Adult Brains Need “Soak Time”



No, it’s not about putting the adult brain into a good long soak, though the body sure appreciates that once in a while!

“Soak time” is about processing; the brain needs time to let learning sink in.

It comes from my work and learning with horses. You know when a horse is processing and really understanding when he starts to lick and chew (literally). That’s the physical cue that processing is happening for a horse.

Sometimes, you have to wait for it to happen, not just keep going and pounding away at a concept with practice or trying to get it right. Waiting for the horse’s processing to catch up with where you want them to be.

Similarly, as a professional development trainer, I am guilty of way too much information presented way too fast. Most of us are.

Pounding away at the content, the meat of the issue, everything they ever wanted to know and more…..

When I started to really look at the why and how of that habit, I discovered some of it was about how, if I wasn’t careful, lecture turned into a monologue. Add to that those few in the audience who nod or smile, and I’m off and running. The result:

Motor mouth.

– Not helpful!

The other part I discovered was about how much I wanted to be able to tell participants as much as I could in the short time I had them. Biggest bang for the buck and making the learning valuable. I call that:

Cram and Go.

– Even less helpful!

The problem is that when it comes to what the brain needs, more isn’t better and faster is worse.

You see, the adult brain needs information in bite size pieces and then, it needs time to consider the  learning.

In the best of all possible worlds, the learning has been done through a discovery process, allowing the learner to be able to fit the pieces together into their already established infrastructure. Once it has been discovered, it now needs to be processed.

For some people, processing involves talking about it, manipulating the information in one form or fashion to try it on in different ways externally.

For others, processing is done internally where the manipulation and shaking it up is done through one’s own thought mechanisms.

Still others require both.

THIS is soak time. That time it takes to process the information and consider it from different perspectives, explore other views, all done to encourage and allow integration.

On top of that, brain research also indicates that sleeping on new concepts and knowledge increases the ability to recall and apply it. That’s literally sleeping on it.

Allowing for processing has to slow down the training format. There just has to be allowance for the soak time.

While I don’t recommend nap time every time a new concept is introduced, I do recommend after providing one complete thought (tool, idea, concept, knowledge base) that trainers stop giving new information.

Soak time, as it relates to the training environment, means participants have the opportunity to play with the information in new ways, chances to manipulate what they have learned from different angles.

My favorite ways to provide soak time is through either a “game” or immersion activity. Why? It allows the experience to be fun (we remember more when we’re having fun) and new perspectives are explored within community.

This is the perfect external soak time – manipulation of the information while holding it differently, gaining a new perspective.

It is important to recognize that internal processors are right there in the thick of it and, when they’ve had a chance to sleep on it, come up with amazing questions.

That’s why being able to provide training over extended periods of time – days, weeks, months – is actually better than cramming it all in one, two, or three consecutive days.

Bottom line; growing the adult brain requires SOAK TIME. It’s part of how we best create true learning adventures!

How do you provide for soak time?

This is the first of the Tool Box Series; information I hope will help to reinforce and add to the tool boxes we all need and use as professional development trainers.

I hope you’ll share some of your tools related to soak time in the comments too!

Until next time,

Be Extraordinary!!