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Why Routine Could Hamper Your Ability To Learn (And The Playful Solution)

In the years I spent living ‘off the cuff’ I always envied those more organized, viewing organization as a valuable life skill. Whilst I’m a firm believer that being organized leads to greater productivity and realizing goals, I was surprised to learn that there are drawbacks.


I was stunned to discover that those with highly structured lives have poorer memory function and a reduced capacity to learn when compared with those who enjoy a healthy amount of novelty in their daily lives. Novelty literally increases the brains plasticity – allowing us to more effectively retain new information.


There are several interesting applications to these findings for those that wish to improve your memory and learn new things, the top three being:


  • Change to an unfamiliar environment when learning new things
  • Revise a mixture of new and old facts to learn more effectively
  • Learn new things in the thirty minutes following doing something novel


Even though I lead a very structured life when I’ve ventured on holiday I always love being bombarded with novelty, I find it exciting – invigorating even. When I’m not on holiday my 40 before 40 bucket list serves to inject some much needed novelty into my diary, reminding me that variety is good for the soul. As you can see, a structured life needn’t be the enemy of novelty!


There are many ways to add novelty to your life should you wish to reap the rewards of a better memory and an increased capacity to learn (and who wouldn’t?). Remember, if the new activity you are trying out is playful too, the benefits are compounded by increased flexibility, adaptiveness, hope for the future and even optimism.


Below are just some of the ways I’ve found to balance my need for structure with a life full of novelty:


  • Write up a bucket list of everything you have never done but always wanted to try
  • Set yourself a goal to do one random thing each weekend
  • Go on holiday somewhere you’ve never gone before (at least once a year)
  • Visit a tourist attraction you’ve never been to because you’ve taken it for granted
  • Take a taster class in something fun you’ve never tried before
  • Spontaneously change plans at the last minute


Do you think you lead a highly structured life? What role does organization play in your life? Do you think you enjoy a healthy amount of novelty? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community, we’d love to hear from you.

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