irony was overwhelming. I stopped highlighting at that very moment and decided to do more research on the effectiveness of highlighting as a learning technique.
It wasn’t hard to find additional material that supported the ineffectiveness of highlighting. One study in particular was quite thorough in its review. I suggest you go and read it yourself: Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques. To summarize the part on highlighting, the authors classify it as having “low utility.” Again, I urge you to read the entire monograph including the section on highlighting to learn how the authors came to their conclusion.
I thought back on my life, from elementary school all the way to the real world, and concluded that highlighting in no way helped me learn. More than anything, I want to be effective. So, if highlighting isn’t an effective learning technique, then I want no part of highlighters. I also knew that if I kept my highlighters around, I’d use them sooner or later. Which is why I took the extreme action of throwing all of them away. The important thing is that I can now move on from highlighting and practice proven effective learning techniques (which I’ll cover in a future post).
Takeaway: Be Willing to Examine Your Behavior.
Have the willingness to examine your behavior more closely and evaluate your actions. Face the reality you encounter in the process and be proactive in your response. I faced reality when I realized that rather instead of enhancing my learning, highlighting actually hindered my learning. Once I accepted that reality, I responded by throwing every highlighter that I own in the trash so I wouldn’t have to resist any future temptations to use them. And don’t think for one minute that I took it to the extreme by throwing them away. Highlighting was a habit of mine. Habits by definition are hard to give up. Throwing them in the trash was the most effective way to prevent me from highlighting again.
Be willing to examine your behavior more closely and more often. What bad habits have you adopted? Once you identify them, do what’s necessary to replace a bad habit with a good one.
Reading Time: 1 Minute
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. – Will Durant, The Story of Philosophy
The operative word here is “repeatedly.” Determination, commitment and discipline trump all others on the road to success.