Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 3, 2019

12 Powerful Learning Strategies to Help You Retain Info Fast

12 Powerful Learning Strategies to Help You Retain Info Fast

Learning is the input for growth. It is a crucial aspect of life. If you want to experience growth in all aspects of your life, then you need to invest in learning.

However, learning takes time, and time is a rare asset. So how can you maximize your time by learning and retaining info fast? Here’re 12 powerful learning strategies that can widen your horizon and help you retain information at lightning speed.

1. Hone Your Note-Taking Skills

I have found out that the old-fashioned way of taking notes is more effective than typing your notes on the sticky notes provided by your device. If you want to learn faster, forget the laptop and use your pen and paper to take notes. Research showed that students who use paper and pen to take notes in class retain more information than those who type their lecture notes on a laptop. [1]

Writing skills utilize different sections of your brain than reading. When you spend time to write a thought in your notepad having reviewed the material, you will have additional opportunities to cover the concept again. This will interest visual learners while the auditory learners can read the content aloud in addition to writing it down.

While it may be difficult and slower to take notes by hand instead of typing, writing fosters retention, and comprehension. You reframe information longer in your mind when you write with your hand. This means you can quickly recall info and perform better during an examination.

In fact, quality notes aid faster learning. Developing the capability of taking accurate notes will assist you to grasp concepts and gain a thorough understanding of the subject matter. Therefore, it is better to learn the art and strategies of note-taking before you learn a new idea.

This skill will help you to organize your class notes into digestible bits. For instance, if you are participating in an online course, don’t just watch, and do the following:

  • Listen, summarize the knowledge gained and then take notes.
  • Create lines and spaces between the main concepts so you can add more info subsequently during revision.
  • Use symbols and abbreviations to save time.
  • Write in phrases instead of complete sentences.
  • Pull out the necessary info and neglect the trivial ones.

You can also take a look at these 7 Simple Note Taking Techniques for Efficient Learning.

Advertising

2. Study, Sleep and Study More

Do you have an important presentation and you haven’t found time to prepare?

Most individuals who find themselves in this situation would rather stay overnight and cram before the presentation. The exciting thing is the hard work will surely be compensated even if you become exhausted the following day. However, that’s not the most effective learning strategy to retain info fast.

Now, here is the fact:

Research has found out that there is a correlation between sleep and learning. Sleep aids learning by optimizing your focus. You cannot focus if you deprive yourself of quality sleep. Not only that, sleep facilitates memory consolidation, which is crucial for learning to take place.[2]

Getting some sleep empowers your brain to recall quickly. Deep sleep before learning new information can strengthen memory. If you study and get some shut-eye, you will not only be able to explore more, but you will attain peak performance in your learning experience.

3. Tweak Your Practice

Someone says you cannot repeat the same process and achieve a different result. Making some adjustments in recurring practice lessons will empower you to gain a new skill faster instead of adhering to a routine.

You can learn a skill by watching YouTube videos, play games, or read a guide in a textbook. Another related example is changing the size of your racket when perfecting your lawn tennis game.

4. Use a Mnemonic Strategy

This has been found out to be one of the time-tested learning strategies. You can learn anything faster by trying a mnemonic approach — sounds, letter patterns, or other methods that help you learn a concept. This was very popular in the kindergarten in learning the alphabet. Children can ‘know their ABCs’ thanks to the alphabet song and still retain this information even till adulthood.

Advertising

Mnemonics will help you summarize, simplify, and compress the information so it can be easier to retain. This strategy is useful for medical or law students, or individuals studying a language.

So if you want to retain substantial information, adopt a mnemonic method, and you will discover you can recall information beyond your examination.

5. Discover Your Peak Moment When You Are the Most Attentive and Alert

You have a sharp focus at some specific period of the day. This differs from person to person. Some are early risers, while others are night owls. Discovering your uniqueness will assist you in knowing what period of the day you can retain info faster. [3]

6. Focus on Topics One After the Other

Some concepts require an additional amount of concentration to grasp fully. Jumping from one topic to the other can make your efforts to be fruitless, which will limit you from retaining the info.

7. Pause

We always want to rush through a material anytime we are reading. The outcome is obvious-limited retention.

Absorb info in small bits, pause to think on what you have read, revise the concept, then proceed.

8. Make it Pleasurable

If you are struggling to learn a topic, personalize it. You can do this by finding out how it applies to your personal life or career.

9. Utilize Brain Breaks to Regain Focus

Information overload is real. Do you know that your brains need to communicate signals to your sensory receptors to store new information? This process can be hindered by stress.

Advertising

Your brains automatically shut down when you are anxious, confused, or overwhelmed. You can notice these among learners during a long lecture. They will stop paying rapt attention to what’s being taught. They can’t just retain information in their memory storage device.

One of the best learning strategies to handle this is to go on a ‘brain break ‘ or divert your attention to something different. You could see a five-minute motivational video to unclog your mind or do something that interests you.

