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TAP INTO THE SPACING EFFECT.
Skill-acquisition isn’t an event, it’s a process. If you truly want to master a new skill, it’s far better to invest small amounts of time over an extended period than a large amount of time all at once. This is what researchers call the “spacing effect,” which refers to the finding that skill-development tends to improve when learning is spaced out over time.
You’re probably thinking, “But wait, wouldn’t this take longer?” Not necessarily. Because the spacing effect has been shown to boost retention, spreading out your learning process over a period of time limits the likelihood that you’ll have to go back to brush up (or start over completely) a week or a month or a year later. Since the late 19th century, psychologists (and anyone who’s ever crammed for an exam) have known that one of the biggest hindrances to learning is forgetting. So, counterintuitive as it may sound, being a little more patient in the short term may help you reduce your overall time spent learning in the long-run.
Most of us focus on comprehension when we’re attempting to improve a skill. That may seem sensible enough, but science shown that while understanding is vital to heightening proficiency (it’s hard to improve when you don’t know how), it isn’t enough to obtain mastery. Turning any newly acquired knowledge into an actual skill requires engaging a part of your brain that heavily impacts learning and movement, known as the “basal ganglia.”
If you imagine that you’ll need to teach someone else the material or task you are trying to grasp, you can speed up your learning and remember more, according to a studydone at Washington University in St. Louis. The expectation changes your mind-set so that you engage in more effective approaches to learning than those who simply learn to pass a test, according to John Nestojko, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology and coauthor of the study.