By Katalin Tarjan • March 29, 2020•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence
These uncertain times got us all under pressure, whether we worry about our loved ones’ health or our own, we have to adapt to new ways of working, have to organize our kids’ home schooling or take care of the whole family being at home, let alone all of these at once.
I am convinced that learning is the single most important skill these days, and I thought that even before we had these new situations to adapt to on a daily basis. As I am a huge believer in lifelong learning, I was planning a post about this topic later on, but now I thought what better time to learn than now?
That being said, I am fully aware that staying home is a privilege, and for many people it is not a given, no matter how they may be worried about their health. I do have much respect to everybody who continues to serve in the front lines – either in health care, in supply or shipping, in public transport, in law enforcement, etc. – we salute you! But, if you are lucky enough to be able to stay safe at home and even have some additional time on your hands, why not be able to show something for it once this is all over?
I was always interested in learning as a skill and finding ways to improve it. As lawyers we’ve all faced tremendous amounts of material to learn and been seeking ways to be able to do it better and faster. I wish I had known some of the methods I know now back in law school! A couple of years ago my sister got into right-brain drawing and organized a workshop for some friends to learn it. Instead of the drawing itself (I’ve failed to find my inner artist ever since…), I immediately got hooked up on the neurological part, the effect these simple methods have on our brains. Then I completed a right-brain learning course (in Hungarian), and started seeking resources in learning. These are my three favorite people who teach online.
Jim Kwik labels himself a “brain coach” and he does deliver on it. He coaches famous actors to learn their lines, businesspeople to be able to read and learn more, and anybody who is interested in his methods. He has different levels of learning programs on his website, but also lots of free videos and resources. If you’re just getting acquainted, start with his blog and podcast, and his first book is coming out in April, I think it will be a great companion in these weird times.
Barbara Oakley’s course on Coursera was the first one I tried in this topic. It is a great starting point to shift your thinking about what your brain is capable of. Her book is called “A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)”, and believe someone who doesn’t have a mind for numbers (me) that it can be interesting for lawyers too. Here’s a post I wrote a couple of years ago as an assignment for the course and you are not late to enroll the current session on Coursera.
Jonathan Levi is also a learning and memory trainer. I completed his speedreading training two years ago, when it was available on SkillShare, and it was an amazing foundation to enhance my reading speed and concentration. He also has different levels of learning and speedreading courses on his website, as well as free resources to start with. I haven’t read his book yet, but this might be a good time to do so.
If you’re wondering what good would it do to improve your learning skills, let me tell you how it helped me. As lawyers, we all have to read lots of stuff at work, I used to joke that if all that would be novels, it would make up to two-three books a week! And that’s an average week. I don’t think I would be successful in my current job, if I didn’t take the time to improve my reading speed, since quick reading and understanding is crucial in legal control of notices. Just think about the parts of your job you could do better at, if you improved you brain power and you will see what I mean. Also, for law students reading this: do I have to explain?
In an effort not to make this post too long, I planned it to be a two-parter, in the next part I’ll bring you some resources of online learning, specifically for lawyers. Do you have a favorite online learning platform or a course you recommend? Let me know in the comments (or on Twitter or LinkedIn), and I will include your suggestions along with mine in the next post.
Until then, stay healthy and safe and please stay at home if you can!