10. Stay Hydrated

You have read that water is beneficial to your body system and skin. It optimizes your body performance and boosts your immune system. Now staying hydrated also impacts your cognitive performance positively. You can become smarter when you drink water.

Here’s the gist:

A study found out that students who take water to the examination hall performed better compared to those who did not.[4]

Dehydration can affect your cognitive abilities. You stress your brain when you don’t drink water.

11. Link What You Learn with Previous Knowledge

You will grasp new information faster if you link new concepts with an existing idea you already have. In the book, Make it Stick, the authors wrote that related study habits are most times counterproductive. They may establish an illusion of comprehension and mastery, but the knowledge fades away from our memory quickly.

Memory is crucial when it comes to implementing difficult cognitive tasks like the application of knowledge to new tasks and the drawing of inferences from already known details or facts. By discovering the means of aligning new knowledge with previous experience, you will find extra layers of understanding in the new topic. This will help you learn faster and retain info at lightning speed.

Advertising

Guess who loves using this technique? Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla. Elon compares knowledge to a semantic tree. He advises ensuring you grasp the principles — the trunk and the branches before diving into the leaves or details. That way, you will find something to hang on to. You supply the mental hook when you link new knowledge to the old.[5]

12. Teach Others

If you find it challenging to explain a concept to others, you might as well find it challenging to retain the concept. Studies have found out that the average individual retains 90% of what was learned only when they teach others or practice the concept immediately. You can discover your weak points when you apply or teach a concept.

Do you want to retain info faster? Then, revisit the material until you become confident to impact the knowledge to others.

Bottom Line

Great learners are still learning how to learn. Since learning is a lifelong affair, discover the learning strategies that work for you. Don’t try to rush through a concept, learn the simple concepts, and build on the previous knowledge while taking complex concepts.

The more you practice those learning strategies shared, the better you become at being a great learner like Elon Musk!

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Joel Muniz via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

How to Stop Bad Habits: 9 Scientifically Proven Methods How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Life-Changing Tips How To Be A Successful Person (And What Makes One Unsuccessful) The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life How To Work From Home Without Getting Distracted

Trending in Learning

1 How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You? 2 5 Characteristics of a Kinesthetic Learner 3 How Motor Learning Helps You Learn Effectively 4 How Social Learning Helps You Learn Faster 5 How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

How to Know Which Types of Learning Styles Work for You?

One of the biggest realizations I had as a kid is that teaching in school could be hit or miss for students. We all have our own different types of learning styles. Even when I was in study groups, we all had our own ways of uncovering solutions to questions.

It wasn’t only until later in my life did I realize how important it is to know your own learning style. As soon as you know how you learn and the best way to learn, you can better retain information. This information could be crucial to your job, future promotions, and overall excelling in life.

Best of all about this information is that, it’s not hard to figure out what works best for you. There are broad categories of learning styles, so it’s a matter of finding which one we gravitate towards most.

What Are the Types of Learning Styles?

Before we get into the types of learning styles, there’s one thing to know:

We all learn through repetition.

No matter how old you are, studies show that repetition allows us to retain and learn new information.[1] The big question now is what kind of repetition is needed. After all, we all learn and process information differently.

This is where the types of learning styles come in. There are eight in total and there is one or two that we prefer over others. This is important because when reading these learning styles, you’ll feel like you’d prefer a mixture of these styles.

That’s because we do prefer a combination. Though there will be one style that will be more predominate over the others. The key is finding which one it is.

Visual Learning

A visual learner (also known as the spatial learner) excels at deciphering anything visual – typically maps and graphs.

If you are this type of learner, you likely excelled at geometry in math class but struggled with arithmetic and numbers. To this day, you might also struggle with reading and writing to a degree.

Advertising

While visual learners are described as “late bloomers,” they are highly imaginative. They also process what they see much faster than what they hear.

Verbal Learning

Verbal learning, on the other hand, is learning through what’s spoken. Verbal learners excel in reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Because of that, they are likely the ones to find thrills in tongue twists, word games, and puns.

They also thoroughly enjoy drama, writing, and speech classes. But give them maps, or challenge them to think outside of the box and they’ll struggle a bit.

Logical Learning

Not to be confused with visual learners, these learners are good at math and logic puzzles. Anything involving numbers or other abstract visual information is where they excel.

They can also analyze cause and effect relationships quite well. Part of that is due to their thinking process being linear.

Another big difference is their need to quantify everything. These people love grouping information, creating specific lists, agendas or itineraries.

They also have a love for strategy games and making calculations in their heads.

Auditory Learning

Similar to verbal learning, this type of learning style focuses on sounds on a deeper level. These people think chronologically and excel more in the step-by-step methods. These are likely the people who will watch Youtube videos to learn or do something the most.

These learners also have a great memory of conversations and love debates and discussions. Chances are likely these people excel at anything oral.

Also as the name suggests, these individuals have great musical talents. They can decern notes, instruments, rhythms and tones. That being said, they will have a tough time interpreting body language, expressions and gestures. This also applies to charts, maps and graphs.

