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7 Best Ways of Learning Effectively

7 Best Ways of Learning Effectively

You know this: continuous learning and improvement are essential to our work and life. But your time is limited and there is only so much you can absorb at a given period. How does one learn faster and more effectively?

If knowledge is power, knowing how to learn effectively is the superpower.

Being able to learn effectively means you can remember the information better and utilize it when you need to. Sounds awesome? Clearly, it doesn’t happen overnight.

However, here are 7 techniques to help you get closer to the superpower you ever wanted. Use them to absorb more information in a short time, understand concepts at a deeper level, and implement what you’ve learned effectively to accomplish success in your own terms.

1. Increase Desirable Difficulty

Like building muscles, the harder you train, the stronger you get. The same goes for learning. The harder your brain has to work to recall a memory, the greater the increase in learning.

This is what separates studying with practicing and testing. Practicing and testing do not equal to studying. They are greater than studying because it requires work to dig out the memory of what you’ve studied and learned.

To learn more effectively, stop avoiding challenges and difficulties. Instead, increase the desirable difficulties so you learn and retain the knowledge better over the long run.[1]

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Embrace the fear of failure to take every opportunity in gaining practical experiences and testing yourself regularly.

2. Stop Multitasking

Most people define professional capability with the ability to multitask. The same goes for learning. People think if they can learn multiple things at the same time, they can learn faster.

Truth is, multitasking is an illusion. We think we’re handling many tasks at the same time, but what we are doing is switching from one task to another.

Instead of multitasking, pick one single topic to learn and practice in a set period of time with focus and intensity.

3. Learn to Forget

The conventional learning method taught us to study and learn everything at one-go and blame us when we’re being forgetful.

According to the Forgetting Curve, we forget up to 75% of what we learned in 24 hours and 90% in 30 days without any revision.[2] It’s obvious that the conventional learning method is not the w ay to go.

Fortunately, we can improve retention by a huge degree by revision. And the more we revisit a same material, the more we memorize, the less we forget after a long period of time. So instead of studying everything in one-go, use what known as mental spacing to learn as revise in intervals.

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What’s the optimal frequency? It depends on how large and complex the material is and how focus you are during the study. A rule of thumb is to revise a material at least 4 times to retain 90% of it.

4. Improve Your Sleep and Take Naps

Sleep plays an essential role in our cognitive development, which includes learning. While your brain sleeps, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases and clears out harmful toxins built up during your waking hours.

To improve your learning ability, make sure you get enough high-quality sleep every day. Here are 3 quick tips:

  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per day
  • Optimize your room to be dark, quiet, and cool
  • Sleep and wake up at the same time every day including weekends.

If you have the time flexibility, try taking 30 to 60 minutes nap after lunch. Naps are sleeping too.

5. Make Use of the Environment

Our environment shapes our behavior more than we think or like to admit. The same goes for learning, the environment plays an important role. You can use this in two ways.

First, the environment we study and practice becomes the trigger when we’re performing. If you’re practicing for a performance, for example giving a speech, practice it in the same environment where you’re going to perform. Doing this makes practicing easier as it goes and it translates into the actual performance as well.

You can also use the environment to exposes yourself to multiple contexts when you’re learning a new concept or practicing a new skill. This helps your brain to make more connections and expand the range of mental triggers for that particular concept or skill.

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6. Simplify and Teach What You Learn

Learning is not all about memorizing. Often, the best way to learn a complicated concept or subject is to simplify it. If you can’t simplify it, you don’t understand it.

Richard Feynman is a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist and known as “The Great Explainer” for his ability to relay complex ideas to others in simple, intuitive ways. Most of us may not be a scientist, but his technique, known as the Feynman Technique, in doing so is useful and applicable in anything we want to learn.[3]

First, choose a concept and study it. Then try to teach it, not to an expert, but to a toddler. This eases off the pressure to get everything right and helps you to revise the concept you just learned in your own words.

By this time, you’ve revised what you have already known and the process helped reveal and pinpoint the areas that you don’t fully understand. Now, fill the gaps by reviewing the materials again. Repeat this process until you can explain the chosen concept in your own simple vocabularies.

7. Get Away from an Unsolved Problem

When you’re stuck with an unsolved problem, instead of working harder, try to leave it alone and go do something else.

Getting away from an unsolved problem doesn’t mean to give up. Instead, you’re giving the brain space it needs to tap into the incubation mode to solve the problem. In the incubation mode, your subconscious mind solves the problem by picking up clues from the environment (that you missed) and breaking fixed assumptions.

The secret:

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Start diving into a big project head first and stop when you get stuck. You’re not quitting, but to let your powerful mind to do its work — learning about the problem from new angles and generating a solution with the newfound insights.

Final Thoughts

There are endless ways to improve the meta-skill of knowing how to learn effectively. However, there is one mindset you need to embed into your mind before all of that:

Avoid being the smartest person in the room.

I’m not asking you to hang around with only smart people. Instead, I’m asking you to not fall prey into the Dunning-Kruger Effect and consider yourself seen all and known all.[4]

Stay open-minded, stay curious, and try the 7 learning techniques by yourself today.

More on Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Nick Hillier via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dean Yeong

Self-improvement writer and performance coach

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Published on January 19, 2021

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

What Is Learning by Doing And Why Is It Effective?

The list of teaching techniques is ever-expanding as there are multiple ways for us to gain knowledge. As a result, there are multiple techniques out there that leverage those particular skills. One such technique I want to share with you is learning by doing.

This technique has been around for a long time, and it’s a surprisingly effective one thanks to the various perks that come with it. Also called experiential learning, I’ll be sharing with you my knowledge on the subject, what it is deep down, and why it’s such an effective learning tool.

