What Is Your Peak Learning Time?
By Deb Peterson
Do you learn best first thing in the morning, as soon as you jump out of bed? Or is it easier for you to grasp new information in the evening as you unwind after a full day? Maybe 3 in the afternoon is your best time to learn? Don't know? Understanding your learning style and knowing the time of day you learn best can help you be the best student possible.
From Peak Learning: How to Create Your Own Lifelong Education Program for Personal Enlightenment and Professional Success by Ron Gross, this learning style inventory will help you determine when you are most mentally alert.
Ron writes: "It is now firmly established that each of us is mentally alert and motivated at certain times during the day... You obtain three benefits to knowing your own peak and valley times for learning and adjusting your learning efforts accordingly:
- You will enjoy your learning more when you feel in the mood for it.
- You will learn faster and more naturally because you will not be fighting resistance, fatigue, and discomfort.
- You will make better use of your 'low' times by doing things other than trying to learn."
Here's the test, presented with permission from Ron Gross:
Your Best and Worst of Times
The following questions will help you to sharpen your sense of what time of day you learn best. You may already be generally aware of your preferences, but these simple questions will help spur you on to act on them. The questions were developed by Professor Rita Dunn of St. John's University, Jamaica, New York. Answer true or false to each statement.
- I dislike getting up in the morning.
- I dislike going to sleep at night.
- I wish I could sleep all morning.
- I stay awake for a long time after I get into bed.
- I feel wide awake only after 10 in the morning.
- If I stay up late at night, I get too sleepy to remember anything.
- I usually feel low after lunch.
- When I have a task requiring concentration, I like to get up early in the morning to do it.
- I'd rather do those tasks requiring concentration in the afternoon.
- I usually start the tasks that require the most concentration after dinner.
- I could stay up all night.
- I wish I didn't have to go to work before noon.
- I wish I could stay home during the day and go to work at night.
- I like going to work in the morning.
- I can remember things best when I concentrate on them:in the morning, at lunchtime, in the afternoon, before dinner, after dinner, late at night
The test is self-scoring. Simply note if your answers to the questions point to a single time of day: Morning, noon, afternoon, evening, or night. Ron writes, "Your answers should provide a map of how you prefer to spend your mental energy over the course of the day."
How to Use the Results
Ron has two suggestions for how to use your results in a way that gives your mind the opportunity to work at its optimum.
- Seize your highs. Know when your mind is most likely to click into high gear, and arrange your schedule whenever possible so that you are free to use it undisturbed during that period.
- Shut down before you run out of gas. Know when your mind is least likely to be ready for action, and plan ahead to do other useful or enjoyable activities at those times, such as socializing, routine work, or relaxing.
Here are some specific suggestions from Ron for making the most of your peak learning time.
- Morning people: Starting the day with some fast, pleasant learning will give you a good feeling of having met some of your own needs before you move into your daily work. It will also give you grist for thinking during down times about what you learned that morning.
- Evening people: Take a close look at your late afternoon and evening hours. How would you feel about targeting a specific piece of reading, thinking, problem-solving, mental rehearsal, creating, or planning (all learning activities) for your commute home from work? If you know beforehand what you want to accomplish, you can have just what you need right at hand on the bus or train (or perhaps an audio program in your car.)
- Night owls: Make the most of the late hours each day. Think of your learning as the personal reward you've earned by putting in your daily round of work.