Advertising

Social Learning

Otherwise known as the interpersonal learner, their skills are really unique. They don’t particularly excel in classrooms but rather through talking to other people.

These are the people who are excited for group conversations or group projects. Mainly because they are gifted with coming up with ideas and discussing them.

They also have a good understanding of people’s emotions, facial expressions, and relationship dynamics. They are also likely the first people to point out the root causes of communication issues.

Intrapersonal Learning

The reverse of interpersonal learning, these people prefer learning alone. These are the people who love self-study and working alone. Typically, intrapersonal learners are deeply in tune with themselves meaning they know who they are, their feelings, and their own capabilities.

This type of learning style means you love learning something on your own and typically every day. You also have innate skills in managing yourself and indulging in self-reflection.

Physical Learning

Also known as kinesthetic learning, these people love doing things with their hands. These are people who loved pottery or shop class. If you’re a physical learner, you’ll find you have a huge preference in using your body in order to learn.

This means not just pottery or shop class you enjoyed. You may also have loved sports or any other art medium like painting or woodwork. Anything that involved you learning through physical manipulation you enjoyed and excelled at.

Though this doesn’t just apply to direct physical activities. A physical learner may also find that they learn well when both reading on any subject and pacing or bouncing your leg at the same time.

Naturalistic Learning

The final learning style is naturalistic. These are people who process information through patterns in nature. They also apply scientific reasoning in order to understand living creatures.

Not many people may be connected to this one out of the types of learning styles primarily because of those facts. Furthermore, those who excel in this learning end up being farmers, naturalists or scientists.

Advertising

These are the people who love everything with nature. They appreciate plants, animals, and rural settings deeply compared to others.

How to Know Which One(s) Suit You Better?

So now that you have an idea of all the types of learning styles we have another question:

Which one(s) are best for you?

As a reminder, all of us learn through a combination of these learning styles. This makes pinpointing these styles difficult since our learning is likely a fusion of two or more of those styles.

Fortunately, there are all kinds of methods to narrow down which learner you are. Let’s explore the most popular one: the VARK model.

VARK Model

Developed by Neil Fleming and David Baume, the VARK model is basically a conversation starter for teachers and learners.[2] It takes the eight types of learning styles above and condenses them into four categories:

  • Visual – those who learn from sight.
  • Auditory – those who learn from hearing.
  • Reading/writing – those who learn from reading and writing.
  • Kinesthetic – those who learn from doing and moving.

As you can probably tell, VARK comes from the first letter of each style.

But why use this particular model?

This model was created not only for discussion purposes but for learners to know a few key things — namely understanding how they learn.

Because our school system is focusing on a one-size-fits-all model, there are many of us who struggle learning in school. While we may no longer go to school, these behaviors persisted into our adult lives regardless. While we aren’t learning about algebra or science, we may be learning new things about our job or industry. Knowing how to best retain that information for the future helps in so many ways.

Advertising

As such, it can be frustrating when we’re in a classroom setting and aren’t understanding anything. That or maybe we’re listening to a speech or reading a book and have no clue what’s going on.

This is where VARK comes back in. To quote Fleming and Baume:

“VARK above all is designed to be a starting place for a conversation among teachers and learners about learning. It can also be a catalyst for staff development- thinking about strategies for teaching different groups can lead to more, and appropriate, variety of learning and teaching.”

Getting into the specifics, this is what’s known as metacognition.[3] It helps you to understand how you learn and who you are. Think of it as a higher order of thinking that takes control over how you learn. It’s impossible to not use this while learning.

But because of that metacognition, we can pinpoint the different types of learning styles that we use. More importantly, what style we prefer over others.

Ask These Questions

One other method that I’ll mention is the research that’s done at the University of Waterloo.[4] If you don’t want to be using a lot of brainpower to pinpoint, consider this method.

The idea with this method is to answer a few questions. Since our learning is a combination of styles, you’ll find yourself leaning to one side over the other with these questions:

  • The active/reflective scale: How do you prefer to process information?
  • The sensing/intuitive scale: How do you prefer to take in information?
  • The visual/verbal scale: How do you prefer information to be presented?
  • The sequential/global scale: How do you prefer to organize information?

This can narrow down how you learn and provide some other practical tips for enhancing your learning experience.

Final Thoughts

Even though we have a preferred style of learning and knowing what that is is beneficial, learning isn’t about restriction. Our learning style shouldn’t be the sole learning style we rely on all the time.

Our brain is made of various parts and whatever style we learn activates certain parts of the brain. Because of this fact, it would be wise to consider other methods of learning and to give them a try.

Each method I mentioned has its merits and there’s not one dominate or superior method. What method we like is entirely up to our preferences. So be flexible with those preferences and uncover what style works best for you.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Anna Earl via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] BrainScape: Repetition is the mother of all learning
[2] Neil Fleming and David Baume: VARKing Up the Right Tree
[3] ERIC: Metacognition: An Overview
[4] University of Waterloo: Understanding Your Learning Style

Read Next