What Is Learning by Doing?

Learning by doing is the simple idea that we are capable of learning more about something when we perform the action.

For example, say you’re looking to play a musical instrument and were wondering how all of them sound and mix. In most other techniques, you’d be playing the instrument all by yourself in a studio. Learning by doing instead gives you a basic understanding of how to play the instrument and puts you up on a stage to play an improvised piece with other musicians.

Another way to think about this is by taking a more active approach to something as opposed to you passively learning about it. The argument is that active engagement provides deeper learning and that it’s okay if you make mistakes as you learn from those as well. This mentality brought forth a new name for this technique: experiential learning.

What Are Its Benefits?

Experimental learning has been around for eons now. It was Aristotle who wrote that “for the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”

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Over the years, that way of thinking changed and developed and for a time was lost once computers were integrated into schools. It’s only been in recent years where schools have adopted this technique again. It’s clear why teachers are encouraging this as it offers five big benefits.

1. It’s More Engaging and More Memorable

The first benefit is that it’s more engaging and memorable. Since this requires action on your part, you’re not going to be able to weaken your performance. This is big since, traditionally, you’d learn from lectures, books, or articles, and learners could easily read—or not read—the text and walk away with no knowledge at all from it.

When you are forced into a situation where you have to do what you need to learn, it’s easier to remember those things. Every action provides personalized learning experiences, and it’s where motivation is built. That motivation connects to what is learned and felt. It teaches that learning is relevant and meaningful.

Beyond that, this experience allows the opportunity for learners to go through the learning cycle that involves extended effort, mistakes, and reflection, followed by refinement of strategies.

2. It Is More Personal

Stemming from the reason mentioned above, learning by doing offers a personal experience. Referring back to the cycle of effort, mistakes, reflection, and refinement, this cycle is only possible through personal emotions—the motivation and realization of knowledge of a particular topic tying into your values and ideals.

This connection is powerful and thus, offers a richer experience than reading from a book or articles such as this one. That personal connection is more important as it encourages exploration and curiosity from learners.

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If you’ve always wanted to bake a cake or cook a unique dish, you could read up on it or watch a video. Or you could get the ingredients and start going through it all yourself. Even if you make mistakes now, you have a better grasp of what to do for the next time you try it out. You’re also more invested in that since that’s food that you made with the intention of you having it.

3. It Is Community-Connected

Learning by doing involves the world at large rather than sitting alone in your room or a library stuck in a book. Since the whole city is your classroom technically, you’re able to leverage all kinds of things. You’re able to gather local assets and partners and connect local issues to larger global themes.

This leans more into the personal aspect that this technique encourages. You are part of a community, and this form of learning allows you to interact more and make a connection with it—not necessarily with the residents but certainly the environment around it.

4. It’s More Integrated Into People’s Lives

This form of learning is deeply integrated into our lives as well. Deep learning occurs best when learners can apply what they’ve learned in a classroom setting to answer questions around them that they care about.

Even though there is a lot of information out there, people are still always asking “what’s in it for me?” Even when it comes to learning, people will be more interested if they know that what they are learning is vital to their very way of life in some fashion. It’s forgettable if they’re unable to tie knowledge in with personal aspects of their lives. Thus, experiential learning makes the application of knowledge simpler.

5. It Builds Success Skills

The final benefit of learning by doing is that it builds up your skills for success. Learning by doing encourages you to step out of your comfort zone, discover something new, and try things out for the first time. You’re bound to make a mistake or two, but this technique doesn’t shame you for it.

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As a result, learning by doing can build your initiative for new things as well as persistence towards growth and development in a field. This could also lead to team management and collaboration skill growth. These are all vital things in personal growth as we move towards the future.

How to Get Started

While all these perks are helpful for you, how are you going to start? Well, there are several different approaches that you can take with this. Here are some of them that come to mind.

1. Low-Stakes Quizzes

In classroom settings, one way to introduce this technique is to have many low-stakes quizzes. These quizzes aren’t based on assessing one’s performance. Instead, these quizzes are designed to have learners engage with the content and to generate the learned information themselves.

Research shows that this method is an effective learning technique.[1] It allows students to improve their understanding and recall and promotes the “transfer” of knowledge to other settings.

2. Type of Mental Doing

Another approach is one that Psychologist Rich Mayer put together. According to him, learning is a generative activity.[2] His knowledge and the research done in his lab at Santa Barbara have repeatedly shown that we gain expertise by doing an action, but the action is based on what we already know.

For example, say you want to learn more about the Soviet dictator Stalin. All you need to do is link what you do know—that Stalin was a dictator—and link it to what you want to learn and retain. Stalin grew up in Georgia, killed millions of people, centralized power in Russia, and assisted in the victory of World War 2. This technique even applies to the most simple of memory tasks as our brain learns and relearns.

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3. Other Mental Activities

The final method I’ll share with you is taking the literal approach—getting out there and getting your hands dirty so to speak. But how you go about that is up to you. You could try reading an article and then going out and applying it immediately—like you could with this article. Or maybe you could find further engagement through puzzles or making a game out of the activity that you’re doing.

For example, if you wanted to learn about animal behavior patterns, you can read about them, go out to watch animals, and see if they perform the specific behaviors that you read about.

Final Thoughts

Learning by doing encourages active engagement with available materials and forces you to work harder to remember the material. It’s an effective technique because it helps ingrain knowledge into your memory. After all, you have a deeper personal connection to that knowledge, and you’ll be more motivated to use it in the future.

With that in mind, I encourage you to take what you’ve learned from reading this article and apply that in the real world. It’s only going to benefit you as you grow.

Featured photo credit: Van Tay Media via unsplash.com

Reference

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