We rapidly forget what we learn. Within 24 hours, we typically lose more than 70 percent of the information we acquired the day before. This is mostly a good thing. When we acquire new information, our brains will sort what is important and ignore the rest. Forgetting is our natural defense mechanism to prevent overloading the brain with too much irrelevant information.
When we want to retain information, however, this filtering process interrupts our ability to retain what we need to act on our learning. The forgetting curve, coined by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus more than a century ago, is the rate at which something important is forgotten after initially learning it. Beating this curve is essential for learning new ideas and using the information to our advantage.
To overcome the forgetting curve, the best leaders commit to reviewing the information once or twice within 48 hours. This simple commitment makes a world of difference. By reviewing what is important soon after initially learning it, we allow the brain to store the information in our long-term memory. Once stored, we can retrieve the information any time we want to act on it. Incorporating more reviews in the days and weeks that follow further increases our ability to retain the material. But, the key is to make a thorough review within a day or two of learning the new information. The forgetting curve can be conquered with this simple review. Don’t forget that!