Learning is Invigorating…and Exhausting

I rolled out a new training program last week for a client. We tested a two-day version of our training with a pilot group of about 20 folks. I was a little wound up because this was a product I firmly believe in and wasn’t a small investment for the organization. I really wanted to make sure I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time or resources. Two days for training is a lot to ask of folks and that wasn’t lost on me.

Cut to the end, the training was a success and we received a lot of great feedback. The pilot group was enthusiastic and felt the training was a good use of their time. They actually found it to be a lot of content to digest in two days and recommended expanding it to three days so we could spend more time on the concepts. But what struck me was how tired we all were at the end of these two days. I was “on” for the two days and knew I’d be spent, but the fatigue was in my participants’ faces as well by the time we wrapped up day two. We tend not to think of training as a tiring activity – we’re not training for a marathon, after all. We’re seated in comfy chairs, have plenty of breaks and have delicious sustenance during our time together. It’s really not all that physically taxing.

That said, while we prepare ourselves for physical strain, we tend to forget about mental strain. Learning to think differently is incredibly hard work. Processing new information, applying it to your situation and adapting it to your own style requires a lot of mental gymnastics. Plus, you’re outside of your normal routine, so you’re also trying to keep up with work that keeps coming in, adjusting commuting patters and interacting with people who you don’t know all that well. These things all take energy, and more than we realize.

So the next time you find yourself exhausted after some intense learning, cut yourself some slack. Your brain is working hard to make you smarter, faster, better – that’s a lot of work.

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