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Published on February 1, 2021

How to Learn And Practice Skills in the Most Effective Way

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How to Learn And Practice Skills in the Most Effective Way

When it comes to learning something, there are several other skills involved that we don’t always notice. Things like studying skills are important in how we gather and retain knowledge for example. The main way to developing your skills is to practice those skills.

There are many ways where you can practice and apply what you learned, but there are some methods that are much better to use than others.

Below, I talk about some of the most valuable ways to practice skills that I’ve used in the past. These continue to be my go-to practice methods whenever I learn something and want to apply it right away.

1. Deliberate Practice

As the saying goes:

“It takes exactly 10,000 hours of practice to be considered an expert at something.”

Over the years, many people have echoed this quote as a measurement for how much one should work on something. And while there are many angles that you can analyze that quote, it represents one key and often overlooked concept: deliberate practice.

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Anders Ericsson was the first to uncover this phenomenon and has explained in his book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, how deliberate practice can be leveraged and how many authors who explained this in the past are misguided about their interpretation.

Deliberate practice is the method to overcome learning plateaus with rapid and quick bursts of continued improvements, Ericsson explains.

Another way to look at it is through the progression from naive practice to purposeful practice and finally to deliberate practice. Generally speaking, there are three key elements needed for deliberate practice:

  • There is the discipline necessary to get things done but also finding meaning in the task by making goals around it and having a personal investment in it.
  • The field you’re practicing in has to be in a well-defined field. For example, you won’t see deliberate practice in things like gardening, consulting, or most hobbies. You will see it in competitive settings, musical arts, sports, and chess to name a few.
  • You’ll also need a teacher or mentor or something equivalent to that. The equivalent would be finding someone already skilled at what you wish to learn, study their techniques, and apply them in your own life. This allows you to create a feedback loop as you have a point of contact or information if things didn’t go as planned.

Some other methods to help with deliberate practice are things like:

  • Breaking a skill down into different parts
  • Having a schedule that keeps you motivated
  • Having a coach (Even though you can learn without one, it’s better to have one.)
  • Seeking feedback online

2. Spaced Repetition

One of the big flaws with deliberate practice is the fact that it’s very niche in how you can apply it. For example, I’m unable to use deliberate practice to improve my stretches or workout regimen at all as I have no desire to compete. All I’ve ever wanted from it was to relieve various aches and pains from sitting at a desk and working. It’d be a whole other story if I had plans to run marathons with a competitive attitude.

Instead, what would be more applicable to me and for many other people is spaced repetition. It’s a technique that is overlooked by schools—among many other learning techniques—but is very relevant to how we learn. In fact, it’s the perfect method to retain information, practice skills, and grow meaningfully as we get older.

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As the name suggests, spaced repetition is all about encountering certain pieces of information regularly. The more often it shows up, the less often you’ll need your memory refreshed on it.

But another contributing factor to this is the gradual increase of these occurrences. The book Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio is one of my favorites, but simply reading it once per month might not be enough for me to retain certain passages. If I wanted to memorize the entire book front to back, I’d have to be reading through the book constantly and reiterating the passages in my head daily.

When it comes to practicing something more worthwhile than memorizing words from a book, there are two key things to keep in mind:

  • The amount of information you’re retaining;
  • And the amount of effort that’s needed to retain that level of information.

Putting those factors in mind, how you can use spaced repetition in your own life is as simple as following these four steps:

  1. Review your notes. Within 20-24 hours of the initial intake of information, you’ll want to make sure the information is written down and reviewed. During the reviewing process, you’ll want to read them and then look away to see if you can recall the key points.
  2. Recall the information the next day without the use of your notes at all. Do this during periods where not much is going on, like when you’re sitting down, going for a walk, or relaxing in general. You can also increase efficiency through flashcards or quizzing yourself on concepts.
  3. From that point on, every 24 to 36 hours, recall the information over the next several days. They don’t have to be lengthy recalls. Merely remember the session and what was discussed. At this point, check your notes, but try not to rely on them all the time.
  4. Finally, study it all over again after several more days have passed. If you’re studying for a test, make sure it’s done a week before that. A week gives your brain enough time to reprocess concepts.

3. Feedback Loop

Another popular method that I use to learn skills is a feedback loop. This particular method is similar to deliberate practice in that you’ll be looking for feedback through some point of reference.

