Ritualize: Deep Focus for Learning

As an educator I often think about how I can help my students be more successful learners. To do so, I usually start to with how I learned the concept or skill, and give suggestions from my experiences or the experiences of others.


Three years ago I started taking piano lessons. Starting with the first lesson I found this a very humbling experience. Learning to master a complicated skill that takes all parts of your brain to work in unison is very challenging. My piano instructor will tell you I am a diligent student and dedicated to learning my craft. She also is constantly telling me to slow down and focus on small parts of the piece I am learning. When I make mistakes I am imprinting them on my brain and will then have to unlearn them.

Brain Based Learning 

As an educator I understand in theory how the brain works when learning. I prepare lessons that engage different types of learners and create activities that help the learning move from the working brain, into the long-term memory. As a learner, it is not that easy. You have to understand your learning style (Visual, Aural, Read/Write, Kinesthetic) and include activities in your study routine that fit with how you best learn. I am a multimodal learner, having two learning preferences, Read/Write and Kinesthetic. When I play the piano I am addressing my kinesthetic learning preference. Recently my instructor added more written activities to help me get past a difficult part of the learning. By addressing my Read/Write learning preference, I was better able to apply what I learned when I sat down at the piano.

Deep Focus

Recently a colleague recommended that I read Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. This books covers different approaches to spending time in deep focus. One of the approaches, Ritualize, I have always found very useful for students. This involves a regular schedule and approach to  learning. For instance, each morning I have coffee, take a walk, and then sit down to an hour of focused piano practice. There is no one correct deep work ritual. The right fit depends on both the person and their circumstances.  For instance, you might prefer to wake up early and study for an hour or two before the kids are awake, or maybe you are better at night. You will have to see what works best for you. The important point is do it every day, or on a regular schedule. This will not only help you to focus your study, but also prevent cramming for exams or waiting to the last-minute for assignments.

I don’t think I will ever stop learning or helping others to learn. What  I will do is share the importance of a regular, focused, study ritual and how it is important to your success. Happy learning!



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