A couple of days ago I attended a wonderfully energizing presentation on learning and the brain. My colleague, Barbara Kaindl, who is a learning coach and memory trainer provided a host of useful tips and tricks for improving study habits while maintaining an enthusiasm for the process of learning. Although the talk was designed for parents dealing with school aged children, I was struck by the number of tips I found thoroughly applicable to my work. In a simple exercise she made an open and shut case for how much more efficiently the brain can operate when there is a recognizable order of things. She showed us scattered numbers on a page something like this: (photo: http://fisforfirstgrade.blogspot.co.at/2011/03/who-likes-free-stuff.html)
and we had to find the missing number (unless you take 21, none are missing in the picture.). Then she offered the same set of numbers in a calendar format like this: (image: https://edifiedlistener.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/39895-pumpkinnumbers.jpg)
– no problem finding the missing numeral here (if one were missing). In another example she had the group tell a story with a series of random words in order to demonstrate how much easier we found it to remember all 20 terms once they were embedded in a narrative of our own creation.
I left the event, fired up about what my colleague was bringing into the world and also celebrating my desire to do better: To create more order in my work..
The scattered number image is a powerful one for me. It looks familiar – like a map of how my mind seems to want to work a lot of the time. I can enjoy jumping from topic to topic and decide where to go based on my internal brand of sequencing. This approach has taken me far and also landed me in trouble on occasion. And I like it. It’s the kind of thinking that makes my days interesting and occasionally surprising. At the same time, I can see how others – my family, clients, students – benefit from signs of order that help them know what to expect and how to approach things. This is where I can and will do better.
Writing up lists has helped. Keeping track of things on our family calendar also furthers the cause. Regularly circling back through my inbox to check for missed or overdue action items is a new habit. And recently I collected and filed random papers that had piled up on and around my desk. That felt empowering. Part of this process involves giving a nod to my creative drive (which is all over the place) while gently stacking, sorting and prioritizing the evidence in ways which will help me find and use it later. My path to greater order is like walking on a see-saw. It’s a balancing act. I move in stages between the extremes. And when I’ve found that sweet spot in the middle where I control the ups and downs, I can hardly believe my good luck. Balance is possible, if only for a moment.