Whether it is an advanced skill, a new technology, a second language, or new information, learning is the key to growing and understanding the world around us. Someone who abandons learning will get left behind in this day and age where every passing moment offers new awareness.
“Continuous learning is essential for critical thinking, analytical mind development, and overall mental growth. Learning also broadens your vision, and your ability to see situations, problems, and techniques in broader ways.”
Besides having a photographic memory, I’ve adopted a few methodologies that help me retain massive amounts of information readily at my disposal. I am going to share them with you.
Learning is important, and so are the techniques which can help to make it faster and more efficient. The following are a few techniques to help you enhance your learning abilities.
Techniques to Enhance Learning Abilities
Relate to Realities of Your Life
Information that we are unable to relate to, become harder to learn, as compared to things that are more meaningful to us. We have learned thousands of facts and figures in school but can only recall a few of them, because for most of us school wasn’t that fun or interesting.
The only learned things that we remember are those that were meaningful to us and that we have been able to practically adopt in our life. One key to learning fast, instead of cramming information, formulas, jargon, or anything, is to figure out where the things you are learning that can be applied in your everyday life, and or the lives of those you care about.
For me the first secret to learning would be that you have to care about yourself and others enough to turn what you learn into meaningful, practical and useful information.
Learn by Doing
We learn best by doing things, by real practice. Whatever we learn through theory is stored in our memory for a short span of time until we apply it in the form of a task.
For instance, if you are trying to master a new language, talking to the natives would be the best way to learn that new language.
Similarly, listening to hundreds of lectures about Adobe Photoshop would never make you master the software, but spending a few weeks with the software, and going through trial and error will prove to be the best way to learn it.
Remember when you learned to drive a car, or ride a bike? It was only when you got on the bike, or behind the wheel that you actually learned how.
For me the second secret to learning would be that it’s best to dive in and practice what you want to learn.
Share What You Learn
One of the best ways you can learn new skills and retain them, is to share them with others. Much research supports this phenomenon. A particular study was done to test this theory.
Two groups were given a write-up to learn with different perspectives: one was expected to take a test and the other group was expected to teach it.
Surprisingly, the group that was supposed to teach it, learned the write-up better. When we learn something with the intention to teach it, we break it into simple and understandable chunks for ourselves. It also forces us to analyze the topic more critically and thoroughly. Furthermore, the need to teach others makes us revisit everything, and the information stores in our minds longer.
This works because of the first secret to learning that I’ve shared with you. You have to care about yourself and others. You won’t be motivated to learn to teach, if you don’t care about teaching people. Teaching requires caring.
One of the reasons I love to speak, and coach, and mentor is that it serves as a reminder to myself.
“When we become busy helping others learn and grow, we help ourselves continue to retain and practice what we’ve learned.”
Our brains work best when we start something and complete it. This works well in executing tasks, however when it comes to learning we need to tap into diffused and scattered thoughts as well.
For learning, the focused mind, can go through certain facts and figures relating to a problem, while the diffused mental state helps you to see and imagine the bigger picture.
In such a situation, taking a break helps you to knot the dots. Working for 20–40 minutes on a project then resting for 5–10 minutes is the best way to learn. This helps to keep your mind more invigorated and saves you from metal fatigue.
It is considered to be faster and more convenient to take notes on a laptop but using good old fashion pen and paper helps better learn and comprehend. The physical motion of taking notes and seeing them on paper, has an impact on the brain’s ability to increase retention of information.
Taking notes by hand enables one to identify important concepts. Using gadgets to take notes leads to distractions and mindless transcription.
Distributed learning is more productive. To remember material for a long time, it is best to review the information with regular intervals. The brain pays less attention during short intervals, so it is best to have longer intervals, such as few days or a week later.
Reviewing the information with longer intervals transmits string signals to the brain that it has to retain the information.
I never had to study for tests in school, because I used the principle of distributed learning. It not only works, it removes a lot of stress from having to cram lots of data last minute for a test, or a presentation.
Tests are really effective for learning. It is more effective than re-reading and reviewing the notes. A study reveals that the students who were tested about their learning had better long-term recall of the material, even on information that was not covered by the tests. On the other hand, the students who were given extra time to study but were not tested had significantly lower recall of the materials.
This is my final secret to learning and retaining information. Make it a game. Write questions down as you learn information. Put the questions on post-it notes and post them in various places that you’ll uncover throughout the day. Have fun randomly testing yourself.
“Turn learning into a game filled with lots of little self-tests to retain massive amounts of information.”
All the above-mentioned techniques have a significant impact on learning abilities. Relatable information with practical implementation is the fastest way to store information in the mind.
Furthermore, if you take tests and/or teach others, the retention of what you learn becomes stronger.
Frequent breaks and mental spacing is also important for improving learning abilities.
Whenever you want to learn anything new, just apply the simple techniques discussed to get the best results out of your learning.