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8 Ways To Help You Learn Everything Faster

8 Ways To Help You Learn Everything Faster

Here are 8 ways to boost your learning speed and help you process new information and skills.

1. Play Video Games!

Yes, you read right. Video games have long been the go-to culprit of poor teenage academic performance for parents and teachers alike.

But as a recent study out of the University of Rochester demonstrates, learners proficient in action-packed games like Call of Duty are significantly faster at performing new cognitive tasks than their non-trained counterparts.

More generally, the study suggests that they learn new things faster.

So go ahead, boot up your Xbox, and tell your parents you’re actually working on getting into Harvard.

2. Explain it to your grandma.

A quote often attributed to Einstein is: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

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A corollary to this, is that by teaching something to someone, you actually end up understanding it better, because it forces you to refine your thinking.

One way of doing this without annoying your roommate any more than you already do, is to use a technique from accelerated learning aficionado Scott Young, dubbed the Feynman Technique (after famed theoretical physicist and bongo enthusiast Richard Feynman).

Go through tough concepts you’d like to understand better, and pretend you’re explaining them to someone else. Repeat this process by making your explanations more refined and simplify your language. Doing this will significantly improve your ability to apply that concept on a test or when solving problems.

3. Get your bi-lingual on.

Researchers at the National University of Singapore’s Psychology Department have recently conducted studies that indicate that bilingual children may have a leg up when it comes to understanding new things and processing information. The good news is, no specific languages result in the smartest children. What really counts, the researchers concluded, is probably the process of understanding and distinguishing between two different sets of vocabulary.

So if you don’t yet know a different language, now is the time to start, because you’re essentially training yourself to process more information for different angles – a key aspect of learning new information more quickly.

4. Study before bed.

As this 2012 study out of Notre Dame demonstrates, learning new material, and making new neural connections right before sleeping provides a significant retention advantage over learning during the day.As to why this works, there’s some evidence that numerous brain repair and consolidation functions are performed during deep sleep and REM sleep.

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Regardless, learning something new and immediately following it with sleep, is a definitive way to get more bang for your buck out of study time.

5. Prime your brain beforehand.

“Thinking means connecting things, and stops if they cannot be connected.” ~Gilbert Keith Chesterton

When you’re learning something new, you want to make as many connections as possible, and according to Princeton Review co-founder, and author of What Smart Students Know, Adam Robinson, the best way to do that is to make relate new information to what you already know. This turns out to be the most effective way to create genuine understanding.

One of the best ways to do this is to prime your brain beforehand by doing a brain dump. Take five minutes before learning something new, and write down everything that comes to mind related to that subject. This will draw out anything you already know, and pull potential relationships to the front of your mind before embarking on a new set of concepts.

6. Make it visual.

The brain processes visual information orders of magnitude faster than text. And including relevant visuals with learning materials significantly improves retention during testing.

So whenever you can create symbols, charts, and diagrams to go along with text notes, you’ll enhance your ability to learn new information more quickly.

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7. Learn without thinking.

One way to quickly learn a new set of information (especially new motor skills or visual associations), is to actually not focus your attention on learning at all.

Perceptual learning, a concept established by psychology researcher Eleanor Gibson, involves the idea that we learn unconsciously through our perceptions (sight, hearing, touch, etc.) in a self-regulated way, without requiring external reinforcement.

More simply, you can learn to intuitively identify different situations or images through directly experiencing them in a fast-paced manner.

For example, for aspiring pilots, following a perceptual learning training protocol through a computer program that allows you to associate different dial readouts with different situations gave them, in 1 hour, the same level of reading skill as expert pilots with an average of 1,000 flying hours.

8. Switch between focused and diffuse modes.

According to Professor Barbara Oakley in her latest bestselling book, A Mind for Numbers, we have two modes of thinking: focused (highly intensive mental processes when you are acutely aware of what you are thinking), and diffuse (a more relaxed mental process associated with sub-conscious thinking). Understanding how to use and switch between these two modes is essential to learning more effectively.

How many times have you struggled with a tough problem, only to give up, go for a walk or take a shower, and suddenly have the solution pop into your head?

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This is because we often get trapped by a phenomenon known as the Einstellung effect: when the first idea that pops into your head prevents you from seeing a wider range of possible solutions.

If you’re overly focused on a new type of math problem, you may never be able to figure it out during that single session because you can’t see the forest for the trees.

The best approach is to instead intersperse short periods of intense focus on new information with periods of relaxed diffuse thinking, and to repeat that cycle over and over.

Featured photo credit: woodleywonderworks via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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