I was on climbing a hill in the afternoon of 27th September 2014. It was my second day of the trek and 17th day of my first solo backpacking travel journey. After having climbed for more than an hour, I decided to halt for a while and return. The hill seemed to have no end. I returned to the base where I met the friend I made while on the journey. Contrary to my inner feeling of ending the trek and returning to my hotel which was a 4 hours downhill trek away, I stayed my second night at the base with that friend.
The next morning we started walking downhill. It was 28th September. We had covered half of the journey when I, while talking to him, out of carelessness, didn’t see what was down below. I tripped on a stone and bent my ankle. I crawled for the next 3 hours to finally reach my hotel. 2 days later, I was at home.
On 1st of October, my doctor told me that I have a minor crack on my foot and will have put a plaster on the foot for 24 days. Although in high spirits upon my return, I thought I should use this time to learn something new. And now after these 24 days (and off with my plaster), I did end up doing the time in learning some really interesting things.
Although I should add that now I feel that I could have learnt more, the following are the five key things I learnt and applied during my 24 days of bed rest.
1. The Pomodoro Technique: Do you, like me, consider procrastination to be an issue? With this wonderful technique and with daily practice you can say goodbye to procrastination and focus on just the important tasks. Pomodoro is a Spanish word for a Tomato. The Pomodoro Technique was invented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It is a timer with 25 minutes of time intervals. For doing critical tasks in a day, just set the timer for 25 minutes, turn off all interruptions like Facebook, Email, Internet, Meetings etc and just focus on the task for that 25 minutes. Once the 25 minutes are over, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for 5 minutes with Email, Facebook etc. Then start the Pomodoro again. This way, with 25 minutes work 5 minutes rest cycles, a lot can be done in a day. For more information on the Pomodoro Technique, check out the Wikipedia article. (Days practiced: 16/24)
2. Speed Reading: I consider myself a book lover and hence a reader. One of my arbitrary wishes is to have a 10,000 book library in my house one day. In order to have such a huge collection of books, one thing that is essential is the ability to read at a fast pace. Although Speed reading comes naturally to some people as one reads more and more, there are tips and tricks that can be used for increasing your reading speed. I practiced this particular technique shared by New York Times bestselling author Tim Ferriss on his blog. As a result of practicing this technique on a daily basis, I have increased my reading speed from 250 words per minute to more than 500 words per minute (true thing). Go to Tim’s blog post and learn the technique yourself. Do practice once you learn it. (Days practiced: 15/24)
3. Free Writing: In order to become better at writing things, be it a blog, a book, articles for magazines etc, a small exercise is recommended by authors across the world. This exercise is called Free Writing. In this technique, you simply sit for a fix amount of time, say 25 minutes of a Pomodoro (one of the good uses of a Pomodoro), with a pen and a paper (or a Word document) on a daily basis, and start writing! It’s like a writer’s marathon. You write whatever comes to your mind. The pen does not stop. If nothing comes to mind at any point in time, you write “Nothing is coming to my mind right now.”
The idea behind Free Writing is you write ideas, stories, life instances, people, personalities etc, whatever comes to your mind, and then you can connect these later on to make up meaningful articles, stories, blog posts or even your own biography!
For more information about Free Writing, You can check the Wikipedia article. (Days practiced: 16/24)
4. Chunking: Chunking is the concept which says that the brain recalls information better in groups or chunks rather than individual pieces of facts. For example, remembering who Morarji Desai was difficult but when this information is ‘chunked’ with the fact that he was the Prime Minister of India after Indira Gandhi, it becomes easier to remember it.
Brain scientists have found that the neurons of the brain store items in the long-term memory in the form of chunks which keep getting bigger and bigger with more practice. The most useful piece of the puzzle is this. Recall combined with Spaced Repetition is the best method of forming chunks easily. Thus, whenever you read a chapter of a book, put the book away for 30 seconds, look up in the air, and recall whatever you have read. This helps the brain in forming chunks which are then stored in the memory. This exercise while reading the book followed by repetition of this recall practice daily, every few days, or weekly leads to transferring the information from short-term to long-term memory. For more information on chunking and recall, you can check the Wikipedia article and other sources on the internet. (Days practiced: 7/24)
5. The Memory Palace Technique: The best for the last! The memory palace is a method to learn and store more information in the memory. Things like grocery lists, phone numbers, names even books can be remembered using the Memory Palace Technique.
The Memory Palace Technique was invented by the Greeks at around 500B.C. In the olden days, there were no smart phones or computers to store books and other information. Hence, people used their memory to remember books, poems etc. The memory palace or the mind palace was also mentioned in the popular TV series Sherlock, the super smart detective who uses it to remember everything!
So, what is a memory palace? It is a familiar place, like your house, where you store information in the form of exaggerated images in order to create a mental picture out of lists of things you want to remember. Unfortunately, written words are not enough to describe a memory palace. You can watch this YouTube video and this Ted Talk by the US Memory Champion on Memory Palace to learn more about it.
I came across this technique less than a week ago and am practicing it on a daily basis. After these few days only, I can certainly say it works! (I easily remembered a list of 40 countries after 3 days of practice!) Practice, recall and spaced repetition are the ways to becoming better and better.
Out of the above list of items, if you ask for one I recommend the most, this would definitely be the one. (Days practiced: 5/24)
I’m not sure I would have come across the above list of super-interesting awesome things had I not been on a bed rest. Today, after getting my movements back, I will say that my time was well spent and now I am looking forward to practicing these and learning more such stuff in the coming days of mobility.