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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 October 16, 2019

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Invaluable Lessons You Can Learn From Your Mistakes

Do you like making mistakes?

I certainly don’t.

Making mistakes is inevitable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could be at ease with them?

Perhaps there is a way to think of them differently and see their benefits.

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Why Mistakes Feel Dangerous

Mistakes often feel dangerous. Throughout human history, our errors have often been treated as dangerous for a variety of reasons:

  • Our vulnerability. We have limited and fragile support systems. When those systems fail, people often lose their lives.
  • Real dangers. Nature can be dangerous, and making mistakes can put us at the mercy of nature and its animal residents seeking a meal.
  • Ignorance. Many cultures scapegoats someone whenever there is a failure of some kind. Scapegoating can be serious and deadly.
  • Order. Many societies punish those who do not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy and treat difference and non-conformity as a mistake. Even our brains flash an error message whenever we go against prevailing social norms.

We have a history of handling mistakes and failure in an unpleasant way. Since each of us carries our human history with us, it can be a challenge to overcome the fear of making mistakes.

If we can embrace the reality of mistakes, we can free ourselves to be more creative in our lives and dig up some interesting insights.

Why We Can’t Avoid Making Mistakes

Many people operate under the notion that making mistakes is an aberration, a mistake if you will. You can call it perfectionism but it is a more substantial problem. It is really a demand for order and continuity.

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When we think we can eliminate mistakes, we are often working from a perspective that sees the world as a fixed place. The world, however, is not so obliging. Like it or not, the world, and everything in it, is constantly changing.

Change is more constant and pervasive than we can see with our own eyes which is why we often miss it. Our bodies are constantly changing. The natural conditions of the earth change constantly as well. Everything, including economic and cultural systems have life cycles. Everything is in a constant state of flux.

We cannot see all of the changes going on around us since rates of change vary. Unfortunately, when we try to create a feeling of certainty and solidity in our lives or operate from the illusion of stability and order, we are fighting reality and our natural evolution which is built on adapting to change.

It is better to continually bend into this reality rather than fight every change we experience. Fighting it can cause us to make more mistakes. Finding the benefits in change can be useful and help us minimize unnecessary mistakes.

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Lessons Learned from Making Mistakes

Life has so many uncertainties and variables that mistakes are inevitable. Fortunately, there are many things you can learn from making mistakes.

Here is a list of ways to harness the mistakes you make for your benefit.

  1. Point us to something we did not know.
  2. Reveal a nuance we missed.
  3. Deepen our knowledge.
  4. Tell us something about our skill levels.
  5. Help us see what matters and what does not.
  6. Inform us more about our values.
  7. Teach us more about others.
  8. Let us recognize changing circumstances.
  9. Show us when someone else has changed.
  10. Keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t work.
  11. Remind us of our humanity.
  12. Spur us to want to better work which helps us all.
  13. Promote compassion for ourselves and others.
  14. Teach us to value forgiveness.
  15. Help us to pace ourselves better.
  16. Invite us to better choices.
  17. Can teach us how to experiment.
  18. Can reveal a new insight.
  19. Can suggest new options we had not considered.
  20. Can serve as a warning.
  21. Show us hidden fault lines in our lives which can lead us to more productive arrangements.
  22. Point out structural problems in our lives.
  23. Prompt us to learn more about ourselves.
  24. Remind us how we are like others.
  25. Make us more humble.
  26. Help us rectify injustices in our lives.
  27. Show us where to create more balance in our lives.
  28. Tell us when the time to move on has occurred.
  29. Reveal where our passion is and where it is not.
  30. Expose our true feelings.
  31. Bring out problems in a relationship.
  32. Can be a red flag for our misjudgments.
  33. Point us in a more creative direction.
  34. Show us when we are not listening.
  35. Wake us up to our authentic selves.
  36. Can create distance with someone else.
  37. Slow us down when we need to.
  38. Can hasten change.
  39. Reveal our blind spots.
  40. Are the invisible made visible.

Reframe Reality to Handle Mistakes More Easily

The secret to handling mistakes is to:

  • Expect them as part of the process of growth and development.
  • Have an experimental mindset.
  • Think in evolutional rather than fixed terms.

When we accept change as the natural structure of the world, our vulnerability and humanness lets us work with the ebb and flow of life.

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When we recognize the inevitability of mistakes as part of the ongoing experiment which life is, then we can relax more. In doing so we may make fewer of them.

It also helps to keep in mind that trial and error is an organic natural way of living. It is how we have evolved over time. It is better to be with our natural evolution than to fight it and make life harder.

When we adopt an evolutional mindset and see ourselves as part of the ongoing human experiment, we can appreciate that all that has been built up over time which includes the many mistakes our ancestors have made over thousands of years. Each one of us today is a part of that human tradition of learning and experimenting,

Mistakes are part of the trial and error, experimental nature of life. The more you adopt the experimental, evolutional frame, the easier it becomes to handle mistakes.

Handling mistakes well can help you relax and enjoy all aspects of life more.

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Featured photo credit: Sarah Kilian via unsplash.com

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