0385 – schedule revisions for learning through repetition

It’s my third day waking up early. I got more sleep last night than I did the previous two nights, so I’m more awake and alert than I’ve been the past couple of days. I took a cold shower and I sat around for a while, sort of semi-meditatively. I had planned on going for a run in the morning, but my shins are still really sore so I think I’ll do that tomorrow evening instead.

I met an acquaintance for dinner yesterday– we talked about our lives over McDonald’s. I enjoyed it. I should meet more of such people on a regular basis. I enjoy eating lunch with my colleagues every day– it can be a slightly different mix of people each time, and there’s usually some good conversation to be had. There’s no reason why I can’t do the same for dinner on a more regular basis. I spent most of 2014 in isolation, maybe hoping that being separate from the world would give me a clearer sense of who I am and what I want. And to be fair I think that did happen. [1] And one of the things I learned is that I wanted quality interactions with good people. Facebook was a sort of fast-food version of what I really wanted. (TLDR: I like meeting people.)

Uh, so what’s next? Yesterday I wrote about how it’s hard to truly have fun when I know I have unfulfilled obligations waiting for me. So the next most important thing I need to work on– and this is stating the obvious, again [2], is how to attack my obligations and break them down into little chunks and get them done one by one. This is extra hard compared to learning a difficult song on the guitar, because my emotions are tied up into it. Ugh fields come into play.

But yeah. So I’m going to publish this vomit, go to work, and just do what I’m supposed to do. I realize that I still spend a lot of time drifting between work tasks. But even that’s not the problem. The problem is not that I drift. Drifting is the symptom, that I’m not focused on the hard thing. I need to prioritize doing the hard thing. I should write down what the hard thing is, why it’s hard, and then do that. So I’ll do that.


[1] I think I had some growing pains, some withdrawal from all the social media and all the performance. For a while I unfollowed everybody on Facebook, and I’d block FB and Reddit from my browser. After a long break I found myself longing for some quality human contact– I would occasionally get some of it on Facebook from time to time, usually over private messages with friends. So I figured that I could ‘eat the flesh and spit the bones’– I added back my favorite people, people who I’d be happy and eager to have dinner with. I made it a point to stop writing indulgent status updates. I think I’m doing okay on that front.

[2] Repetition is important in learning. I was thinking about how, when I was in school, I used to pay attention in lectures just long enough for me to nod my head and go “Yeah, that makes sense, I get it,” and then drift off. The problem is, later on when I got the homework, it wouldn’t make sense any more. And I’d think, “Well, it made sense to me at some point, so it should make sense to me again, I just need to do the reading real quick– so we’ll do that later.” And what would happen is, the amount of necessary readings would accumulate, and I would keep writing them off thinking it’ll just take a few minutes. And the minutes would snowball into hours, into days, into massive unmanageable chunks.

And even if I COULD theoretically do all the reading at once, which is a physical impossibility (and doubly so for me than for someone who’s well-practiced in doing that reading), it wouldn’t stick.

I’ve definitely experienced this with learning songs on the guitar. I remember far fewer songs than I’ve learned or played. There are a bunch of videos of me playing songs on the guitar that I no longer remember how to play. Some of these songs I can figure out again with a little bit of trial-and-error (and the cool thing is, as I get better as a musician– which isn’t even something I’m actively working on– I make fewer errors, my attempts get closer to what is accurate without me doing anything special).

So I have to repeat myself over and over again, because each time I do it I’m (psuedoscience alert) lighting up some neural paths in my brain that would wither away if I don’t practice them. It’s like doing my homework, and doing my revision. I know this. There are songs I can play without having to think about it at all, simply because I practiced it so much it became a part of my muscle memory. And there are songs that I have to fiddle around with a little before I can play them again. And there are songs that I have completely forgotten how to play, and have to relearn from scratch.

So… instead of saying “I need to remember”– which is dumb, because I tend to forget things, and I forget things more than most people, until it’s too late and there’s some sort of terrible consequence that jolts it into relevance (and then my lizard brain associates that with discomfort and pain and distress, and so it probably further wipes it from my regular memory… or something like that.)

So. I need to schedule revisions. I need to revise every day. I need to revise my daily revisions every week. And I need to revise my weekly revisions every month. I need to do this more than other people might, because other people either have a better natural inclination for it, or more practice from childhood. Whatever the case, it’s a limiting factor for me. Without a habit of regular, disciplined review, I again lapse into this general-wilderness-wandering lifestyle that does not serve me well.

That sort of rings a bell for me. It might be triggered by me realizing that if I had done 1 vomit / day, I would actually be over 90% done with this project now, instead of 38.5% in. So me publishing at least 1 vomit a day moving forward is actually going to be critical to my progress– because it’s a foothold, it’s something that I really want to do, am reasonably good at, have practiced doing, can keep doing, and want to keep doing. So I’ll publish a vomit everyday. This will be my cornerstone habit, along with waking up at 6am, and sending my boss an email before I leave work each day. The additional thing I need to work in is my personal review, which I may write about in these vomits (if it’s stuff I’m comfortable making potentially-public) and stuff in my notebook (which I have been writing in somewhat intermittently).

Okay we’re done here. To get a little meta, this whole post is worth revisiting, rethinking, rewriting. I’ll throw in some visual cues for reminders:

Mentor Me, Mentor Me Gate, Hermann Ebbinghaus, The Forgetting Curve

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.55.44 ama

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.55.36 am

Off to work.



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