Learning Technologies Newsletter

ISSUE 114 - February 2015 - by Phil Chambers

TIME TO READ: 5 minutes (Average Reader), less than a minute (Speed Reader) - Word Count: 1,114 To learn more about Speed Reading Contact us or read my book ‘Brilliant Speed Reading’.

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Welcome to the February issue of The Learning Technologies Newsletter. Please continue to forward it to friends and colleagues who you think would find it useful.

This month we have a story about improving concentration and, as always, our regular features of Quote of the month, Mind Map Tip and What I’m up to.


February's Quote of the Month

"Success in any endeavor requires
single-minded attention to detail
and total concentration."

~ Willie Sutton, prolific American bank robber.

More quotes here


Mind Map Top Tip of the Month

Always decide on the word you are going to use before drawing a branch, so that you can gauge its size to be equal to word length. Remember that you can extend branches on the right of the Mind Map but on the left you will have to condense your text if the line is too short to avoid colliding with the centre. You will get used to how long to make branches with experience.

101 Top Tips for Better Mind Maps

What's Phil Up To?

Phil Chambers

I am writing this newsletter from a hotel bedroom in Algeria after a teaching Mind Mapping to a group of ladies with consecutive translation into Arabic. It was a fun day. I will be off to Egypt in February for the final of The First Egyptian Schools Memory Championships and a lecture on memory. I am also continuing to provide Mind Mapping and Memory training for a family locally.


How to Concentrate

Do you have problems with concentration? Saying, “I can’t concentrate” puts up a barrier with nowhere to go. Once you declare that you can’t do something you will unconsciously defend that position and notice all the instances where you fail. You will convince yourself that you really are unable concentrate and it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Let me suggest an alternative paradigm. Everyone concentrates continuously throughout their waking hours. It is just that they are not always concentring on what they should! Sometimes you are concentrating on your study books; sometimes you are concentrating on the ceiling; sometimes on you finger; sometimes on the beautiful individual who just waked past; sometimes on the view out of the window; sometimes on your wife / husband / boyfriend / girlfriend; sometimes on what you’ll have for lunch. Even if you practice meditation you are still concentrating, but inwardly.

Your concentration is like a wild stallion that gallops off at top speed in whatever direction takes its fancy. If you let it run wild your concentration will be undirected and be likely to stray off course.

Alexander taming Bucephalus
Alexander taming Bucephalus
by F. Schommer, German, late 19th century
Public Domain

There is an analogy with the story of Alexander the Great and his horse, Bucephalus. In 344 BC, Philip, Alexander’s father, was offered a magnificent horse priced accordingly to its great stature and breeding. The problem was that it was untamed. Every rider that tried to mount the horse was thrown off as the horse resisted and attacked. Philip refused to pay a high price for an unruly, obstinate animal and ordered that it be taken away. Seeing this, Alexander said that it was a shame to waste such a fine equine specimen and all it needed was the right rider. He said with confidence, " I know this horse and I'll make a wager for the price of the horse that I can ride him". Alexander was given a chance and surprised all by subduing it. He spoke soothingly to the horse, stoked it gently and turned it towards the sun so that it could no longer see its own shadow, which had been the cause of its distress. Dropping his fluttering cloak as well, Alexander successfully tamed the horse. They became inseparable and Alexander rode Bucephalus into many battles.

So how do you tame your concentration? Firstly, remove distractions, turn off your mobile phone and silence you computer if it usually beeps to alert you to emails. These can wait a while. Think about the purpose and end result for studying, reading or doing whatever it is that you are supposed to be concentring on. Having a strong end goal will motivate and energise you. What will it feel like, look like and sound like to achieve this goal? If you don’t have a compelling reason for studying it becomes tedious and boring. The brain craves stimulation and it will look for something more interesting to do. You can be immensely creative at time wasting to avoid something you are not looking forward to doing and create innumerable excuses. “I’d better tidy my desk before I start”, “My chair is squeaking. I’ll just oil it so it doesn’t distract me”, “I’m a bit hungry. I better make a little snack to keep me going”, “I didn’t finish reading the newspaper today, I’d better get that out of the way or it will bug me and stop me focussing”, the list is endless.

Decide on the amount of time you will allocate to your studies and what you will aim to achieve. For example, “I will read and make notes on one chapter in half an hour.” Setting intermediate small goals as a means of working towards your larger goal is a good strategy. Each seems easily achievable and is rewarding to accomplish. With distractions banished, motivation high and an easily achievable goal in mind can you keep your concentration on track for half an hour? Of course you can!

Remember to give your stallion a bit of freedom to have a gallop around every so often. Create a few minutes every day to let your mind wander. This is not the waste of time that it may sound like. Our sub-conscious can often come up with creative ideas or solutions to problems when allowed to free wheel. Warren Buffet said, “I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.”

That’s all for this month. Watch out for the next issue dropping into your inbox in March.

Best Wishes