Advertising
Advertising

How to Boost Your Brain Power

How to Boost Your Brain Power
Books

Have you ever noticed that some people effortlessly learn new concepts and materials while others struggle? Napoleon Bonaparte learned the names of thousands of his loyal soldiers. World champion chess players can replay games in their mind from years ago. I have often wondered how these intellectual marvels have accomplished such great feats.

Some were born with extraordinarily high IQ’s, but certainly not all.

Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that will help you to learn faster, study better, and begin absorbing information like a sponge.

Here are 7 tips to get you started.

1. Teach Someone Else.

If there’s something you want to learn, try teaching it to someone else.

Traditional studying helps you to memorize ideas but teaching it to someone else forces you to truly ‘get’ all of the concepts and apply them to a number of solutions. To teach others you must anticipate any potential questions and explore the topic from all angles. Teaching others will dramatically increase your own understanding.

Advertising

2. Write an Article.

It’s easy to learn about something in a book. However, it’s a completely different story to write an article or even a book about a particular topic. If you want to become an expert in the topic of your choice, write a book about it. This will allow you to explore every aspect of what you are learning. By writing about it you will soon begin connecting new ideas with things you already know, creating an interlinking web of knowledge.

3. Start a Blog.

Start a blog that talks about your experiences with a subject in order to increase your learning. I have found that starting my own blog has been the greatest learning experience of my entire life.

Writing a blog requires you to learn information backwards and forwards and then explain it in plain English to others. If you are looking to take your brain power to the next level, then I would highly suggest that you start your own blog.

It is sure to be one of the most intellectually stimulating activities you ever do.

4. Treat Your Body Well.

Advertising

When you’re trying to increase your learning speed, you need to make sure you are feeding your brain – quite literally. The brain is a part of your body that requires plenty of fuel and oxygen in order to work efficiently. In the task of learning, you need to be feeding and treating your body well to maximize this process. This means that you should:

  • Eat every few hours to keep your blood sugar levels up.
  • Exercise on a daily basis.
  • Try to relax a few minutes each day.
  • Sleep at least seven hours each night.
  • Stay hydrated with water.
  • Eat a light lunch. Heavy lunches tend to make people drowsy. Instead, recharge with a light lunch and a power walk.


5. Learn with All Five Senses.

While everyone learns in different ways, we all began the learning process by seeing pictures and then translating them into ideas. From the earliest picture books, we were learning how to learn through our visual senses.

When you’re trying to learn something quickly, it can help to create a visual picture of the topic in your mind.

Draw it out on paper as well. It can be a picture, a graph, a chart, or just a timeline.

Keep adding to your mental picture as you learn more and recreate the picture in your head whenever you think of it.

However, don’t limit yourself to just visual pictures. Learn with all five senses.

Advertising

For example, if you want to learn about Buenos Aires, the best thing for you to do is to book a trip, explore the city, take some tango lessons, enjoy the local cuisine, and talk with the locals. You haven’t learned anything until you have put it into practice in your own life. Engage in learning through touch, sight, sound, hearing, and smell.

6. Increase Your Motivation.

Motivation is the greatest memory enhancer. Think about all of the college students who pull an all-nighter to cram for a test. They have incredible motivation because they have done little studying before hand and now must absorb all of the information in one night. They can master the material because they want to. Actually, they have to. And this motivation kicks their learning into high gear. Unfortunately, cramming produces poor long-term retention.

If you’re not a procrastinating college student but still want to motivate yourself, then nothing beats a good reward. If you create a reward system that you actually look forward to, you will be able to learn faster in anticipation of that reward.

For example, if you study or work to learn a subject for so many hours or for so many pages, you might reward yourself with a trip to the store, some video game time, or perhaps your favorite TV show. Create whatever type of motivation works for you.

7. Learn While You Sleep.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend your sleep hours learning your studies simply by pressing play on the CD player? Yes, it does sound nice. Unfortunately, university studies have shown that you cannot during deep sleep or dream sleep, which makes
up most of your sleeping time.

Advertising

However, evidence has shown that you can learn in the very light sleep that precedes deep sleep.

Keep in mind that this material must be limited to facts, dates, vocabulary and other objective material. You can not learn complex material during the first stages of sleep.

More recently, German researchers have found that by using electrical stimulation during a particular phase of the sleep cycle, they can improve a person’s ability toremember facts.

So, who knows what kind of new learning technologies we will see in the future.

Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 Essential GTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.

More by this author

How to Live on a Tight Budget Top 10 Ways to Use del.icio.us Top 20 Free Applications to Increase Your Productivity 101 Steps to Becoming a Better Blogger Motivational Quotes to Keep You Going

Trending in Featured

1 How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques 2 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 3 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 4 How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life 5 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on September 18, 2019

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

What to Write Down

Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

Advertising

Dates of Events

Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

Names of People

Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

Theories or Frameworks

Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

Definitions

Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

Arguments and Debates

Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

Advertising

Images

Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

Other Stuff

Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

Your Own Questions

Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

1. Outlining

Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

Advertising

For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

2. Mind-Mapping

For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

Here’s the idea:

In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

3. The Cornell System

The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

Advertising

About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

The Bottom Line

I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

More About Note-Taking

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Read Next