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Published on August 27, 2020

12 Ways for Slow Learners to Speed Up Learning

12 Ways for Slow Learners to Speed Up Learning

Have you ever struggled to learn something? Has it ever taken you longer to figure something out than everyone else? Do you have a mental block when it comes to certain subjects? We all have our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning new things. Everyone is a slow learner about one thing or another.

I know I’m a slow learner when it comes to new languages or anything technological. But that doesn’t mean I’m a slow learner all the way around. It just means I’ve got some areas for growth.

Luckily for me and you, there are many ways to speed up learning, even when we’re talking about those areas that we usually struggle with.

Here are 12 ways for slow learners to speed up learning.

1. Relax and Stay Calm

It’s tough to learn much of anything when you’re stressed out or upset about something, so learning how to relax and stay calm is vital to speeding up your learning.

In one study, stress negatively impacted both recall and recognition tasks.[1] This means that we need to do our best to de-stress and stay calm if we’re trying to shift from a slow learner to a fast one.

So, what kinds of activities can help us reduce stress and stay calm? Breathing exercises can help reduce stress. Slowing and deepening our breath can help us feel less stressed and calmer.[2]

Mindfulness exercises can also help us think more about what we’re learning and less about what’s stressing us out. I like to notice what’s in my immediate environment and listen to the sounds happening all around me. This helps me shift from worrying and overthinking (bad for learning) to being able to better focus on the task at hand.

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2. Remove Distractions

It’s also extremely difficult to learn efficiently when you’re surrounded by distractions. Extraneous noises and technology overload can get in our way when we’re trying to learn something new.

To overcome my slow learner tendencies, I make sure to put my phone away and turn off my notifications. I also find a quiet spot with no radio or TV to compete with whatever it is I’m trying to learn.

3. Eat Right

It may seem obvious, but there’s a direct link between proper nutrition and learning outcomes. Nutrient deficiencies can cause you to feel like you’re in a haze, which is a surefire recipe for slow learning.[3]

Combat that by eating a healthy balanced diet filled with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Fatty acids have been linked with memory and brain-boosting, so make sure to eat fish and nuts or try an omega-3 supplement.

4. Sleep

Another healthy way to boost your learning is to get plenty of sleep. When we sleep, our brains sort through our experiences from the day. Some synaptic connections erode while others are strengthened during sleep. This just means that your brain requires deep sleep to strengthen memories, which means you have to sleep in order to learn.

So, get at least seven hours of sleep each night, so you can wake up refreshed and ready to learn. Try reviewing the information you’re trying to learn before bed, so you can use your sleep time transferring it as long-term memories.

It also helps to have a consistent bedtime routine. Your body needs to have consistent Circadian rhythms to fall right asleep and get those valuable REM cycles.

5. Play to Your Strengths

We all have our strengths and weaknesses, right? I know I’m terrible at foreign languages and much more comfortable with reading and writing. So, take a self-assessment and think about things you learn quickly and things that turn you into a slow learner.

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Then, use this self-assessment to your advantage, and play to your strengths. When I’m struggling to learn Spanish or Bosnian, I challenge myself to read children’s books or write rudimentary stories because I enjoy them and am more comfortable with these activities. This helps me learn something I struggle with because I’m playing to my strengths, instead of just forcing myself to review grammar or memorize flashcards.

6. Practice Makes Perfect

Another trick for speeding up slow learning is to plan repeated exposure to whatever it is you’re trying to learn. Just reviewing your notes once is not going to do the trick.

There’s something called spaced repetition that helps make learning more effective. Spaced repetition is when you study tough material more often and easier material less often.[4]

For example, if I’m trying to learn a new language, I might quiz myself with some vocabulary flashcards. I’m going to repeat all the cards I got wrong sooner than the ones I got right as I continue to add in new flashcards.

Spaced repetition is a proven method to help you store new information as long-term memories, which means that it becomes second nature. Sure, some people have a photographic memory, but for the rest of us, we need multiple exposures to new information to learn it.

7. Mnemonic Devices

Who remembers ROYGBIV? Probably a lot of you. ROYGBIV is a mnemonic device that helps us easily (and quickly) remember the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

Mnemonic devices help speed up learning by making memory encoding easier. It’s much easier for me to remember ROYGBIV than it is to remember all the colors. Then, the first letter of each color gives me a hint to make remembering the colors easier.

So, if you’re having a slow learner moment, speed up by using mnemonic devices.

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8. Try All Learning Styles

Learning styles started to gain in popularity in the 1990s. Since that time, there’s never been definitive proof that someone’s preferred learning style (auditory, visual, kinesthetic, and reading/writing) improves learning outcomes. However, knowing which style you prefer can help you learn faster.

I know I prefer to see things written out, so when I want a better chance of learning someone’s name I either write it out myself or ask them to write it, since hearing it spelled only confuses me further.

Find your preferred learning style and use it to your advantage.

But to really speed up learning, mix and match the learning styles and try to match the learning style with whatever you’re trying to learn.

For example, if you’re trying to learn a new song, you may want to hear it first. If you’re trying to figure out some new statistics, it may help to see it mapped out visually.

9. Reflect and Adjust

When we’re talking about speeding up learning, it may not make sense to stop and reflect, but being reflective and self-aware can speed up learning in the long run.

Keeping a journal to review past learning helps boost learning a little, but that may just be the boost you need to move from a slow learner to a not-so-slow one.

10. Know Your Learning Blocks

It’s also important to know what makes you shut down when trying to learn new things. I know that if I’m feeling embarrassed, I tend to shut down and get defensive instead of being open to learning new things. It’s important to figure out what makes you shut down, so you can recover and continue to learn.

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Improv has a lot to teach us about how to create learning environments that promote creativity and learning. By going along with people’s ideas and not judging each other, we can create learning environments that are much more conducive to faster learning.

11. Don’t Be Afraid of Mistakes

Learning also requires us to make mistakes. If we’re too worried about being right or being perfect, we won’t take the risks necessary to learn new things.

When mistakes do happen, it’s important to be able to talk about them openly to learn from them, instead of letting them lead to shame and embarrassment.[5]

12. Get Curious and Be Playful

Finally, to move from a slow learner to a fast one, it’s crucial to be curious about whatever it is you’re learning.

In one study, curiosity was shown to have positive benefits for workplace learning and performance.[6]

I practice boosting my curiosity through play. I’ve developed 120 improv-inspired exercises to help people become more curious and mindful about their environment and make it easier for people to connect and form relationships with others.

The key is the shift in focus. When we play, we are better able to shift our focus from internal thoughts to an external focus on the people and objects around us. This helps decrease overthinking and distractions and helps people focus on the present moment and the task at hand, crucial ingredients for efficient learning.

Final Thoughts

Don’t beat yourself up if you think you’re a slow learner. Find comfort in knowing we all have our learning strengths and weaknesses.

You should also find comfort in the fact that there are twelve practical ways that you can start speeding up your learning today.

More Tips to Speed Up Learning

Featured photo credit: Andrew Le via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Clay Drinko

Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

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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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