Beast Mode Study – Part 4: Interleaving

Interleaving is the art of moving from one topic to another and mixing these topics or subjects together within a set block of study time.

The word broken down describes inserting additional pages (or leaves,) into a book.

This is different to the traditional ‘blocked practise’ which involves studying just the one topic and nothing else until the allotted time is up and another topic can be studied.


While it may seem counterintuitive to move away from one subject while you’re in the thick of it, it’s less about moving away from a subject and more about connecting it with other subjects. It’s about finding the commonalities as well as the differences and using those revelations as bridge builders.

Cognitive psychologists that have studied the effects of interleaving feel that the method improves the brain’s ability to differentiate between concepts. They believe that interleaving helps to strengthen memory associations.

It is harder at first that blocked practise and study but, as we’ve spoken about in past blogs, the short-term pain leads to longer term gains. 

As part of the interleaving process, it is important to remain conscious to those links and not forget to find the connections. The recommendation is to vary the order that the subjects are studied. This helps the mind to avoid going into cruise control. It keeps the mind actively learning.

Of course, the warning is that if you jump around too much, and don’t give enough time to each topic, then that can of course become detrimental.

What you could do is clearly define beforehand, how much time you will spend on each subject before moving to the next one. Make sure that you stand up, stretch, walk, have some water, a bit of chocolate, pet your cat whatever in spaces.
There are plenty of ways that you could design your approach one popular technique that actually ties in perfectly with interleaving is called the Pomodoro technique.

From the shape-shifting encyclopedia of the world wide web, Wikipedia; “The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer to break work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer Cirillo used as a university student.”

 

The idea behind the Pomodoro technique or any other technique that you want to self-design and prescribe, is to reduce the negative impact of interruptions that can come from within or without, on your ability to focus and allow you to get into a groove.

So to recap:

Interleaving is essentially mixing multiple subjects while you study and making connections.

The difference between “slow learners” and “quick studiers” often comes down to the way they study. Memorising is one thing but it doesn’t always improve understanding. Making connections is contextual learning. The beauty is that as human beings with our own experiences we can connect with subjects and topics in a way that they don’t have to feel separated from us. We can connect not just subject to subject and topic to topic as if they were external to us but interleave subjects into our own life experiences.


I’ll leave you with a quote to inspire having a crack at the interleaving method. It is by American Paleopathologist, Arthur C. Aufderheide

“All knowledge is connected to all other knowledge. The fun is in making the connections.”

 


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