Rest After Learning

When was the last time you were in a seminar or a training session, and the instructor said, “Sit back. Close your eyes for 10 minutes and rest”? It has probably never happened since most session planners try to cram in as much information as possible. Research tells us that taking a rest after learning something increases retention later.

Rest After Learning

Taking a rest after learning something new improves memory retention

Sitting quietly with your eyes closed for just a few minutes can mean the difference between successfully committing important information to mind versus forgetting it. New research published a few weeks ago in the journal Psychological Science shows, counter-intuitively, that one of the best ways to enhance memory is to take a short break after you learn something new.

Why would resting boost memory? According to one popular view, taking a break helps strengthen the trace of what we just learned in mind. When we need to fish the information out at a later point in time, it is easier to retrieve.

Rest After Learning — Results

Research participants were asked to listen to a story and then later recall the details.

Volunteers remembered about 60% of the story when they didn’t rest after hearing it and over 75% of the story details when they did. Even more interesting, only a few people actually reported thinking about the story when they were resting. So, it seems like a wakeful rest helps people commit information to mind, even when they aren’t trying to intentionally rehearse the details of what they just learned.

You can read the entire article in Psychology Today here.

Taking time to rest at work or during a training session may seem wasteful to many people. But take a moment to compare the following two scenarios. Which situation do you think is better?

Scenario 1:  lots of information input that no one remembers

Scenario 2:  less information input but more of it is retained

My preference is scenario 2. Planning short rest periods may be the answer. (And no, that doesn’t mean grabbing your smartphone while you’re waiting for the rest to be over.)

What do you think of this idea? Share your comments below.

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