It’s interesting to see how often people and organisations are engaging in inefficient learning. Donald Taylor, speaking at TrainingZone Live earlier today really made me consider how we go to evening classes, trying to learn languages, amongst other things in a really inefficient way.

It made me think a lot about how training is much like physical training. Having been through a massive learning curve (and still going) on the physical training front, it occurs to me that a lot of people consider going to the gym or having a gentle swim once a week is good training for their bodies.

Obviously that’s better than nothing, but once you start getting into it a bit more you find out that your cardio-vascular fitness will start degrading after 48 hours so really you need to be training 3-4 times a week. So once a week gets you virtually nowhere really. I’ve discovered it myself: six weeks off last year on doctor’s orders put me back months. Despite working out an average of 4-5 times a week for two or more years beforehand – it makes little difference. There is some muscle memory, but muscle mass is lost, fat is gained and you know you are not as strong, toned or fit as you once were. This is measurable: you can’t run for as long, you can’t lift weights which are as heavy, you need breaks more often than you used to.

The only way is little and often. Maybe that 30 mins, 5x a week thing the government came up with does make sense after all. And then after that you’re feeling so good about that much exercise that you’re a little bit addicted to the endorphins and you’re doing it longer, more often… And the next thing you know you’re joining clubs, making friends, shedding pounds and signing up for triathlons.

What? Ok, so maybe that’s just me. But I think it probably isn’t. Once you meet people who regularly compete at Ironman distance you’re beginning to question how dedicated you are…

I digress. But it’s the same with learning. Why at school, did you have 3-4 lessons a week in French rather than doing a whole day every fortnight? Because they know you’ll forget it by the time you come back to it. Little, often and with constant revision is the only way to learn effectively. We know this really don’t we? So why don’t we do it, and why don’t we do it at work? You know how to use your email, you know how to do your job – because you do it every day. A constant revision of how to do your job is, well, doing your job. We claim we haven’t got time for more frequent sessions but I’ll tell you what we really don’t have time for: ineffective learning. It’s a waste of time and a waste of money.

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