- Elon Musk, Investor & Entrepreneur
There are neurologically proven ways to increase the speed with which we learn. We can use specific techniques, methods, and strategies to improve our capacity to learn more and to learn it faster. Life moves at breakneck speeds and keeping up can feel like a challenge. Developing the ability to learn new things quickly is a shortcut to getting ahead.
Scientists have discovered various ways that we can improve our learning speeds. Some have come up with workable methods you can use right away. Applying any one of these methods to your daily life can improve your memory retention, comprehension, and speed at which you learn. Applying multiples (or all) of them will produce dramatic results.
While some of them may seem like common sense, others may prove to be enlightening and may be challenging at first. We urge you to have a little patience, stick with it, and in a short period, you will notice a distinct difference in your overall knowledge base. How about we jump right in?
DEVELOP YOUR NOTE TAKING SKILL
If you know how to take good notes, your learning time will increase. That means you want to take notes that are thorough, accurate, and detailed. This helps you to remember the concepts you are learning about. It also helps you retain the information with a detailed knowledge of the topic. You may want to do a little digging on note-taking methods. Yes, there are common methods for taking notes, like the Cornell method, the outlining method, mapping, charting, and more.
Whatever note-taking method you choose, there are some common ideas you should remember when taking notes. Listen and take notes in your own words. Separate topics and ideas by skipping a line or two. Develop a system of abbreviations and symbols that are familiar to you. It is easier to write in phrases instead of complete sentences. Learn how to isolate important information and gloss over trivial information.
USE PEN AND PAPER
Using pen and paper instead of taking notes on a computer. Research has proven that people who take notes on a computer retain information and increase knowledge at a lower level. Studies prove that students who use pen and paper for notetaking learn more. Using pen and paper seems to lock the information into the mind more effectively.
It may seem counterintuitive, but pen and paper note-taking works. It improves comprehension and retention of information. It is also helpful to write the notes in your own words because you are reframing the knowledge. This reframing creates longer retention of information meaning you will have better recall. That is helpful when you need to use that knowledge in the moment.
SAY IT OUT LOUD
Scientists have demonstrated that vocalizations of new concepts make them stick. As opposed to reading or listening to the material and silently thinking about it, the voice is a powerful tool for improving memory. Selected information you choose to learn gets locked into the mind when you say it out loud. But why does that work so well? Read on.
Memory and the learning process benefit from active participation. Vocalization of what you are learning, even at a whisper, is active engagement with the learning process. If you combine this with pen and paper notetaking you are combining several organic techniques that solidify the knowledge in your mind. You are hearing and practicing comprehension, you are actively participating by moving your hand along the paper, and you are actively engaged when you vocalize new keywords and phrases.
Take your studies in bite-sized chunks. It may seem like you are losing time, but the truth is you are being economical. Science proves that if you break up your studies into smaller chunks you will retain more information, faster. This is like a technique some novelists use. They will write a few thousand words of a first draft and take some time off. This gives the story a little time to percolate. When they come back, they have a fresh perspective and are energized to keep going.
Scientists call this “disturbed practice” and it works because of a concept called “study-phase retrieval.” Every time you try to recall a memory, that memory becomes easier to retrieve. Learning a portion of a topic, stepping away briefly, and coming back to the topic forces you to recall the memory of what you learned previously. You are creating a type of neural pathway for that information by memory recall.
Another concept associated with chunking is something called “context variability.” This means that each time you learn something you also retain some of the contexts in which it was learned. That is the same reason you remember your ‘ex’ when that certain song plays on the radio. Having access to the context in which you learned a new thing allows for greater recall of the topic memory.
CHANGE IT UP
Johns Hopkins University discovered that if you modify the way you practice a new skill, you learn more and you learn it faster. It works because you are reconsolidating the information, locking it into place from multiple angles. For instance, if you wanted to learn a new skill you would take the time to learn the basics and then step away for a few hours. Later, when you come back to practice you might try practicing a little faster, a little slower, or breaking it up into chunks. You could also change the conditions of the learning environment. Keep changing the conditions at each practice session while keeping the fundamental aspects of the lesson intact. Your brain will have to reconsolidate the information, again and again, locking the information in place while adding variety to the learning process.
SO MUCH MORE
There are many ways to improve learning speed. The ones we have listed here are just the tip of the iceberg. Healthy eating, regular exercise, and good sleep habits will improve your ability to learn fast. Just keep practicing, learning, and learning how to learn.
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Thought leaders & celebrities share their tactics for success on the Lisnic podcast by Lisa Teh & Nick Bell