Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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”.

More by this author

Katarina Milovanovic

Creative Writer

This Is What Happens When Someone Stops Using Heroin 4 Easy Ways to Avoid Procrastination When Working from Home 6 Unusual Ways in which Going Green Can Enrich Your Life Girl Power: Meet 5 Inspiring Female Entrepreneurs 6 Lifehacks to Make Money Even When You Are Unemployed

Trending in Productivity

1 How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated 2 How Self Care Can Help You Live Your Best Life 3 How to Develop Mental Toughness to Help You Stay Strong 4 How to Calm Down When You’re Stressed and Anxious 5 How to Reinvent Yourself And Redefine Your Future

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

Advertising

In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

Advertising

2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

Advertising

When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

Advertising

One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

Read Next