As you set a direction for your learning with the help of learning goals, you also want to consider establishing rhythms, rituals, and routines to support your learning process.
Most things we do in life have a rhythm. Our hearts pump blood through our bodies rhythmically. We breathe, walk, talk in a rhythmic fashion. Learning has its rhythm too. If you were to design your ideal day, what kind of rhythm would it have? The following questions may help you discover your natural rhythm:
- What kind of flow does your typical day have? Do you feel rushed all the time? Are you exhausted by the end of the day? How often do you feel bored? Does time fly by or does it drag?
- What times of the day are you at your best? When is it easier for you to stay focused?
- When is your energy at its lowest? When do you usually feel like you need to take a nap?
- Do you first complete the easy tasks or the difficult ones? Why?
- Do you like to work on one project for a long time period or do you switch between projects and tasks to get more variety into your day?
- How often do you take breaks when you work or study? If you are not sure, try 50-minute work sessions with 10-minute breaks and see how it works for you.
A ritual is a set of actions that has a special symbolic meaning. I am talking here mostly about personal rituals that you can devise and perform just for yourself. Rituals may not be directly related to learning but they can help it by giving a signal to your brain to prepare for something, shift focus, or recharge, depending on the meaning and purpose of your ritual. For instance, you may have a ritual to start your day on a good note. Here are some examples of rituals and their possible purposes:
- Reading an inspirational story or listening to a motivational podcast in the morning to get yourself excited about the day.
- Meditating for 15 minutes to quiet your mind before a challenging task.
- Taking a brisk walk when you feel stuck and want to recharge.
- Doing a visualization exercise to calm your mind before an exam.
Rituals can give you a sense of security and control in a challenging situation. If you have a recurrent challenge in your day, try devising a ritual for it.
It is not just kids and dogs who need routines. Adults can benefit from them too. Well thought out routines can give a healthy rhythm to your day, support its natural flow and give you enough energy for all the things you need to do and learn. Once you determine your natural energy peaks and lows throughout the day, start grouping and ordering your tasks and activities around those time periods. It may require some experimenting before you come up with your optimal day structure. For example, my productivity increased when I stopped checking my email the first thing after I turned on my computer in the morning. Instead, I now prefer to do some writing or research for a few hours before I open my inbox. As you create your routines, consider the following questions:
- What tasks should you be doing when your energy is high?
- Which activities do you reserve for your low points?
- If you like variety, how can you break up your projects to stay motivated and efficient at the same time?
- How should you order your learning activities to process information faster and remember and use it better?
- How can you ensure uninterrupted time for the tasks that require concentration?
- How well is your work or study schedule coordinated with the rest of your daily routines?
- How can you safeguard your well-being and meet the essential needs for a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise? Too often, people sacrifice those needs only to discover too late that their immune system is compromised, they feel run down, or they are just simply unhappy.
Once you’ve planned your day, make sure you protect your routines. It may require setting some boundaries with people and making a few unpopular decisions, but ultimately, you may discover that you are more productive, energized and enthusiastic about your life. And learning to live well is no small accomplishment!
What would your ideal day look like?
Orientation Series: 21 Steps to Becoming a Better Learner:
Step 1: Setting your learning objectives
Step 2: Taking an inventory of your skills
Step 3: Taking an Inventory of Your Learning Tools
Step 4: Finding opportunities for cognitive apprenticeship
Step 5: Determining the "IIQ" of what you read
Step 6: Choosing helpful books for law students
Step 7: “The Three 'P's of Performance” in Action
Step 8: Tapping into your social networks
Step 9: Identifying your learning barriers
Step 10: Finding your sources of motivation
Step 11: Managing your energy
Step 12: Focusing on how you think
Step 13: Mastering informal learning and professional development
Step 14: Asking Good Questions
Step 15: Condensing your knowledge
Step 16: Memorizing
Step 17: Becoming a reflective learner