Advertising
Advertising

23 Tricks To Learn Anything Better

23 Tricks To Learn Anything Better

For the original unedited article, visit Greatist.

Learning hacks — they’re a thing, and while the college kids are heading back to school, it’s a good time for all of us to rethink the ways we learn. Student, professional, or parent, we’re all learning every day — whether it’s how to play guitar, use new software, raise a child, or poach an egg, the mind is always soaking up new information. Make it easier with the following tips.

PRIME YOUR MIND — CREATING HABITS THAT OPTIMIZE LEARNING

With a little regular maintenance, the mind can become razor-sharp and ready to tackle any challenge and absorb new information. Keep the brain in tip-top shape by making regular habits out of the following activities.

1. Work Out

Lifting weights and doing cardio carry a host of physical benefits (see: almost everything on this site), but turns out exercise can also improve learning and memory. If your thoughts are muddled, try taking a brisk walk or heading to the gym. One study found that memory and cognitive processing (the ability to think clearly) improved after a single 15-minute exercise session.

2. Meditate

Regularly getting your om on isn’t just great for managing stress, it also improves memory, impulse control, and attention span.

3. Eat Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

PUFAs (particularly omega-3 fatty acids) are crucial for brain function and help control the brain’s learning and memory centers. Salmon is a famously terrific source of omega-3s, but other fish, such as herring and mackerel, contain a similar amount. Meat-free sources of PUFAs include walnuts, peanuts, and chia and pumpkin seeds.

Advertising

4. Sleep

When the crunch is on, people often sacrifice their Zzs in favor of more time to work or study. But the extra smidge of work that gets done isn’t worth the morning zombie eyes: Getting adequate sleep every night is absolutely crucial for brain function, good judgment, reaction time, and even using consistent grammarThe mind of a sensible sleeper will learn much faster, justifying the hours “lost” by getting an early night.

5. Drink Water

This tip might be a no brainer (pun intended), but dehydration is more widespread than you might think — if you’re thirsty, it’s already too late. Reaction times, responsiveness, and overall mental processing improve with hydration, so invest in a BPA-free water bottle and take it absolutely everywhere. Also remember that a lot of common foods, particularly fruits, are surprisingly good sources of water.

 

    6. Practice Yoga

    There’s an easy way to increase your brain’s grey matter: Do yoga. Yogis also report fewer cognitive failures, i.e., errors in perception, memory, and motor function.

    7. Take Up a Hobby

    It’s important to spend some time each day on activities other than work or studying. Not only does the brain need time to take stock of all the learning it’s done, but picking up unrelated hobbies can make you smarter . Try something that requires a lot of concentration and hand-eye coordination: One study found people who took up juggling classes demonstrated an increase in their grey matter (though it disappeared once they quit). That’s one more reason to never stop learning new things.

    8. Set an Agenda

    Success is often tied to the ability to implement structure in one’s life, so it’s a good idea to set goals and create realistic study schedules. By “realistic,” we don’t just mean allocating more than an hour for that 5,000 word report — it’s also important to schedule time to recover between bouts of intense work, whether it’s learning new software or how to drive stick. Scheduling in relaxation time for the brain is called “the spacing effect,” and it’s known to improve long-term recall.

    Advertising

    9. Laugh

    Allocating time to relax is important to avoid burnout, but it’s even better to do so with people who make you giggle. The simple act of laughter has been shown to help with problem solving and creativity. Funny, right?

    10. Check Your Motivation

    Ask, the question, “Why am I learning this?” People learn better if information seems useful to them, and particularly if they believe it can have an impact on their community. Choose a course, hobby, or career (gulp) that’s important to you and gets you excited.

    LEARNING TO LEARN — HOW TO PRACTICE AND STUDY RIGHT

    Now that you’re ready to focus on learning new skills or information, try to be mindful of the following tips.

      11. Warm Up Your Brain

      Have a little fun before you begin work: Try mentally “warming up” for your brain workout with rhyming games or by uttering nonsense words. It’ll help you loosen up and become more receptive to learning. Sounds like a great excuse to finally take those scat lessons.

      12. Find a Friend

      If keeping yourself on task is an uphill battle, trying asking someone to join you. Learning in groups (be it a class, book club, or with a buddy) could be a good idea to help maintain focus and add some accountability to the process.

