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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

Reference

More by this author

Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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