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Published on October 22, 2019

9 Efficient Learning Habits of Smart Learners

9 Efficient Learning Habits of Smart Learners

Whether you are learning a new instrument, language, or from a course, you can always learn in a better way.

With the learning community growing constantly, there is always research and studies that have talked about certain habits; specifically habits that promote a smarter and efficient learning atmosphere. In fact, the habits I’ll bring up are so effective, most schools don’t talk about them.

This post will explore why that’s the case and how you can integrate these learning habits in your life.

What Is Considered To Be Efficient Learning?

Before getting to the techniques, first it’s best to understand what efficient learning is. In short, efficient learning is a blanket term that applies to widespread techniques.

There’s no one method of learning efficiently that is above everything. It’s any technique you can think of that smoothes out the learning process and makes retaining the information easier.

For example, one technique that Inc. recommended was the idea of spreading out learning. Research uncovered that if you want the information to stick, then try out “distributed practice.”[1] The idea behind it is to study briefly, take a break, and then study again.

These intense bursts of learning over a long period of time are similar to other techniques I recommended in the past. As such, they are highly effective in any field. Some other examples can be self-directed learning, leveraging a memory palace, and more.

As you can see, these techniques make studying and learning easier than it otherwise would be. But that raises a key question I hinted at above:

If they’re so effective and highly regarded, why haven’t schools adopted these strategies?

Kent State’s John Dunlosky commented about it once and shed some light on the problem:

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“These strategies are largely overlooked in the educational psychology textbooks that beginning teachers read, so they don’t get a good introduction to them or how to use them while teaching.”

You also have regulations. In the United States, there is a Federal Curriculum (FC) that teachers must structure their courses around. As you are no doubt aware, the FC is not up to date with current learning strategies.

That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t apply these techniques in your everyday life. Whether you are going to school or not, the methods below will help you to better grasp efficient learning and retain information better.

What Can You Do To Learn More Efficiently

There are all kinds of research studies out there talking about various methods. Below are some simple and ready to use strategies:

1. Eat and Avoid Certain Foods

Research has uncovered that there are certain foods that boost learning while others inhibit learning. The focus on these studies revolves around general brain function.

For foods to avoid, a lot of it points to food that has refined sugar or is highly processed.[2] This also includes baked goods like doughnuts and cookies. However, there are other foods you might not have expected. Examples are margarine, fruit juice, or white bread.

As for foods to actually eat, good brain food would be foods with Omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid.[3] What this means is you want to eat sardines, salmon, walnuts, broccoli, spinach, celery, avocados, and blueberries.

As the study uncovered, eating these particular foods – in their raw or cooked state depending – will help you focus and have a better memory. These foods also reduce brain injury.

All you need to do is eat the right foods around the time you are planning on studying. This also means avoiding the listed bad foods at any cost during that time, even after you finished studying.

2. Drink Water

Our brain is 73% water. So if you feel your brain isn’t working right, it’s likely you are dehydrated. Even a mild case of dehydration can inhibit your learning capabilities. One study found that when we feel thirsty, we experience a 10% decline in cognition.[4]

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This might not seem like much but 10% can be a big difference. It can be the difference between grasping and processing information properly and misinterpreting it.

So stay hydrated over the course of the day. And if you struggle remembering that, or any other information, bring a water bottle with you and sip on it during class.

There are also all kinds of helpful apps and water bottles that help you to stay hydrated during the day too.

3. Sleep

While this one seems counter-productive, it really isn’t. Harvard researchers found that dreaming may be used as a method to reactivate and reorganize material recently learned.[5] This makes sense since so many other studies have mentioned that sleep is conducive to improving brain function in general.

But don’t think that you need a long sleep in order for this to work. One German study also found that even a 6-minute nap can help improve memory too.[6]

4. Collaborative Learning

Teamwork provides all kinds of benefits. When you are in the right kind of group, studying and learning together can provide ample benefits. One study from Science Direct found that through this, students:[7]

  • Improves both collaboration and communication skills;
  • Were more engaged with other students and the topic;
  • Had a deeper understanding of the subject;
  • And had long-term retention benefits.

Of course, this technique can be hit or miss with some people. Some people don’t always have the luxury of studying in a group. Some may prefer studying by themselves naturally. And there are benefits to studying alone. Take self-directed learning which is focused more on independent learning.

That being said, studying in a group does have those benefits amongst finding motivation, and learning new perspectives. Who knows, you may be one conversation away from solving a problem that you’ve struggled with.

5. Remove Stress

No matter who you are, stress can be a massive impairment to learning and even recalling information. Most people have experienced the feeling during test time where they blank on an answer. That’s likely due to stress at that moment.

But even stress outside of testing situations is bad. One study looked at short term stress and how it would associate with brain-cell communication.[8] It impaired it so much that individuals experienced those blank moments. What’s worse is those stressful events occurred a few hours before tests or presentations.

