Make Learning Easier in 6 Steps
Have you been thinking about learning a new skill? Maybe you want to equip yourself with better tools to handle your job, or maybe you want to learn how to better handle aspects of your personal life. Whatever the case, becoming a better learner using tried-and-true techniques will help you gain new skills faster and advance toward your goals.
These six tips will save you time, improve your recall of information, and help you better understand what you learn.
1. Set Daily Goals
Setting goals keeps you on track and focused. When you’re learning something new, it can be overwhelming to figure out how to sort through the available information and decide how much time you should spend on each concept. Start by setting small, achievable goals for what you intend to learn that day. Over time, you’ll get better at estimating how much information you can get through in a given day, and your goals will become more realistic.
2. Leverage Your Learning Style
Research shows that there are three main ways of learning new information: through our eyes, our ears, and our bodies. This is where the idea of being a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner comes from. Today, experts agree that we use all three ways of learning, but some more than others depending on how our brains are wired.
Cater your study plan to focus on the learning style that works best for you, but don’t forget to switch things up with the other two occasionally. Here are some ideas of how to learn using each style:
- Visual: Create mind maps and flow charts to draw connections between information.
- Auditory: Listen to podcasts or online lectures about your topic; brainstorm key concepts out loud.
- Kinesthetic: Write, don’t type, your notes; use post-it notes to build content maps.
If you’re not sure which learning style fits you best, vary your learning with all three. It should become clear to you eventually which one helps you learn best.
3. Use Recall Techniques
Repetition is key. When you read a passage once, for example, don’t expect to remember it going forward. You need to revisit information, especially complicated concepts, over and over again before they’ll fully stick in your brain. Try a variety of recall techniques to help you remember what you learn. Here are a few methods that may work for you:
- Use flashcards for key words or phrases.
- Rewrite your notes.
- Create mnemonic devices, which are memory aids. An example is the phrase “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas,” which helps you recall the order of the planets in our solar system using the first letter of each word (Mercury, Venus, Earth, etc.)
4. Test Yourself
Testing helps cement topics in our brain. Depending on what you’re learning, you can follow online learning courses that have quizzes for each topic. If you don’t have that option, recruit a friend or family member to quiz you on key concepts. You can also test yourself using flashcards.
Your goal shouldn’t be to cram information before each test, because that’s one way to do great on that particular test but not great at future recall. Instead, use testing as a regular check-in for yourself. If you do poorly on certain concepts, that’s okay: all it means you need to revisit those going forward.
5. