Learning is not always easy, and there may be a biological reasons for that. Engineering professor Barbara Oakley, author of Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential, teaches the world’s largest online open class, commonly referred to as MOOCs. So you might be wondering what subject attracts more people than any other free online course? Learning to learn better is the what Oakley teaches. One of the most effective techniques she knows of was created by an Italian named Francesco Cirillo, and you may have heard of it. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique. What makes the technique so effective is that it trains your brain to concentrate for 25 minutes. What’s so magical about 25 minutes? Research shows that your brain suffers for 20 minutes when you first try to concentrate, so outlasting that pain will help you get into a flow state of focus. You’ll just need to summon the willpower to put your phone away.
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BARBARA OAKLEY: The Pomodoro technique is probably one of the most powerful techniques in all of learning. So I teach a course on “learning how to learn” that’s actually the world’s largest massive open online course. We have something like two million people. And the Pomodoro technique is the most popular technique; I hear from literally thousands of people. And I have to give credit to the creator, who was Francesco Cirillo. He developed this technique in the early 1980s. And it’s so simple that really anybody can do it.
So all you have to do is turn off all distractions. So no little ringy-dingys on your cell phone or anything like that. On your computer you want to turn off any kind of messages that might arise. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and then just focus as intently as you can for those 25 minutes.
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Mindshift reveals how we can overcome stereotypes and preconceived ideas about what is possible for us to learn and become.
At a time when we are constantly being asked to retrain and reinvent ourselves to adapt to new technologies and changing industries, this book shows us how we can uncover and develop talents we didn’t realize we had—no matter what our age or background. We’re often told to “follow our passions.” But in Mindshift, Dr. Barbara Oakley shows us how we can broaden our passions. Drawing on the latest neuroscientific insights, Dr. Oakley shepherds us past simplistic ideas of “aptitude” and “ability,” which provide only a snapshot of who we are now—with little consideration about how we can change.
Even seemingly “bad” traits, such as a poor memory, come with hidden advantages—like increased creativity. Profiling people from around the world who have overcome learning limitations of all kinds, Dr. Oakley shows us how we can turn perceived weaknesses, such as impostor syndrome and advancing age, into strengths. People may feel like they’re at a disadvantage if they pursue a new field later in life; yet those who change careers can be fertile cross-pollinators: They bring valuable insights from one discipline to another. Dr. Oakley teaches us strategies for learning that are backed by neuroscience so that we can realize the joy and benefits of a learning lifestyle. Mindshift takes us deep inside the world of how people change and grow. Our biggest stumbling blocks can be our own preconceptions, but with the right mental insights, we can tap into hidden potential and create new opportunities.