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If You Want To Be An Effective Learner, You Need To Develop These 4 Skills

If You Want To Be An Effective Learner, You Need To Develop These 4 Skills

Say your thirtieth birthday is approaching, and as a sign of this new level of maturity, you’ve decided to add a bit of value and refinement into your life. You’ve toyed with several ideas, including becoming a wine connoisseur, a poet laureate, a yoga instructor, a ukulele player, or a juggler. You finally settle on learning a new language, Korean. You are inspired and sprint at maximum effort for three or four weeks. Then your energy and enthusiasm dwindle, and by week five you’ve learned enough Korean to order badly at a restaurant and offend the regulars. So, you decide to take up the ukulele. A month later you’ve learned to play a poor rendition of Happy Birthday. Bored and disenchanted, you quit again.

So, the question becomes, how do you become an effective learner and expand your horizons?

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1. Assess the value of what you are considering learning

Assessment is a very important first step. Learning something new requires the expenditure of time, attention, effort, and energy, and in most cases, money as well. Before you invest in learning something new, determine if it is something worth your effort. Two questions you should ask yourself:

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  1. How will this new knowledge or skill benefit me and what purpose will it serve? If the skill will not meet a need or serve a real purpose in your life, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should abandon learning about it–it should, however, dictate the amount of resources the endeavor should consume.
  2. How badly do I want to learn it? Again, the answer to this question will help you adequately budget how much time and energy you should give to the activity, or decide whether it is even worth the time and energy.

Sometimes, we lie to ourselves about what we want, or we think we want what others have. The key here is to assess why you want to acquire that knowledge or skill, then determine if you REALLY want it.

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2.  Set realistic goals

Establishing realistic learning goals is a major key to effective learning. When learning something new, 100 percent mastery is a lofty and oftentimes unrealistic goal. The brain works best under an optimal amount of stress, but not under copious and burdensome amounts of stress. The level of stress must be high but manageable. Setting a goal of 80% mastery of a new skill is the sweet spot. It is challenging yet doable. [1]Success fuels motivation, while failure kills it. Allowing yourself room to fail, while still setting high learning goals, is the best way for learning optimization to occur.

3. When your learning plateaus, move on

Once you hit a mental plateau and your learning has considerably slowed, your brain is ready to tackle something new. The most effective way to take advantage of the brain’s malleability is by learning something that is related to what you were previously learning. The brain naturally organizes and categorizes information, and “chunking” previous learning with new learning is the most effective way to attain and maintain new knowledge and skills.[2] For example, if you were taking a public speaking course, you could then transition to taking acting lessons. When information is studied so that it can be interpreted in relation to other things you already have in your memory, learning becomes so much more powerful.[3]

4. Multitasking is the enemy

Multitasking, in its true sense, is a mythical beast. It simply doesn’t exist. Research shows that it is impossible for the brain to simultaneously work on multiple tasks at once.[4] Instead, the mind constantly switches between the tasks and their contexts, spinning only one plate at a time. Multitasking is a highly inefficient way of going about getting things done. In fact, the brain’s inability to focus on two processes in tandem is precisely why texting and driving are forbidden. Effective and efficient learning occurs quickest when there is 100% focus.

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Reference

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Denise Hill

Speech Writer/Senior Editor

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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