Why Your Training Should Be 15 Minutes or Less

I have Attention Deficit Disorder.  It means shiny things, loud noises, squirrels, and just about anything else can distract me from what I should be working on.  It really doesn’t take much – for example while writing this post I’ve gotten up 4 times, looked at Moosebutter on the internet, and sung a random Christmas song for no reason (much to the chagrin of my wife.)

To get through school I was forced to find ways to overcome my distractions.  I only pulled a 2.5 average through high school and college until I learned a very important principle from a tutor.  By applying it, I got straight A’s in grad school and dramatically improved by ability to learn new concepts.  This principle is why I make the case of keeping training sessions short.  Let me explain:

Think of learning retention as an upside down arc.  The beginning and end of a training session will be closest to the perfect retention line (on the diagram below.)  The longer the training session, the wider and deeper the arc as shown in the first picture.  This means the student will not remember most of the items covered in the middle of the session.  However, if training sessions are kept shorter, the bottom of the arc never gets very far from retention line (as shown in the second diagram), thus the student remembers more of what they were taught.

There are two principles behind this:

  1. When students are fresh they remember best the first things they hear
  2. When students know training is near an end, they re-focus on the material and remember best what is last said
By keeping training sessions to shorter bursts (either through breaks, dramatic material changes, etc.) the retention rate goes up and the training is more effective.  More effective = better ROI!  Try it the next time you have to read or study something.  Rather than “buckling down” for an hour and trudging through, process it in short bursts and see how much better you remember it the next day.
One note: I know 15 minute chunks may not be practical and that exact time segment isn’t required for this principle to work.  Just keep in mind that the longer a single session goes, the deeper the arc falls.
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2 Responses to Why Your Training Should Be 15 Minutes or Less

  1. Pingback: 17 Things Successful Trainers Do Differently-Part 2 | Steven Potratz

  2. Pingback: 17 Things Successful Trainers Do Differently-Part 3 | Steven Potratz

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