A guide to being a better learner

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ByCarol McLachlan

As a late baby-boomer in the 1970s and 1980s, I knew only two studying techniques: read and memorize. Before highlighter pens, the reading was laborious, often boring and thwarted by a wandering mind. The memorizing was performed through verbal repetition or sometimes written regurgitation. Very occasionally I got my hands on a past exam question to practice on – and that was it.

Apart from some strategic question spotting, learning as technique wasn’t on the curriculum. We weren’t taught how to study. The results of these study skills were respectable, but relative to the time and angst involved, in retrospect the return on investment looks rather paltry.

It’s all so different nowadays. My children, born at the turn of the century, are being taught how to learn. As Michael Gerber, author of E-myth Revisited, teaches us in business, working on the job, not just in the job is now part of the school curriculum. Whole brain and mind friendly ways of learning present our children with a toolkit of techniques to choose from. They are taught to develop personal strategies for solving problems and how to play to their strengths.

So, fellow accountants, it’s time to play catch up. Whether you’re studying for exams, preparing for a presentation, or seeking to quickly and effectively absorb and retain information, try these 21st century quick tips.


Know your personal style

In our thinking and learning, we each have a preference towards a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic style. Visual people learn from seeing, finding pictures and graphs useful. Auditory learners are at their best when listening. Their favored tools include talks and lectures or teach yourself CDs. Kinaesthetics prefer the practical stuff.

Harness the power of your right brain

As accountants, we think of ourselves as left-brain dominant, strong on logic, analysis, numbers, and reason, but research indicates that mental skills actually are distributed throughout the cerebral cortex and so we could develop all our skills. Left-brain dominance just means we have not yet developed the full skill set. You could say we are sitting on untapped resources.

The so called right brain deals with creativity, thinking in pictures, patterns, colors, and uses intuition. The right brain enhances the logical thinking of the left by bringing in a creative perspective. A good way to develop this is using mind maps. Mind maps use graphics to express ideas – pictures, shapes, colors, patterns. As a thinking tool, they mirror the way the mind stores and retrieves information, providing an efficient way of organizing our thoughts using the contours that are already hard-wired. Use mind maps for anything and everything, from strategic planning to problem solving and note taking.

Press the synergy button

The scope for developing the lazier side of the brain is infinite. Engage the right brain, as well as your already powerful left, and the whole can truly be greater than the sum of the parts. Unlock unknown talents, solve problems creatively and generally operate in a more efficient and effective way than you ever thought possible. Oh, and take the drudge out of studying for exams or executing CPE and presentation prep.

Work on the job

To most of us this is new territory and getting up to speed requires time; time invested in reading, coaching, knowledge acquisition, and experimentation – not a huge amount but an upfront investment. As your personal development adviser, I really can’t find you a better yield!

About the author:

Carol McLachlan FCA helps accountants solve problems, at home and at work. From work/life balance and time management, to assertiveness, communication skills and career planning, she draws on her long career in practice and training as a coach and NLP practitioner. She can be reached at theaccountantscoach.com, e-mail: [email protected].

This article originally appeared on our sister Web site, AccountingWEB.co.uk.

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