Learning a new skill or knowledge is never an easy feat. As with any career, we continuously learn new things to improve ourselves and level up our skills. At the end of the day, to get better at something requires learning tons of theory and a lot of practice. In this article, let's discuss some ways we can learn more effectively and efficiently.
1. Eliminate distractions
A good learning environment is important for focus. So, a simple way to create such an environment is to eliminate any distractions.
When I am trying to learn something, I would turn off social media notifications and close any unrelated tabs in my browser. This is because a good deal of research have suggested that multitasking results in poor memory retention and reduce attention span.
Also, don't try to learn everything at once. This can impede your learning progress, as you will end up getting distracted and digressing from the things you really want to learn and focus on.
2. Eat Good Fats
You may have heard that the brain is muscle. Well, it's actually not true. The human brain is mostly fat, about 60% of it is fat, making it one of the fattiest organ in the body.
These fats are essential for better cognitive functions, memory, concentration and performance. So incorporating healthy fats into your diet can help you boost your concentration and learn more efficiently.
Image from gettyimages.com
Some foods rich with good fats:
- Oily fish (i.e. tuna, salmon)
- Sunflower seeds
- Olive oil
- Dark chocolate
3. Work Smart not Hard
Some might think that studying for long sessions saves time, and they will learn more material. It's not a bad thing to work hard, but why not working smart instead?
Longer hours of study sessions has been shown to decrease retention and attention in the long run. When you learn something new, your brain will only temporarily store this information in your short-term memory.
Unfortunately, your brain cannot store so much information so quickly into its long-term memory storage. Only constant practice and revision can encode this information into your long-term storage. This is why cramming everything in one long session is not a good learning practice.
It is more efficient to break up your study sessions into chunks. An average person's effective attention span is about 90 minutes. A 15-minute break after that would be ideal, but some can take shorter or longer breaks.
4. Break it Down
Most people also give up learning something when it seems too much or too overwhelming. A simple tip to stay motivated and keep progressing in learning is to break it down into simpler and smaller goals.
It is easier to absorb information that is broken down into smaller chunks. We can remember and digest smaller information quicker than if it is in large volumes.
For example, let's say you are learning a new language. Instead of learning all the words and beginner phrases at once, break it down to sub-topics such as words for fruits, clothing, weather then try to construct sentences yourself with newly learned words. Set a daily goal to learn 3-5 new words on a topic (i.e. weather) and practice some grammar/syntax rules while applying your new vocabulary.
Keep revising any new information you have learned. It gets harder to remember new information as you learn more. Recall and revision is key to get this information stored for a long time. In our learning a new language example, keep going back to the learned words and apply them by constructing sentences and even paragraphs. Gradually, with enough practice and revision, the words will be stored in your long-term memory.
5. Compare and Correct
Let's face it, when learning something, we won't get anything right the first time. Always compare your learning practices with a reference and correct yourself on those mistakes, you will learn not to make the same mistake and learn faster.
We can go back to the language example. You construct some sentences and were happy with it. If you review whether these sentences are grammatically correct or not, you will never learn from your mistakes and become better at the language. On the other hand, if you search for a reference and noticed minor mistakes you've written, you will actually learn how to construct better sentences in the future.
It is good to find lots of mistakes in your learning journey, because that means you will learn from them and only get better at the knowledge/skill you're learning moving forward.
The last but certainly not the least tip I have is often overlooked and underrated - a good night's rest. Research has shown that a person not only learns while awake, but also in sleep.
In fact, it is advised to sleep after you've learned something new because sleep strengthens memory functions in the brain. Researchers have found that sleep actually cements and saves what you've learned into your brain's memory. These memories will slowly shift into long-term memory with continuous good quality sleep.
The opposite will have adverse effects on learning. Lack of sleep will affect the brain's hippocampus, the part that is needed to create new memory. Some studies suggest that people who sleep less than 3 hours will learn 40% slower than those with 7-8 hours of sleep.
So take quick naps in between study sessions and sleep 7-8 hours at night. Your brain will be happy, and you will be proud that you retained new information faster.
Whether you want to pick up a new skill or learn a something new, it will always take some time and practice to acquire it. Therefore, learning efficiently can help reduce unnecessary time and effort.
Thanks for reading! I hope it has been a helpful article to get anyone started on learning something new. Please like and share it around if it helps you in any way. Also, please check out the References section below if you want to read more about this topic. So what are you learning these days? Do comment below to let me know. Cheers!