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You Can Remember And Apply Everything You Read (With This Learning Technique)

You Can Remember And Apply Everything You Read (With This Learning Technique)

Why do some people seem to have an uncanny knack for learning things quickly while you struggle? You even try gimmicks to memorize the information, everything from creating songs and catchy mnemonic devices to more extreme approaches such as listening to books on tape while you sleep and even weird visualization techniques.. but the information just won’t stick!

While learning styles may differ, there are similarities in the way the brain takes in and handles new information and that tidbit of knowledge can yield efficient strategies for learning new things.

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Understanding your brain

The human brain[1] consists of special cells called neurons, which are made up of several parts, including brain fibers known as dendrites. As you learn, dendrites grow and connect your brain cells to one another at contact points called synapses.[2] The larger your dendrites become, the more connections they make and more connections mean a greater storage capacity for your brain.

The caveat to this is that dendrites can only be produced and increased in size by building upon existing dendrites.[3] In other words, to acquire new knowledge, the brain must build upon existing information.

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Introducing the FeynmanTechnique

The Feynman Technique[4] is a mental model[5] named after the Nobel Prize Winning Physicist, Richard Feynman[6]. It is a technique he created that streamlines and simplifies the learning process. The method enables you to comprehend and remember almost anything. It is designed to help you understand difficult concepts and easily recall information you’ve already learned.

This technique complements and assists the brain’s natural process of building dendrites and increasing synapses.

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The process is surprisingly simple yet incredibly effective. It involves three simple steps:

  1. Read the information
  2. Write down key concepts and information you don’t know in simple easy-to-understand terms—as if you were going to teach it to someone else
  3. Refer back to the information source to review information if you get stuck or for particular concepts you don’t fully understand.

Why it works

You are probably not very impressed or convinced by this method as it seems so simple. However, its simplicity masks its true power. Consider how most people normally attack learning a new concept or try to study unfamiliar material for an exam. Nine times out of ten, you read the material a couple of times and then hope you remember it… How’s that working for you?

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This method is effective for a variety of reasons:

  •  It is active, meaning it requires the learner to actively engage in learning by doing something (writing) versus the more passive activity of simply sitting and reading. The brain is stimulated by the action of writing[7]
  • It requires a series of mental functions. In this method, you are not merely copying the material. You must understand and interpret what you are reading and then translate it into your own simplified personal language. The mere act of analyzing information and then simplifying it is a much more involved and mentally intensive act than most people realize.
  • Thinking like a teacher makes you a better learner. The concept is simple: when you understand an idea well enough to explain it to others, it helps you internalize it. Learning information from the posture of having to simplify it and give it to someone else is one of the best ways to ensure true comprehension[8].

Learning is an activity. It requires action on your part. Instead of employing elaborate and outlandish techniques requiring undue expenditures of time and energy try this researched and proven method. Read the material. Write it down in a simplified form, as if you are going to teach it to someone else and then review the source material to clear up any ambiguity. It’s as easy as one, two, three!

Featured photo credit: ViktorHanacek.cz via pexels.com

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 9, 2020

Find out How to Study Effectively With These 6 Tips

Find out How to Study Effectively With These 6 Tips

Learning is a lifelong endeavor and one that we can all hopefully learn to enjoy. One way to boost learning is through effective study techniques and habits. Once you learn how to study effectively, learning will get significantly easier, both in the classroom and out.

There are several study habits that are pivotal to know in order to study effectively and properly. These techniques could be the deciding factor as to whether you pass or fail or, more importantly, learn. These 6 techniques will help you learn how to study effectively.

1. Take Notes

In order to study, a person is required to understand what he or she is learning. A great way of understanding/learning is by making notes of the content you are reading[1]. Note-taking may including making linear notes, diagrams, charts, etc.

The key to taking notes when learning how to study effectively is limiting your notes to the most important and complex information, and making it all as simple as possible. Trying to write down everything you hear is a recipe for disaster, as you will simply become overwhelmed when looking back at what you’ve written.

