Do you like learning new things? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. In either case, learning is essential for all of us. Success and fun in our job, relationship, health and even hobbies depends on our continuous learning. You can learn in many ways. You can read books, attend seminars, do courses, talk to experts. We are all quite busy though. Our time is limited. How can you learn more effectively? You do not need a photographic memory. But you can take some steps to learn faster and smarter. The first three might be surprising.
1. Get Some Sleep
You didn’t expect this to be the first step, right? It is essential though. A good way to prep yourself to learn is make sure you sleep well, and sleep enough. Studies show a link between sleep deprivation and decreased learning ability. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your learning and retention are going to suffer. If enough sleep is a problem for you, try to get into a better routine. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day as much as possible. You will learn faster and smarter if you do.
2. Eat Right
If you eat foods with a lot of saturated fat and refined sugar — think processed foods instead of fresh fruits and veggies — you are not doing your brain a favour. Studies show that unhealthy eating habits (saturated fats and sugar) have a bad affect on the hippocampus and memory formation. A bad memory obviously not helpen you learn faster and smarter. This article is not about eating habits so I’ll not go into it more. But in case you want to change your diet, here is some information about my own clean eating program.
Last point having to do with health, I promise. Another way to learn faster and smarter is by getting regular exercise throughout the week. Exercising boosts your hippocampus and enables your brain to retain information better. If nothing else, aim for at least three cardio aerobic exercise sessions a week of 30 minutes.
4. Focus on One Thing
Many people think they are good at multi-tasking. But in reality, no one is. Our brain just isn’t wired for it. You can’t listen to music, scroll through Instagram and listen to an online lecture on climate change at the same time. If you want to learn faster and smarter, one easy step is to close all your Apps, limit distractions, and learn one thing at a time.
5. Learn Faster and Smarter by Repetition
Spaced repetition can help you learn better. It is is a system where you quiz yourself to see if you know and remember something or not. The more often you encounter certain bits of info, the less often you’ll need to refresh your memory of it. How does it work?
1. Review Your Notes
Within 20-24 hours of you first learning some information, write down some notes and review them. During the review, read the first part of your notes. Then look away and try to recall the most important points without looking at your notes. Why look away? Because there is a difference between rereading and recalling. By looking away, you force yourself to pull the information from your memory.
2. Recall the Information Without Notes
After a day, try to recall the information without using your notes so much. For example, think about what you learned and still remember when you’re taking a walk or sitting down and relaxing. You can also improve your memory and quiz yourself by creating flashcards. Write a few key words on the front and more elaborate notes on the back. Then use the key words to quiz what you remember.
3. Recall the Material Again
Nex, recall the material every 24 to 36 hours over the course of several days. If that sounds way too time-consuming then make the recall sessions brief. Do it while standing in an elevator or waiting in line. Use your notes or flashcards. But try first to pull from memory. Quiz yourself on the information you got wrong more frequently than on what you got right. Eventually, the information you keep getting correct becomes a long-term memory.
4. Study It Again
After several days have passed, take out your material and study it all over again. It will take less time because you already know a lot. But this allows your brain to reprocess concepts.
6. Use a Memory Trick to Learn Smarter
Another trick to learning faster and smarter is to make and remember initials or acronyms. For example, can you mention the colours of the rainbow easily? There are seven. But it is easier to learn just one word and remember all seven colours from it. ROYGBIV is the trick. If you can remember ROYGBIV it makes it much easier to recall the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. This kind of memory trick is called a mnemonic device. You can make them yourself in any kind of learning. Writing things down while you learn will help you created these mnemonic devices.
7. The Right Input Mode to Learn Faster and Smarter
We can learn in different ways.
- Observation (seeing someone doing what we want to learn)
- Imitation (Following along)
- Explanation (listening or reading to instructions)
- Experimentation (trying things on our own).
Depending on what you are trying to learn, some will be more effective than others. If you want to exercise with calisthenics, observation and imitation from experiences athletes and video’s is better than learning purely from a book or experimenting on our own. But if you want to learn about history, a book can be a great option.
Before you start a new learning challenge, think of the most efficient way to get the information you need. The best way to learn is to combine different learning styles.
Another way to learn faster and smarter is to reflect on your progress. Ask yourself some questions and set some achievable goals. Is your current plan working? What are you still struggling with? Do you need to make more time to learn? Are you still motivated? Why or why not? By asking yourself these questions you won’t just keep repeating previous inefficient or ineffective habits. Instead, you will make changes and improve your outcome.
Learn Faster and Smarter
Learning how to learn is a great start to real progress, right? Getting better at at learning shortens the time you need to learn other skills. It is an investment that benefits you for the rest of your life. Start with the steps in this article. Take care of your health first and foremost. If you don’t, the other tips will not work as well as they should. Take action and apply the tips and techniques above. Remember, the hardest part of doing something hard is starting it. Once you’ve done that, you will master the art of learning faster and smart.
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