I've been thinking back on the critical phases of my flight training so far, and have to say that there was one thing the flight school and airport owners offered up the very first day that has been truly invaluable: Sitting in an airplane while it sits on the ground or in the hangar while the weather prevents actually flying the airplanes.
It's very true that traditional "hangar flying," a term that's used to describe sitting around and talking shop with others in the aviation and piloting community, is an valuable part of learning to fly and staying current. It's also an important part of joining a truly close-knit community. But the non-traditional "flying" I'm referring to is more often than not performed solo, on your own time.
If your slight school or FBO has planes sitting on the ground, ask if you can sit in the airplanes (without the keys, so they don't have to worry) and "dry fly" the airplane. Don't pump fuel into the engine with the primer or mess around with the throttle too much, and definitely don't run down the batteries by sitting there with the master switch on continuously. But do get in an airplane of the type you're training in (the same one if possible), close the doors, put on your headset, get out the checklist and your maneuvers handbook, and use this calm and quiet time to go step by step through everything you need to be learning, over and over. Muscle memory is helpful for procedures you need to perform repeatedly while flying, and muscle memory is built by repetition of the proper movements. Take breaks when you start to overwhelm yourself. Ten minutes walking around looking at airplanes or trees or whatever can do a lot to make you mentally ready to start ground flying again.
The little things in flying can have a substantial impact. When I first started flying the Cessna 150's, my brain was completely stuck when it came to the simple task of operating the accelerator control, which is a push/pull knob mounted in the lower center part of the instrument panel. For some reason, every time I was supposed to reduce power, I pushed the knob in, which actually accelerates the engine. I was consistently doing the opposite of what needed to be done, and was having a truly hard time changing my habit. It's not good to inadvertently apply more power when you're supposed to cut power just prior to landing. It took a few lessons, but mostly it was the repeated dry-flying of the airplane that got my mind to change gears so it knew to pull the knob to reduce power and push it in to increase power. I even used some analogous memory aids: For example, my boat has a similar throttle lever - you push it awat from you to go faster, pull it toward you to slow down. I believe strongly that letting my mind find its way though this little mental block on the ground, in the airplane but not under the divided-attention stresses of being in the air, made a huge difference. And there have been a variety of other similar procedures and tasks that improved substantially for me as a result of taking the time to "fly" the airplane on the deck.
Another thing I did a couple times was invite a friend along with me to the airport for the dry flying time. I was excited about flying and wanted to share it anyhow, and my friends were interesting in seeing what it's all about. I mean hey, who doesn't like airplanes? I explained everything I was learning to them, out loud and carefully. One of my friends patiently let me explain the pre-flight walk-around inspection and then sat in the small C-150 with me for almost an hour while I pretended to fly and tried to make it as verbally graphic as possible. It has to be tedious after the first ten minutes, but he was a saint. I'm grateful for good-sport friends, heh.
More than once the Twin Oaks Airpark owners commented that they wished more students would show up at the airport and sit in the airplanes to practice like I do. It's free, is a great use of bad-weather time or spare cycles between errands and meetings, and really does make a difference.