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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It Easily Distracted? Here’s How to Regain Your Focus How to Stay Focused at Work by Using Deep Work What are Goals? Achieve More By Changing Your Perspectives How to Build New Habits With An Accountability Partner

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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