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.
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.
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.
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.
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.