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8 Things Quick Learners Never Do

8 Things Quick Learners Never Do

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.

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 December 9, 2019

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

7 Techniques to Stay Focused and Avoid Distractions

The world has become a very distracting place, you don’t need me to tell you that. Where once we could walk out of our house or office and disappear into our own world with our own thoughts, we are now connected 24 hours a day to a network that’s sole purpose is to make us available to anyone and everyone at any time they choose to disturb us.

Of course, it is very easy to sit here and say all you have to do is turn off your electronic devices and just allow yourself several hours of quiet solitude; but the reality is far harder than that. There is an expectation that we are available for anyone whenever they want us.

However, if you do want to elevate yourself and perform at your best every day, to produce work of a higher quality than anyone expects and to regain control over what you do and when you will need to regain some control over your time, so you can focus on producing work that matters to you…

The good news: You do not have to become a recluse. All you need are a few simple strategies that will allow you enough flexibility in your day to stay focused to do the work that matters and still allow you to deal with other people’s crises and dramas.

Here are 7 ways you can stay focused and be less distracted.

1. Find out When You Are at Your Most Focused

According to research, brilliantly documented by Daniel Pink in his latest book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, our brains have a limited capacity to stay focused each day.[1]

From the moment we wake up to the time we turn in for the day, we are using up our brain’s limited energy resources and, depending on the time of day, we will be moving between strong concentration and low concentration.

This means that for most people, their optimum time for sustained concentration and focus will be soon after they wake up. For others, it could be later in the evening—a kind of second wind—but that is rare.

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Once you understand this, you can take time to learn when you are at your best and to protect that time on your calendar as much as possible. If you can, block it off and use that time for the work you need to do that requires the most concentration each day.

2. Get Comfortable Using ‘Do Not Disturb’ Mode

We have the ability to switch our electronic devices to do not disturb mode. Where all notifications are off and your phone or computer will not alert you to a new email or message.

Now after testing this function for a number of years, I can happily report that it does work.

When I sat down to write this article, I put all my electronic devices to do not disturb, closed down my email and began writing. I am safe in the knowledge that until this article is written, and I turn do not disturb off, there will be no interruptions or distractions.

Of course, it is not really about whether do not disturb works or not, it is whether you are willing to turn it on or not.

Most people believe they have to be constantly available for their boss or customers. This is not true at all. What has happened is because of your always available status, you have conditioned these people to turn to you first whenever they have a problem.

You are not actually helping them at all. You are preventing them from having to think for themselves and develop the skill of problem-solving. By not being so readily available, you help them a lot more.

What it comes down to is your boss and customers are going to be far more positive with you, if you deliver your work to the highest quality and on time than you being available 24/7. Trust me on that. I also tested that one.

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3. Schedule Focus Time Every Day

This technique is a lot easier than you may think.

First, you figure out when you are least likely to be disturbed. For me, that is between 6 and 9 am. for a lot of my clients, they find the first 90 minutes in the morning at their workplace is when they are not likely to be disturbed. This is important because you want to be building consistency.

Most people start their day by checking their email and other messages. While they are doing that, they are not going to be bothering you. Now there is no rule about when you should be checking your email. The chances are email is not going to be where you want to spend your most focused time, so you can decide to check your email at say 10:30 am.

Dedicate 30 minutes from 10:30 am to 11:00 am for email processing and use the first 90 minutes of your day for doing your most important work. You will surprise yourself by how much work you get done in that ninety minutes.

4. Plan Your Day the Night Before

One of the inevitabilities of life is there is always a plan for the day. The choice is whether the plan you have is a plan of your own making or not. If you don’t have a plan, then the day will take control of you. Other people’s priorities, urgencies and dramas will fill your day. As the late Jim Rohn said:

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”

If you take control and make it a habit to plan out what you want to accomplish the next day before you go to bed, you will find yourself staying more focused on your work and be less likely disturbed.

Now when I say plan your day the night before, I do not mean you need to spend an hour or so planning and mapping out every minute of the day. Planning your day should only take you around 10 to 15 minutes and you only need to decide what 10 things you want to complete — 2 “must do” objective tasks and 8 “would like to do” tasks. What I call the 2+8 Prioritisation Technique:

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Do not be tempted to go beyond 10 tasks for the day. When you do that, you do not have enough flexibility in your day to handle crises and other unknown issues that will pop up throughout the day.

When you do not build in flexibility, you will soon stop planning your day. Only plan tasks that will have the biggest positive impact on your work and projects.

5. Learn to Say “No”

I am sure you’ve been told this before. We are wired to please and this results in us wanting to say yes to every opportunity that comes our way. The problem is we cannot do everything and every time you say “yes” to one opportunity, you are saying “no” to another opportunity. You cannot be in two places at the same time.

Jay Shetty shared an inspiring video on JOMO “Joy Of Missing Out”. Here’s the video:

Rather than allowing ourselves to be succumbed by FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out), we should replace that ‘fear’ with the “joy” of missing out. Because of our need to please, we say yes to things we really don’t want to do; yet when we do that, we miss out on doing things that bring us joy—creating something special, spending time educating ourselves and just having some quiet alone time with ourselves.

Learn to say “no” every time you get a notification to your phone. Ignore it. Learn to say “no” to your colleagues when they want to gossip. Learn to say “no” to volunteering when the thing you are being asked to volunteer for does not excite you. Just learn to say “no”.

By saying “no” to opportunities, distractions and interruptions, you are saying yes to better and more meaningful things. Things you do want to focus your attention on.

6. Create a Distraction-Free Environment for Your Focused Time

This has been possibly the most powerful tip I learned when it comes to focusing on what is important. Have a place where you do only focused, high-concentration work.

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Now this place needs to be clean and only have the tools you need to do your work. If it is writing a report or preparing a presentation, then it needs a table and a computer, nothing more. Files, paper and other detritus that accumulates on and around people’s desks need to go. A clean, cool and well-lit environment is going to do a lot more for your focus and concentration than anything else.

The dining table in our home is where I go for undisturbed, focussed work. I take my laptop or iPad, and only have my writing app open. Everything is closed down and the computer is in “do not disturb” mode. There is nothing else on the dining table just my computer and my water tumbler.

Because that is my designated focus area, I only go there to work when I have something that needs total focus and concentration. I am there right now!

7. Be Intentional

The reality is, if you absolutely need to get something done then you need to be intentional. You have to have the intention of sitting down, focusing and doing the work.

There’s no magic tricks or apps that will miraculously do all your work for you. You need to intentionally set aside time for undisturbed focus work and do it. Without that intention, you can read as many of these articles as you like and you still will not get the work done.

It is only when you intentionally set yourself up to do the work, turn off all notifications and do whatever it takes to avoid distractions will the work get done.

The Bottom Line

The strategies and tips I shared in this post will go a long way to helping you become better at focusing on the important things in your life. No matter what they are, you are in control of your time and what you do with it and where you spend it, never give that control away to anyone else.

Protect it and it will be your servant. Give that control away and it will become your master and that is not a good place to be.

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Featured photo credit: Manny Pantoja via unsplash.com

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