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Because you want to avoid stress, you want to practice all kinds of techniques to reduce stress. Physical activity, breathing exercises, and meditating are all techniques that calm us and remove stress. Try these 7 Stress Management Techniques to Get Back on Track.

6. Listen To Music

In studying situations, you’d think you want a nice quiet area to curl up and study. In school, that’s typically the library. However, there’s been research that shows that a quiet place may not be the most ideal spot.

In fact, one study from Stanford found listening to certain music to improve studying.[9] The study uncovered that music activated certain areas in the brain associated with making predictions and paying attention. It also made students more receptive to information.[10]

Unfortunately, these studies do have a bit of a flaw. They used classical music. So it’s hard to say what other types of music would be conducive for studying.

Regardless, there are all kinds of calming and soothing music online. And there’re also music for productivity: Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists).

You’re always just one search away from various music that’s meant to help you learn. Try it out!

7. Avoid Multitasking

Over the years, we’ve grown used to doing multiple things at once. Texting, reading, and streaming media all at once for example. However, in a studying atmosphere that won’t work.

Trying to do multitasking is merely a distraction. It reduces our brain’s ability to store new information and to properly process it.[11] After all, we are forcing our brain to jump from one task to a completely different one.

To help with avoiding multitasking, find yourself a learning environment to help you not get distracted. A library, a café, or a room in your house or apartment that’s away from other noise.

And if you absolutely need your laptop, perhaps getting apps like ColdTurkey or Anti Social to block out pesky distractions.

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8. Teach Someone Else (Or Think About It)

As one of the many old sayings go:

“While we teach, we learn.”

That saying is true thanks in part to a study that was published in Memory and Cognition. The study found that students who taught – or even thought they had to teach – the material were efficient learning.

The study found that those students spent more time thinking about how they would explain topics or concepts. This, in turn, improved their overall understanding and grasp of topics and theories.

Even if you don’t end up teaching someone, the mere thought you have to can help you to solidify topics.

9. Try Various Learning Techniques

The last efficient learning technique I’d suggest is to learn using various strategies. Not necessarily these techniques but other forms of learning.

Are you someone who learns from a book or needs visual aids? Try learning by listening to speeches, or podcasts.

Do you study alone most times? Consider forming a study group and collaborating with people.

Each study method is good in its own way. But the thing with these study methods is they activate certain parts of your brain. They also store that information in those particular parts. So by having information spread out throughout various sections of your brain, the more interconnected the information is.

Bottom Line

At the core, efficient learning is a matter of retaining, recalling, and understanding a topic. Each person has their own tricks and tips that work for them and its a reason to explore. To explore new study methods.

Who knows, maybe you’ll find a better system to help you grasp topics like never before. That’s the beauty of learning! There are no right or wrong answers for what method is best for you.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively and Easily

You’re never too old to learn, and this isn’t just some fancy statement; this is many people’s motto in life. If you agree, there are various learning methods to help you ensure that you continue to learn day in and day out.

We have all been learning since childhood—our parents teach us morals, our teachers teach us math, society teaches us acceptance, our work teaches us how to do our job, etc. Even if you’re 70, life has a whole new book of things to teach you; you just need to have the heart and willingness to learn.

What you learn today will always benefit your current and future self. The question is, with such limited time in life, how can we learn effectively?

In this article, I’ll introduce to you the essential learning methods and some of the best ways to learn.

The Best Ways to Learn

There are so many different ways of learning, and here, I’ve handpicked some of the best ways that will definitely help you in being an effective learner[1].

Here Are The Best Learning Methods for Retention

    1. Your Comfort Zone

    For most people, staying in their own comfort zone opens their minds and helps them retain information. For instance, many learn and retain information when they’re taking notes on a piece of paper; others learn by watching videos and documentaries relevant to the topic.

    By finding out how you’re comfortable learning will surely help you in effectively retaining new information, and you will remember it for a longer period of time.

    2. Learning Through Play

    Just like children learning actively, you can learn through play. This doesn’t literally mean building blocks out of plastic Lego, but by implementing what you have learned[2]. If you’ve just learned a new way to make quiche, the best way of making sure you know it properly and remember it is by immediately making it at home.

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    3. Pass That Information on

    If you’ve learned something, avoid passive learning, and, instead, pass the information on to someone else.

    When you go through what you’ve learned and are explaining the process to someone else through this teaching method, you will learn and remember better.

    One study found that teaching information is so effective in introducing it to our long-term memory because it forces us to retrieve that information over and over again[3].

    In classrooms, there is a frequent activity of dividing students into groups, and one of them explains to other classmates what the day’s lecture was about. This not only helps the speaker understand concepts better, but when other classmates are being reinforced with the lesson, they also remember better.

    4. Rote Learning Is a Big NO

    Many people try to memorize word by word what they have been taught, as if they were sitting in a written exam. Teachers discourage rote learning in students as well because by only memorizing some words, the goal isn’t met. The main point here is to truly understand and connect the dots of what you’ve learned.

