A great philosopher once said, “Treat the world like a head.” I say, treat your head like a muscle: the more you exercise it, and the more you struggle, the stronger it, and your memory, will become.

You’re more than welcome to study something with little effort for hours and hours. I know I can pick up the guitar and play the same three songs over and over again! But there’s a reason I’ve played for so long and haven’t improved. Studies have shown that effort matters much more than time.  So put some “muscle” into it!

“Many things aren’t fun until you’re good at them . Every skill has what I call a frustration barrier, a period of time in which you’re horribly unskilled and you’re painfully aware of that fact.” – Josh Kaufman

Two books focus on this point in-depth: Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel and The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman.

Make It Stick provides concrete methods for productive study and memory improvement. Likewise, The First 20 Hours explores the science of quick skill development. Both cite effort as driving forces of mental retention and capability.

“Many teachers believe that if they can make learning easier and faster, the learning will be better. Much research turns this belief on its head: when learning is harder, it’s stronger and lasts longer.” – Make It Stick

In his book, The First 20 Hours, Josh Kaufman noticed a strong correlation between the intensity of practice and his improvement the next day.

“Sleep consolidates and encodes what we learn during the day.” – Josh Kaufman

Don’t noodle around on the guitar for an hour on the same three songs. Kaufman suggests this: spend ten to twenty minutes on a song that’s harder than you’re able to play. Then leave it. The next morning, you’ll wake up with a bit more skill. In the same way that tearing muscle and then getting rest is better than doing 100 weak pushups.

Students can apply this to studying for school: rather than cramming, challenge yourself. You can heighten this challenge with the suggestions in Make It Stick.

“Practice that’s spaced out, interleaved with other learning, and varied produces better mastery, longer retention, and more versatility. But these benefits come at a price: when practice is spaced, interleaved, and varied, it requires more effort. You feel the increased effort, but not the benefits the effort produces.” – Make It Stick

But you will! Use these methods for 20 minutes a day. Sleep within four hours. Not only will you improve your skills, but your memory will also keep them.

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