      Advertising

      13. Check Your Surroundings

      The right learning environment is paramount. In general, it should be clean and quiet, but it’s also a great idea to add some novelty: Try working in a park, a café, or even just a different room in your home. Avoid lying in bed, though — while a study area should be comfortable, the bed is psychologically associated with sleep and relaxation. You’ll concentrate better elsewhere.

      14. Develop Metacognition

      This is the overarching theme in most literature about improving the learning process, and has been studied by teachers since Aristotle was lecturing in the 4th century, BC. The concept of metacognition emphasizes not just understanding material, but understanding how you understand it. Learn to step back from your first impression, question your own knowledge, and evaluate whether and how you’re digesting new material. Sometimes this is as simple as not reading so fast when the language is difficult, or developing a new system for taking notes. Most simply, metacognition is about being reflective about the learning process and making adjustments as needed.

      15. Do One Thing At a Time

      The ability to multitask might be lauded as an invaluable trait, but switching back and forth between tasks has been shown to increase the time it takes to complete them. Try to embody a different strength: single-mindedness.

      16. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

      A group study in Singapore found that people who tried to solve difficult math problems without any instruction or help were more likely to fail — but in the process, they came up with a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and what solutions might look like, which helped them perform better with similar problems later on. This phenomenon is called “productive failure.” While it’s akin to the frustrating process of trial and error, it keeps the mind creative and flexible.

        17. Test Yourself

        Don’t wait until the week of the exam or the big piano recital — self-test regularly, or (even better) have a classmate or friend ask the questions. If it’s difficult to remember the answer fairly quickly, it’s best to look it up. Otherwise, you’re really learning the “error state” of drawing a blank when asked the question. While “productive failure” (see: #16) is useful for problem solving, repeatedly failing to recall something that requires rote memorization (e.g. History or Law) won’t improve your learning abilities.

        Advertising

        18. Always Be Compressing (ABC)

        This was a cornerstone of Tim Ferriss’ bestselling guide to learning quickly, The 4 Hour Chef. Try as hard as possible to fit all of the necessary information into an easy one- or two- pager by using mnemonic devices like acronyms or rhymes. Better yet, try turning information into an image, such as a graphic, chart, or mind map.Visualizing knowledge in different ways helps to give it a stronger representation in your mind.

        19. Conditionalize the Information

        In other words, study up on the broader applications of whatever you’re learning (i.e., figure out why it matters). Textbooks (and bad teachers) often present facts and formulae without giving any attention to helping students learn the conditions under which they’re most useful. Working to understand when, where, and why the knowledge is important will help to solidify it in your mind.

        20. Use Multiple Media

        The more ways you experience information, the more likely you are to retain it. Different media activate different areas of the mind, and we recall things more quickly and retain knowledge better when multiple parts of the brain are working in concert. Try reading, listening to a podcast, watching YouTube videos, saying material out loud, and writing about it by hand (just not all at the same time)

        21. Connect With Existing Knowledge

        If you can tie what you’re learning to something you’ve learned before, it helps toimprove recall speed and promote new learning. For instance, if you’re learning about Macbeth, it might help to link the play with your knowledge of Shakespeare, Scotland, the Middle Ages, or your favorite Olsen twins movie, Double, Double, Toil and Trouble. Embed your studies within as much of your brain’s existing framework as possible.

        22. Establish Consequences

        A lot of people fall short of their goals because there are no ramifications if they quit.Remedy the issue by committing to negative incentives (such as doing your roommate’s laundry for a month) should you fail to stick with your goals. Or, sign up for StickK, an online service that holds money in escrow and donates it to an “anti-charity” of your choice if your goal isn’t met (think donating to the Democratic Party if you’re a Republican, the NRA if you’re anti-gun, etc.)

        23. Be Confident

        Lastly, be confident and know that you’ll do great. Not just because it’s the truth, but because simply believing in one’s intelligence has been shown to improve it. Don’t worry about a thing, friend. You’ve got this.

