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Mindset

How to Improve Your Learning Part I: Setting an Intention

Ahoy, and welcome to the beginning of a little November miniseries on the topic of how to improve your learning. Every Monday of November, we’ll look at tips and tricks on how to become a better and more efficient learner.

In today’s article, we’ll look at the power of setting an intention. Before you dive into a topic, it’s always good to know what you hope to get out of the deep dive. What answers do you hope to get out of the article, the video, or the conversation? Of course, you’ll need some curiosity and openness towards exploring tangents. However, you’ll still get the most out of a learning endeavor if you know what you’re aiming for. Like with everything in life, if you have a sense of purpose, you’ll be faster in your journey and more motivated to see your adventure through!

So that’s the topic of today’s blog article. How to set an intention and how to use it to improve your learning strategy.

How To Set a Good Intention

The quality of intention decides the quality of your learning. Although an intention will already move you ahead, a top-quality one will level up your game.

So what’s a good intention? A good intention provides a clear purpose & direction while ensuring openness for curiosity & exploration. You might ask yourself:

  • What do I hope to learn from this? = direction
  • Why do I hope to learn this? = purpose
  • What fascinates or surprises me? = curiosity

The first question will nail down your learning intention. The second question will help you see the bigger picture and thus keep you motivated. And the last question will ensure that you don’t lose your mindset of curiosity when going on your learning journey.

For example, if you’re learning about blockchain technology with a focus on its societal effects, your learning intention could look something like this:

  • I hope to learn about how blockchain can transform the way we do politics and our roles as political citizens.
  • I want to learn about this because I’m frustrated with how politics is conducted right now, and I want to explore what alternative methods could improve the political system of today.
  • I’m also curious about how blockchain and journalism are connected as well as which role cryptocurrencies may play in the near future.

With these three statements, you have lots of keywords (written in bold), a clear sense of direction, and an underlying reason for your learning journey. It’s a kind of problem statement that can guide your endeavor.

Defining Success Criteria

Lastly, in order to know when you can stop learning about a topic, you need to define a set of success criteria. To do this, you could:

  • write down some questions you want to get answered
  • write down key topics you want to explore, and add your key findings along the way
  • feel prepared to share your findings with someone else

Or something else. These are just ideas you can explore.

In contrast, a bad learning intention is: I will spend 1 hour reading about the topic, or I will read 3 articles about it and watch 1 documentary. These are not goals, but actions you take because of a broader goal. When it comes to learning, it’s about quality, not quantity.

How to Use an Intention

So how does using an intention look in action?

Imagine you are sitting in front of a research article on a topic that’s relevant to your project. It’s 20 pages long and includes a 3-page bibliography. Usually, when we sit in front of such an item, we read through the whole thing, getting tired along the way and overwhelmed by all the information.

However, with the help of an intention, you look at the article through a narrower lens. You ask each passage, each section, and each chapter whether it will help you achieve your learning goal or not. If it doesn’t, you feel justified to skip it. Only if it brings you closer to your goal, or it fascinates you in other ways, do you spend time reading that section. This brings a lot of speed and focus into your learning process.

Of course, you do miss out on information in this way. There might be passages that contain valuable information about other aspects of the topic, but because it doesn’t fulfill your learning intention, you don’t read it. To include more information, you can create a broader learning intention that allows more openness and more width. It’s up to you what you value more – speed & focus or width & thoroughness.

Another way of using your intention could be to speed-read the 20 pages, but only make notes for those sections that are relevant for your learning intention. In this way, you would get a sense of the whole article, while still speeding up your process and having focus. However, don’t worry about it if you don’t read all there is to read. We cannot read and experience everything in the world. We sometimes have to prioritize and that goes for our learning process, too.

How Are You Learning?

This is just one of many ways to improve your learning experience. I’m curious – have you ever used an intention to boost your learning? If you haven’t, perhaps give it a try the next time you’re learning something. It could change the way you approach information dramatically and improve your development immensely.

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