    The generation today has grown up with computers and is used to getting all the information needed at the click of a button, which means they don’t really absorb the true meaning of what they’re learning.

    Rote learning is just like that. You just pick up the information from somewhere and learn it word for word, which doesn’t really help you understand anything, only to memorize.

    Learning is all about being able to express what you have understood about a particular concept. It is being able to give your own opinion about a certain event, instead of just knowing the facts. Somewhere along the line, we do want to learn new things, but some of us have the attention span of a goldfish or simply don’t know the smart learning methods.

    Some people may be more receptive to one kind of method, and some to another. A smart person would try and find out which method of learning is best suited to them, and use that to enhance their learning process. The following learning methods will be helpful for you.

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    Types of Learning Methods

    Essentially, there are 7 types of learning methods that researchers have compiled over time. If one resonates with you, it’s likely that it’s your preferred learning method.

    Visual

    This type of learning requires visual material to understand. This could be in the form of videos, graphics, and images. This method helps people in visually understanding what they see.

    You may be this type of learner if you often imagine faces to remember someone’s name, use landmarks to give directions, or need to write down information to remember it.

    Aural

    This kind of learning style uses audio like music and sounds to understand. You may like this learning method if you often remember information after lectures or are good at memorizing the words to songs.

    Verbal

    This method is usually for people who like to speak and narrate their stories in order to learn. This can be done through scripted speeches, impromptu narrations, or even just daily conversations.

    Logical

    Many people like learning through logic; they won’t understand a concept if they’re just spoon-fed it.

    They want proper reasoning to why and how something happened for them to properly learn something.

    These people are often very good at forming arguments, problem-solving, and participating in debates.

    Social

    This is when people learn better when they’re divided into groups and are with other people. These social groups help expand their horizons and give them confidence to ask questions and solve problems.

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    Solitary

    This learning style is usually best for people who prefer to learn alone in a confined place that has no distractions whatsoever. They are either easily distracted with other people.

    Physical

    This is a learning technique where people learn through physical acts, like using their hands or simply by the sense of touch.

    This technique is used when a child actively participates in order to learn. For example, to help them understand what “fluffy” means, they are asked to touch a cotton cushion or a hairy cat. This is how children learn and understand better.

    However, many adults learn with this learning method as well. If you enjoy building or designing things, this may be your preferred learning method.

    What types of learning methods suit you better? You can find out in this article: How This Learning Style Quiz Can Help You Make the Most of Your Life

    In order to support any kind of learning listed above, you have to be physically fit and healthy. Your mind and body need to be nurtured in order for any kind of learning method to be effective. Here are some of the things that can be done on a daily basis to maintain a receptive mind and body.

    Habits to Help You Learn

    To be an effective listener, you also have to be able to retain that information. People learn new things every day, but only a portion of those people are able to remember what they learned by the end of the day.

    There are some tried and tested home remedies that have worked like a charm for people who are looking to enhance their memory.

    Sleep More

    An active brain is one that sleeps almost 8-10 hours a day. If you’re overworked and sleep for barely five hours, there are chances that your brain needs rest to retain information.

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    But if you’re somebody who sleeps for 11-15 hours a day, you may just be too lazy and need to engage in healthy activities to keep your brain active.

    Eat Healthy

    Include lots of protein and Omega-3s in your diet. Drink lots of water and generally stay away from refined carbs.

    You don’t have to quickly switch over to salads, but just generally try to adapt to a healthier eating pattern. Limit the use of alcohol and caffeine because they slow down your brain, causing a hindrance in your learning journey.

    Here are 15 Brain Foods You Should Be Eating Regularly to Keep Your Mind Sharp.

    Socialize

    By meeting new people every day, you’re not only giving your brain a chance to open up, but you’re also having your brain exercise by getting new information. Talking to people and engaging in daily conversations helps the flow of information.

    Do Activities That Challenge Your Brain

    If your brain hasn’t yet been exposed to challenges where you really have to think and work your mind, you may not be an effective learner, despite engaging in the above learning methods. There are many activities that increase your motor skills, like puzzles, mathematical questions, or even solving crosswords in your daily newspaper. You can also try these 11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory.

    When your brain is active and running, you possess a better chance of learning new things and actually retaining that information.

    Final Thoughts

    Learning has been a safe haven for so many people, whether it’s about learning to cook a complicated dish for a family gathering or simply about sewing a button on a shirt.

    The best among us are people that don’t let anything get in the way of their learning process; these people make it their life motto to wake up every day and learn at least one new thing before going to bed. And these people are all around us; we are these people.

    The knowledge we gain today can benefit our career, relationships, and our everyday life, so get started now.

    More on Utilizing the Learning Methods

    Featured photo credit: Sarah Noltner via unsplash.com

    Reference

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