        More by this author

        23 Tricks To Learn Anything Better How to Actually Get Things Done with Your To-do List How to Make Iced Coffee Perfectly How to be a Morning Person

        Trending in Productivity

        1 How Smart Goal Settings Helps You to Make Lasting Changes 2 How to Have Self-Control and Be the Master of Your Life 3 How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 4 How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now 5 10 Reasons Why You Should Chase Your Dreams

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on August 4, 2020

        How Smart Goal Settings Helps You to Make Lasting Changes

        How Smart Goal Settings Helps You to Make Lasting Changes

        SMART goal setting is one of the most valuable methods used by high achievers today to actualize their life goals time after time. SMART goal setting is the inverse of random or carefree goal setting without strategy.

        Perhaps, you’ve always wished to get back in shape but failed to act; or wished to get an annuity in place but failed to act; or wished to have control over your finances but failed to act. When you approach your goals with a carefree and nonchalant attitude you’re less likely to achieve them.

        You should have a strategic goal setting method in place. It ought to be a time-tested and proven one. It ought to be purposeful. Without any of these considerations in view a person is likely to continue in a vicious cycle of failed goal realization.

        To achieve your goals consistently and join the pack of high achievers out there who have consistently achieved much of their goals you must be prepared to do what these set of persons have been doing, and be ready to do the right thing: SMART goal setting.

        What Is Smart Goal Setting?

        SMART goal setting is a goal setting method that considers certain factors about a goal relative to the person setting it. These factors are simply the five different letters in the SMART acronym.

        It is relative to the person setting the goal because what is true for A may not be true for B; or what is possible for A or within A’s ability to achieve may not be possible for B or within B’s ability to achieve.

        The acronym SMART can be broken down thus:

        • S—Specific
        • M—Measurable
        • A—Achievable
        • R—Realistic
        • T—Time bound

        Is it possible that this acronym can make a long lasting impact in your life?

        Is it possible that a mere goal setting metric like SMART can help you achieve so many of your unfulfilled goals?

        Is it possible that if you practice SMART goal setting you would be able to have faster results, understand your goals better, overcome the habit of procrastination, and achieve a lot?

        The power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

        It is important to extend the enquiry by asking:

        Advertising

        • How many times have you said you’ll read two books every week but failed to do so?
        • How many times have you said you’ll cut down on your expenses so you can save enough money to make a down payment for that apartment building you said you’ll buy five years ago but failed to do so?
        • How many times have you failed to keep to your diet routine even after all the tears you shed realising you keep adding pound upon pound every day?

        We all have goals and we all have twenty four hours at our disposal and no one has more or less of it. While some people find it easy to achieve their goals without procrastinating. some find it difficult doing so.

        For some people who have succeeded again and again in achieving their goals they have simply found out an easy way of doing this. Is there something they know that you don’t?

        How Smart Goals Make a Lasting Impact in Your Life

        Through SMART goal setting, Stephen Cooley was able to grow his real estate business to the point of closing at $110 million in sales when the average price point of homes was between $100, 000 – $200, 000 in South Carolina.[1]

        Through SMART goal setting Steve Jobs was able to improve the fortunes of Apple and prevent the company from going bankrupt even when it had barely 90 days left before being declared bankrupt.

        SMART goals setting can make a lasting impact in your life:

        Make Your Goal Clearer

        When you use SMART goal setting it is easier for you to understand the various phases of your goal.

        By using SMART you’re able to ask yourself relevant questions pertaining to your goal.

        Motivate You into Acting on Your Goals

        When you use SMART goal setting and break down the goal into smaller goals or milestones, the bigger goal no longer looks intimidating or impossible.

        Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul wrote in his book How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be about how they applied the rule of five in marketing their book, Chicken Soup and were able to make the book a best seller after some months. The rule of five simply means doing five specific things every day that will move you closer to achieving your goal.

        In order not to be overwhelmed too, you would have to measure your performance using the right metrics. Here we are considering the Measurable and Achievable aspects of the SMART acronym. It is critical that you measure yourself in terms of lead measures.

        What are lead measures? They are the things you do that leads you closer to your goals. On the other hand you would have to avoid “lag measures.”

        While lag measures mean a successful outcome that you wished for and got, they can be emotionally draining and deceitful because whenever they don’t happen, you can become discouraged and so leg measures do not necessarily mean that you are getting closer to your bigger goal.

        Advertising

        So it is better to stick to lead measures.

        Help You Save Your Time

        You can achieve more when you’re strategic with your goal setting task.