However, the feedback loop takes a slight turn in that you’re the one who’ll be giving yourself feedback.

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Another way to explain it is that it’s the process where a learner appreciates the information about their performance and leverages it to optimize the quality of their learning methods or style.

Creating a feedback loop for your learning pursuits is simple if you follow this 6-step process:

  1. First, establish goals and definite outcomes—everything from the goals to the level of proficiency you want and when you want to gain competencies in that area.
  2. Second, begin with the basics of the basics before delving into bigger challenges. Simple information creates the foundation and becomes a crucial element to taking on bigger challenges.
  3. Third, test yourself. To see if you’re learning—or wasting time—you’ll need to find some way to test yourself. This can be through in-depth discussions on the subject or taking some kind of test online. If it’s a skill you can apply, you can base it off on the number of positive reviews on a job that demands that skill or the efficiency in performing the task now compared to before when you first started.
  4. Fourth, teach other people. If all is going well, then step up the skill by teaching it to others. Even though you’ll be improving as time goes on, teaching people now is another way of reinforcing concepts and getting new perspectives.
  5. Fifth, reflect. Self-reflection is the ultimate way of getting feedback as you can look at your progress and make self-assessments. Are you progressing enough? Are you satisfied with the results? If the answer is no, then ask how can you move to a higher aim or proficiency.
  6. Lastly, look for a mentor. Even though the feedback loop can be done by yourself, having a guiding hand can help you with being a better learner. It’s a new perspective and can allow you to grasp concepts faster.

4. Teaching What You Learn

While those methods above are wonderful in learning and practicing your skills, I’m a big fan of learning-by-teaching as well. Several studies revolve around this method as a way of retaining information, understanding concepts, and ultimately being better at the skill or subject.

One study that comes to mind is where researchers uncovered that teaching improves the teacher’s learning as it compels the teacher to retrieve information from previously studied subjects.[1]

This makes a lot of sense as I often do research for these articles. Even though I’m well versed in the topic I write about, I still make a point of researching these topics. New information is constantly rising to the surface and from that, you could learn some new things.

When it comes to practicing skills efficiently using this, you simply need to create a teaching atmosphere. Some things that come to mind are things like:

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  • Writing articles on the subject and making a point of showing research to prove points or statements
  • Tutoring individuals
  • If you’re going to school, you can always propose to your teacher for future lessons to have them organized by students themselves and teach your peers.

5. Seeking Help

The final way to improve your efficiency to practice skills is to look for help. This can be very difficult to do as we think when we need help, it means that something is wrong or broken.

In this case, we think that seeking help to improve and practice our skills means we’re broken or we’re wrong. Most people never want to admit that and see this as negative and that looking for help is a sign of weakness.

In reality, it’s the opposite.

How I got to this point in my life was by reaching out to other people and doing things that I wouldn’t normally do. I got back into reading and started to read some self-help books that gave me some valuable lessons that I could apply in my own life.

With that in mind, I see looking for help as a sign of strength in that you’re accepting your weaknesses and doing something about them. Those changes will take some time. But by seeking help, you’re speeding up the process in how quickly those changes and improvements happen.

Similar to the feedback loop, you’re able to get new perspectives and insights that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. So, don’t be afraid to be looking for help in various ways.

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Final Thoughts

As long as you are willing to practice skills, you have multiple systems that you can tap into to boost the efficiency of learning and growing in any field you like. Applying these will be challenging at first, but if you’re passionate enough about improving yourself in particular fields, these are good upgrades to consider.

More Tips on How to Practice Skills

Featured photo credit: Clark Young via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 11, 2021

23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

1. Coursera

Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

2. Khan Academy

Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

3. Open Culture Online Courses

If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

4. Udemy 

Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

6. Academic Earth

Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

7. edX

Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

8. Alison

Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

9. iTunesU Free Courses

A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

10. Stanford Online

Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

11. Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

12. UC Berkeley Class Central

Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

13. MIT OpenCourseWare

Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

15. Codecademy

Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

16. Code

Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

17. University of Oxford Podcasts

The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

18. BBC Podcasts

For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

19. TED-Ed

Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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20. LessonPaths

LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

21. Memrise

Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

22. National Geographic Kids

The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

23. Fun Brain

Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

The Bottom Line

With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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