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8 Things Quick Learners Never Do

8 Things Quick Learners Never Do
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There are some people who struggle to remember a few pages of new information or take months to learn the very basics of a new skill, and then there are those who seem to magically conquer all intellectual challenges within a week. Apart from those who are incredibly intelligent or full-blown geniuses, there are a lot of quick learners with average or slightly above-average intellectual capacities.

So, how do they do it? Well, I can tell you that a lot of hard work goes into it, but they also know how not to waste time, have an incredibly efficient approach to learning, and are consistent. People see that you have picked up a lot of new information in just a week, but they don’t see the hours of work that you put in behind the scenes.

Let’s look as some of the things that quick learners never do, and the strategies that you should use instead.

1. Doing tons of research and never actually applying it in real life

This is something that I am guilty of myself, but when that hoarding instinct kicks in all you want to do is find every tiny bit of information on a topic before you really buckle down and start learning. What you often end up doing is collecting research that covers all the major categories and subcategories from several different angles, and even plenty of extensive information on some of the minutia that not a lot of people know about.

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This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but you spend a lot of time accumulating material for your mini-library instead of actually learning anything. Sooner or later, merely glancing at the mountain of knowledge gives you the chills. You know that there is a lot of ground to cover, so you wait for the right opportunity to sit down and start learning.

Quick learners start with the basics and keep eating up any additional information as soon as they find it – they will download a couple of eBooks and forget about additional research until they are done with them. What this allows you to do is gradually expand your knowledge day by day, and allow those fragments of knowledge to quickly add up over the course of a few months.

2. Filling their heads with non-essential information

Another problem with stockpiling tons of research is that you risk wasting hours of your time on non-essential and even outright unnecessary information. You may want to cover a broad range of topics in the beginning to get acquainted with a particular area, but you’ll want to start focusing on a specific area of interest soon after covering the basics. Find the things that are relevant to your work, that you enjoy the most, and try to filter out the fluff.

3. Try to go at it alone without asking for help

I find the notion of having to do something on your own in the age of the internet quite ridiculous. You don’t have to go reinvent the wheel or start from the very basics and learn through trial and error every time you start a new project, pick up a new skill, or want to learn more about a particular topic. You can find tons of great resources online, and most of them are free.

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In fact, I would strongly advise networking on social media, visiting specialized forums that cover the topics you are interested in, and even starting a blog, where you can share your experiences and thoughts with like-minded people. Blogging is a great example of building a community to help you learn a lot about a topic fairly quickly.

If you want to become a fast learner focus on building connections, so that you can bounce your ideas between different people and ask for help when you get stuck.

4. Rushing through the basics

We see this with students who are learning a new subject, people who start training at the gym, and even gamers that start playing a competitive game – even if you think the basic stuff is boring, you will have to keep going over certain points to really get a hang of them. Everyone wants to move on to the more interesting things or become an expert overnight, but rushing things will cause you to have big holes in your knowledge.

The quickest learners paradoxically spend a longer time on gaining a deeper understanding of the basics than most other people. Once they are confident that they have a strong foundation their learning pace picks up and they fly past everyone else soon enough.

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5. Biting off more than they can chew

While a healthy drive to push yourself to achieve more is a good thing, allowing your ambition to cloud your ability for rational judgement is not. It may look perfectly reasonable to set a big goal for yourself at the beginning of the month, e.g. read 10.000 pages of material related to business and personal development but life has a tendency of throwing tons of fun little problems and other distractions your way.

You have to learn how to make smart decisions, and this takes time and careful deliberation. Set a bare minimum that you’ll be able to manage even if you have under slept, are tired after a long day at work, and have several chores to complete, and try to at least hit those numbers each day. If you can manage more that is fine but if not at least you’ll know that you’re learning at a manageable pace.

6. Being satisfied with where they are

It’s easy to let a bit of initial success go to your head, and to simply give up on improving any further once you have attained a basic level of competence. There is something called the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that as a person becomes more competent they start to see just how vast a subject really is and understand that there is a whole lot they yet have to learn.

You should never be satisfied with where you are and should strive to constantly improve – learning new things then becomes a normal part of your day, and you keep eating up information.

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7. Waiting for the stars to align and a muse to bless them with focus

Blogger, journalists, and writers often talk about the infamous writers block, but although mental burnout can occur, it takes hours of daily writing over an extended period to get to that point. You can force motivation and creativity just like anything else, as long as you have a good schedule and are determined to improve.

If you do your best work in the morning get up early and strap yourself to a chair for a few hours, but if you can focus better later in the day, then make sure your schedule is open for 3 to 4 hours in the evening and either go out partying a bit later, or organize late dinners with your friend, just make sure that you learn a little bit every single day. Developing good habits like this is instrumental in becoming a quick learner.

8. Focusing on short-term retention

Reading a lot of information in several intense hours of learning can help with short term retention, and you might be able to reproducer a lot of the information the same day, the next day, or even next week if you add a day of revision into the mix, but all that knowledge will evaporate within a couple of months. This might be a decent strategy if your goal is to pass a tests and be done with a particular subject, but it’s an abysmal strategy for retaining important information in the long run.

The best solution is to go a bit slower and digest the information over several days instead of a single day. Revision is key, as the more you try to remember the information and use it, the more ingrained in your long term memory it becomes.

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As you can see, a lot of the strategies used by quick learners seem counter-intuitive, but it is their attention to detail, ability to separate essential from non-essential information, realistic goals and frequent revisions that make someone a “quick learner”.

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Katarina Milovanovic

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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