Wash, Rinse, and Repeat

Effective learning is like hair care:

Wash, Rinse, and Repeat until the desired outcome is achieved.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA is a metaphor for the “focused mode.”  It is a deep concentration mental process used when you’re trying to solve a problem or learn new information. Wash too long and you’ll be washed up and lose your motivation. If you don’t wash enough then, you’ll be unsuccessful.

-You need to schedule a set amount of time and focus hard. Try working on the hardest problems and material first. Then move to easier areas. (This is also helpful for a test.) Don’t just work on one problem or set of material.

-Work back-and-forth between different types of problems or material in different contexts. This interleaving” can help you to be more creative in problem-solving and remember new material.

-Create analogies or metaphors. Use your imagination. Try to visualize the material or problems with your mind’s eye or, imagine you are what you’re studying.

-Discover ways to group or regroup the problems and material into new chunks of information to remember easily and effectively.

-Create a mind map to help you brainstorm and visualize your challenges. Don’t be too specific with your mind maps. Let ideas free-flow onto the map. After you have created your first mind map, create an outline for more specific details and to organize your thoughts.

Here is my mind map: Wash, Rinse, and Repeat.

I also created a presentation at Prezi.com


washing-hands-1428836-639x894 is a metaphor for the “diffuse mode” mental process.

Schedule in breaks and let ideas bounce around your head in no particular way until you find solutions. The breaks can help you to avoid getting stuck in a rut and loss of motivation.

-During your break, give yourself a small reward, like exercise, to help keep you motivated and clear your brain. Sleep, take a short nap (that’s a great reward), or if it’s the end of the day then go to bed. I discovered the benefits of sleep when dealing with problems years ago and came up with the following saying:

The morning always brings the truth.

-If you can, stand up and stretch or simply take several deep breaths during your breaks. I previously tried to learn how to breathe properly but, I wasn’t quite sure if I was doing it right. I discovered a good app through the MOOC called Breath2Relax: http://t2health.dcoe.mil/

-Everyone in the world, no matter how young, old, big, small, in shape, out of shape, etc. has to breathe, eat, sleep, and exercise. Do it to survive, do it to feel good, and do it to be a better learner.


 orange-bar-of-soap-1623809-639x929 is a metaphor for spaced repetition and consistent practice: schedule it. Now that you’ve rinsed, it’s time to wash again.

Scheduling helps to create the new habit, space your repetition effectively,  and review systematically. Scheduling reduces your cognitive load and frees up more mental processing for remembering and problem-solving. Keeping a schedule also helps you to prevent burn out and wasting your time.

Cramming doesn’t work very well and definitely doesn’t put new material into your long-term memory.  I like to use the app: Anki for my spaced repetition software(SRS). While downloading sets of flashcards helps to prime my brain for new material, I find I better remember the cards I made myself when compared to downloading a pre-made deck of flashcards. Making physical flashcards is probably more effective because the physical act of writing helps you to remember better. Would using a stylus as your input be just as effective? I’m looking forward to trying it.

Focus on the process and not the product. You’ll never improve if you’re not trying. Make it a habit. While there is some debate about does “practice make perfect” or does “perfect practice make perfect”, “practice does make permanent”.

-When you start your new focused mode study session again, review, test yourself over the previous material or problems. Remember, everyone has their own pace and way.

-Start with a positive mindset. Don’t compare yourself to others and avoid negative people. Create a motivating environment physically and socially. Find a couple of places where you can concentrate and rotate between them. Find other motivated people to learn with and improve with, whether it’s in person or online. Develop a Community of Practice

-When using a highlighter, don’t over highlight. This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way. Instead, write questions or summarize important information in your own words in the margins.

This metaphor is not perfect…but then again, they rarely are!


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