Learn Fast Through Daydreaming

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 - 11:37

Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has explained that social media and multitasking can ruin the study time.

Research by Earl Miller of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and others however shows that multitasking doesn’t work - simply because the brain doesn’t work that way, the Guardian reports.

If you’re studying from a book and trying to listen in on a conversation at the same time, those are two separate projects, each started and maintained by distinct circuits in the brain. Pay more attention to one for a moment and you’re automatically paying less attention to the other.

To make matters worse, learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain, as shown by Russ Poldrack of Stanford.

If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their course work goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised, making it easier to retrieve it.

As if that weren’t enough to stop you from multitasking, switching back and forth between tasks uses up glucose, which neurons need to function optimally.

Students who uni-task, immersing themselves in one thing at a time, remember their work better, get more done, and their work is usually more creative and of higher quality. Fortunately there are a few pieces of advice to help stop modern life getting the better of you.

Make Time to Let Your Mind Wander

Activities that promote mind-wandering, such as reading literature, going for a walk, exercising, or listening to music, are hugely restorative.

Create a ‘No Fly Zone’

The pull of social media and the internet is today one of the biggest barriers to effective revision or learning. This is because the brain has a tendency to seek new stimulation, and to try to find the path of least effort.

Increasingly, students, scientists, and corporate CEOs are enforcing a “no fly zone” period of time when they shut off the internet, a time to focus, to concentrate, to engage deeply in what’s in front of them. This can be as simple as shutting down the browser or turning off your wireless connection.

Slowly Take Back the Power

The addiction to multitasking and social media is real, there is a dopamine-addiction-feedback loop behind it. The human brain seeks novelty — more pronounced in some of us than others — and dopamine is the brain’s reward for finding it. Dopamine can be thought of as the “give me more” neurochemical. We encounter something new every few seconds through multitasking, we release dopamine, which makes us want to encounter something new, which releases dopamine, and so on, until we’re exhausted.

Many of us allow texts and social media to interrupt us, giving it the power to decide how we’ll spend our time and what we’ll think about. Just small changes in the way we approach the internet, small increases in self-discipline can make all the difference between managing the internet versus letting it manage you. We can’t slow down the flow of information. But we can slow down how much of it we let intrude on our plans, our study time, our social lives, and the daydreaming time that is a necessary part of being productive and creative.

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