An exceptional note making style is using summaries. Summaries are a written record of all the important points in a short and concise version. They’re excellent for using when an exam is fast approaching. However, if this doesn’t work for the subject matter or if you’re more creative, try mapping instead[2].

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Use mind mapping when learning how to study effectively.

    2. Practice

    Studying is meant to enable you to apply your learned knowledge to real life situations, so if you want to learn how to study effectively, focus on practice.

    The best way to study is by practicing with realistic examples and questions. As one TED article points out, “Practice is the repetition of an action with the goal of improvement, and it helps us perform with more ease, speed, and confidence”[3].

    For example, if you have a big interview coming up, how will you prepare for it? You’ll likely study types of questions typically asked in interviews. The most effective next step would be finding a friend to do a mock-interview with you. One article points out that “a mock interview helps you learn how to answer difficult questions, develop interview strategies, improve your communication skills, and reduce your stress before an actual job interview”[4].

    Placing yourself in these kinds of practice testing situations will help you recreate the emotions you’ll likely feel in the actual situation, so you won’t be taken off guard when the time comes.

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    3. Improve Your Study Area

    Often enough, we study in a place that we feel comfortable in, but this has both pros and cons. Make sure that the room you’re studying in is not too cold or too warm. A cold room will make you feel uneasy, whereas an overly warm room will make you feel lethargic and lazy.

    Ensure that it’s not in an area with a lot of traffic that will work to distract you. If there is a lot of distracting background noise, consider putting on some relaxing music to drown it out[5].

    Furthermore, ensure that your study space is free of clutter. Research shows that clutter significantly increases chances of procrastination[6]. Other studies have suggested that having excess clutter can increase stress and levels of cortisol. Therefore, if you really want a productive study hour, make sure your workspace is clean first.

    4. Eliminate Distractions

    You may need to decipher between a distraction and an interruption when learning how to study effectively. A distraction can come in the form of open social media pages or a crying child, whereas an interruption can be anything from a phone ringing to an unexpected visitor showing up.

    While interruptions are nearly impossible to control, it is possible to eliminate the majority of distractions for certain periods of time. Choose a time when you’re alone or it’s quiet enough for you to study. It takes a lot of concentration to study properly, and there’s no guarantee that you can focus again once your train of thought is disturbed.

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    If you have to use your computer to study, close out of all social media pages. If you have small children, ask your partner to keep them occupied in the meantime. There is often a solution for the distractions that each of us have to deal with in life, so get creative.

    5. Set Goals

    In order to make progress with your studies when learning how to study effectively, it’s great if you set mini goals or objectives for yourself. Set out an allocated amount of work you want to complete for a day and make sure you do it. Every time you accomplish a mini goal, reward yourself with some free time. This will assure that you’re properly motivated and certainly won’t suffer from a burn out from over-studying.

    Deadlines can be hugely helpful in motivating us to get things done. One study suggests that “as we approach a deadline, or get near to completing a task, this has the effect of reducing ‘opportunity costs’ – essentially, the lure of all the other things you could be doing instead”[7].

    If you know you have a big exam coming up in a day or two, make a deadline for yourself. For example, tell yourself: “I will read these three chapters before 10 pm tonight.” You can even set a reward for when you complete your goal on time.

    You can read more on creating effective deadlines in this article.

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    6. Follow a Healthy Routine

    When learning how to study effectively, a healthy routine is important to your success. Your body needs to brace itself for intense studying, which is why you should get at least 8 hours of sleep, keeping in mind that the amount of time you sleep before 12 counts the most.

    Have a proper diet, including not living off energy drinks or takeout. A proper diet consists of 3 to 5 meals a day with average portions. If you need energy, opt for whole grains instead of processed grains to ensure your body is able to slowly process the food, offering consistent energy for the study session ahead.

    The greatest obstacle to face is having a balanced lifestyle, as studying is very time and energy consuming, which is why an overall healthy lifestyle is highly recommended.

    Final Thoughts

    Whether you’re studying for a big interview, a final exam, or a certification, learning how to study effectively is crucial to your success. Follow the tips above to ensure that the time you spend studying is time used well.

    More Tips on Studying Effectively

    Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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