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The Information Crunch (Retaining What You Learn)

by Mandy Borgmeier

Facts. Data. Interpretations. News. The unstoppable pace of today’s world places us in constant bombardment with information. We cram for presentations, job interviews, meetings with clients and other demanding engagements. In the process, our internal circuits become jammed. Our wires become crossed. Add studying for class to the mix and it’s enough to push your brain cells into mutiny.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. While it’s true that memory weakens as we get older, strategies to lengthen retention and quicken recall do exist.

Studies show that the average adult can focus on one topic for only a few consecutive minutes before concentration weakens. If the topic interests you, you might fare better. However, the amount of retention is still questionable.

CAPITALIZING ON TIME. Study time need not always be carefully carved out of your schedule. (Who has time for that, anyway?). Granted, planning quiet time for homework and test preparation is a good idea. But you may be surprised to learn that stolen moments of impromptu study time are effective and efficient windows of opportunity.

When was the last time you actually took a break at the office? Many of us leave our desks only for trips to the bathroom or scheduled meetings. Why not spend those ten to fifteen minute intervals with your nose in a text behind a closed door? Better yet, drag it outside under a shade tree. Fresh air will do you good. Consider spending your lunch hour in the park with your laptop or other course materials.

How much time do you squander commuting every day? If you spend significant time riding public transportation such as buses or trains, why not replace the sports page or fashion rag with a chapter in your history book? If concentration is an issue, blind your ears to distractions with headphones piping calm music into your personal environment.

If you commute an extended distance in your own vehicle, try finding textbooks or other course materials on tape. Though texts might be difficult (or expensive) to find, supplemental reading materials are often easier to obtain electronically. Check out DirectTextbook.com, Audible.com and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic to find audio books for your classes.

It goes without saying that business trips provide an excellent chance to catch up on reading assignments, review notes and study for exams. Long flights and layovers can be just as much a blessing as they are a curse. Quiet evenings alone in your hotel room – away from family and outside of your normal routine – are gifts, as well. Again, if you’re traveling by car, you can make use of audio texts.

Do you spend a lot of time on a treadmill or stationary bike while at the gym? Ever consider reading while you’re pedaling? Or how about listening to audio texts instead of today’s Top 40 while jogging?

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