        To be strategic, your goal would have to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time framed. If you can’t identify any of these points in your goal, you probably will be wasting your time on a wild goose chase.

        When your goals are written down, it’s easier for you to go into action mode.

        Improve Your Self-Discipline

        Self improvement is an important thing for everyone to do periodically. When you set SMART goals, it makes you realize that you have to sit up and work on achieving them.

        How to Set a SMART Goal

        To make your SMART goal works, follow the following tips:

        Specific

        Every goal ought to be specific. It is important to guard against making vague goals because even when they are achieved you may not know. This is because you weren’t specific enough.

        For instance “I will start planning toward retirement” is vague. Rather than write that you could say, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan.” This is more specific.

        So when you are specific on your goal it’s easier for you to identify all its components and work accordingly toward achieving it.

        Measurable

        Your goals must be measurable. When they are measurable, it’s easier for you to follow through.

        A goal like this is not measurable, “I want to make millions of Dollars.” You can make it more measurable by saying, “I want to make one million Dollars selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten Dollars each.”

        Also, using our example while explaining the Specific acronym, you can make the goal more measurable by saying, “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month.”

        Advertising

        Achievable

        How realistic or actionable is your goal? Is it practical enough to fit into a given time frame? Is it something you are able to achieve in your capacity?

        A man would only be setting himself up for failure if he sets goals that are not reasonable.

        A goal like this is highly unrealistic and therefore not achievable: “I want to be the Governor of Texas in six months” meanwhile the elections will be coming up in the next three years.

        Goals must be written down relative to the experiences of the one setting them. They must resonate with you. It is important that you have at least some of the resources needed to actualise this goal.

        It is also important that you consider your time frame. When the time frame to achieve a complex goal is too short it is rare that such goal will be actualised.

        Thus, using our previous example if you write “I want to make one million Dollars in ten days selling one hundred thousand copies of my book at ten Dollars each,” you would only be setting up yourself for failure.

        This is especially true if you’re not a popular author or if you’ve never sold even up to one thousand copies of any of your previous books whether e-copy or in print.

        Realistic

        Before you proceed to making the commitment toward that goal you need think about how realistic it is.

        Being realistic means you should be willing to make all the commitments required for that goal to be achieved.

        Time Framed

        Every goal must have a commencement date and an end date written down. It is also important that you break down your goals into phases, chunks, bits, or milestones.

        The act of having deadlines set to your goals is ample motivation that drives you into action. Without a deadline, it is not possible for you to know if you’re making headway with your goals.

        “I will start planning toward retirement by starting an annuity plan and saving $500 every month for the next twenty five years” is a time framed goal.

        Advertising

        Remember that some goals are short term while some are long term. It is important to always bear this in mind because this will help you in making a clearer and realistic strategy for your SMART goal setting.

        Without SMART goal setting in view, much of our goals may likely end in our minds or on paper or just midway into implementation. SMART goal setting reveals to us all the action points of our goals and helps us to have an awareness of every aspect of our goals.

        The Bottom Line

        I could go on and on. What matters at the end of the day is what you do with the contents of this article because the power to achieve your goals is in your hands.

        It is not enough having a goal. It is not enough putting it down in writing. It is important having a strategy in mind while putting it down. This strategy is a guideline or set of rules that guide you. It is SMART goal setting in the given circumstance.

        After writing down your goals you would have to be ready to take action. There should be a clear action point. Write down what you need to do on daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

        As a matter of practice, it is important that you begin by putting down a single statement that captures best your goal. For instance, “I want to own a $200, 000 worth duplex by 1st of August, 2019.”

        Now, you can break this goal into smaller goals by saving $17, 000 per month for the next twelve months. You would have to ask yourself if this $17, 000 is within your reach on a monthly basis. If you make up to $25, 000 per month and you spend $5000 for monthly upkeep then it is possible setting aside $17, 000 every month for this purchase.

        When your goals are realistic, they make them worth the chase. One of the things to bear in mind is that in order not to be overwhelmed by the daunting nature of your goals remember to always break them into milestones, chunks, or bits. In fact, take one day at a time.

        Do not bother yourself with the one year, three year, five year or ten year plan as this may likely overwhelm you with fear and doubt. Let your focus be on each day. What will I be doing today? Consider this and go for it.

        More Goal-Getting Tips

        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

        Reference

        Read Next