Have you ever wondered how fast learners can absorb any knowledge effortlessly and hold it, as if their memory had infinite capacity?
You know learning is crucial for self-growth and professional development.
You are hungry for knowledge…
But somehow your attempts so far have not been as efficient or effective as you expected. You can’t find time to learn. You seem to forever fight distractions. The newly learnt facts pour out of your head like water from a strainer.
So it’s time to give up and hang up your learning hat? No! Don’t do that! And don’t look for magic potions, either.
Below are ten evidence-based, proven ways to help you become a better and fast learner. Keep reading to discover how to learn faster. We all can develop fast learning skills.
10 Ways To Become a Better and Faster Learner
1. Sharpen your focus
The most common problem students of all ages and stages face these days are distractions brought by the modern world’s busyness and noise. With so many things competing for our attention our ability to focus for prolonged periods of time is reduced.
Don’t give in to the pressure to multitask. Multitasking is damaging your ability to concentrate. Research show that people who multitask take twice as much time and make more twice as many errors than those who don’t. Focus on one thing at the time.
Technology kills focus, too, providing distraction galore and opportunities to give in to procrastination. Turn off any notifications: emails, social media, and messengers. Put your phone on silent. Let yourself immerse in the learning process.
2. Be intentional
It’s hard to learn if you’re not sure what you want to learn. Have a clear purpose for your learning. Be it personal growth, or professional development, having a clear WHY helps keep us on track and fight distractions.
Research shows that attitude to learning is the most powerful factor predicting academic success.
Positive learning mindset is a combination of motivation, clear goals, the sense of self efficacy (believing in your own abilities to achieve your goals ) and being surrounded by people who support you in your learning goals and expect you to achieve them.
3. Have a learning plan and stick to it
‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’- A. De Saint-Exupery
If you have a purpose to your learning, set clear learning goals. Long-term goals should be aligned with your long-term personal growth or professional development plans. Break them down into medium-and short-term goals.
Build you learning plan based on that. Don’t forget to have a plan for every learning session, even if it’s just a few points you need to cover. This will keep you on track and help you cover what you need to cover.
4. Use every opportunity for learning
Once you’re out of school, it’s hard to find time for learning. We get so busy with work, family and other ‘grown up’ commitments. But don’t let the lack of time become an excuse. With technology, you can learn anywhere and without having to carry heavy books around.
You can access a wealth of knowledge with a simple tap on your smartphone or other mobile device: from ebooks, audiobooks, YouTube videos, or entire courses and ‘nanodegrees’ at MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and many of them – for free. Make sure you always have learning resources at your fingertips when going out.
Use synchronising apps, such as Kindle or Evernote (all platforms), or iBooks (Apple) to effortlessly pick up where you left off, and don’t forget to take notes(you can make notes in many e-reading apps).
5. Sleep plenty
Wanna know what’s the easiest way to become a fast learner?
Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep is the time when our brain processes and ‘practices’ stuff we’ve learnt during the day. Sleep is crucial for consolidation of newly learnt information.
National Sleep Foundation recommends that a healthy, non-pregnant, working adult should get 7-9 hrs of sleep per night.
If you’ve not been sleeping too well, check NSF website for tips on improving your sleep and see your doctor.
6. Exercise regularly
And if you’re ready for something a little harder but still sure-fire: put on your training gear. Exercise improves memory, executive functions, spacial tasks, reaction time and even math skills.
If not for your physical and mental health/happiness, schedule regular exercise for the sake of becoming a better and fast learner. Even if it’s a half-hour brisk walk a couple of times per week.
7. Take useful notes
There is no effective learning without effective recall. And the first step to being able to recall what you’ve learnt is to take notes.
Notes that capture the essence of the learnt material and are written in your own wordsnot only serve as a storage of knowledge, which can be accessed quickly at a later time, but also enhance the process of creating connections – which is crucial to ‘deeper learning’.
Record any relevant dates and names, definitions, arguments and examples. If you’re learning for practical purposes, e.g. to solve a particular problem in your business, write down what’s relevant to you and use examples from your world to illustrate the concepts presented.
There are multiple note-taking systems: outlining, Cornell notes, mind-mapping, etc. Pick up one that works best for you.
8. Fight the forgetting curve
The learner’s biggest enemy is the Forgetting Curve.
The Forgetting curve graph illustrates how quickly we forget the learnt material if we don’t take care. Generally speaking, around 70% of what we’ve learnt is gone out of our heads within 24hrs.
To ensure your newly absorbed knowledge doesn’t evaporate from your memory, schedule revisions and relearning into your diary. This can be as simple as going over your notes (see, they’re useful!), or even scanning the headlines/sub-headlines in the textbook. However, the most effective strategy is to put your learning into practice ASAP.
Adults best learn things that are relevant to them and when the knowledge and skills acquired can solve real-life problems. Having a practical project, even short and simple, provides you with excellent opportunities for immediate application of the learnt theory.
9. Don’t bother with learning styles but take context for learning into consideration
The theory of learning styles (e.g. visual, auditory, kinesthetic learners) still holds quite strongly, but actually, scientific evidence to support its effectiveness is weak
Don’t get me wrong, I like it too – it’s convenient and fun, but evidence is evidence. You’re welcome to use whichever learning preference suits you best, however, more importantly, take into consideration the context for learning.
If you have an audio book you want to retain a lot of information from, don’t listen to in while driving. Firstly, you won’t be able to fully concentrate on driving AND listening,so please do not do it for your own and other road users’ sake. Secondly, you won’t be able to take notes.
Choose something less knowledge-dense, or more entertaining. If you’re intending to read while on a train, consider taking a notebook with you, or take notes in the reading app.
Conversely, if you want to learn a practical skill, such as knitting or wood work, you’d be probably better off watching videos rather than reading a book/article even with some pictures.
10. Set up a study routine
Study routine is a powerful way to boost your learning abilities. It puts you on a ‘learning autopilot’: you don’t have to remember you’re supposed to learn now, you don’t have to fight motivational battles, you just quietly get on with it and reap the rewards of regular learning.
Start with as little time as you can dedicate to it, but be practical – there is little use of 5 min, if you not able to complete your task. The easiest way to commit to a regular study/learning session is to use an existing slot of time you already have to yourself.
Commute, exercise time, lunch breaks, or house chores time can work well here. Just add a book/audio course or video series to it and don’t forget to take notes.
Another great advantage of having a regular slot dedicated to learning is that you can schedule your ‘revisions’ into it. If you’re reading about Emotional Intelligence today, recap the highlights of today’s reading tomorrow – to consolidate your knowledge.
Hack into your learning brain
You are motivated to life-long learning and self-development. You put your time and effort into learning. Now, you need to maximize the return on your investment in learning. Use those evidence-based tricks to take your knowledge to the next level.
Keep practicing these strategies, and with time, you’ll see what difference the right tools can make. Your ‘brain power’ will boost, your memory will improve. You will become a more powerful, more efficient and more effective fast learner.
What are you doing to become a fast learner? Do you have any other ideas to share with us? Let us know in the comment section below.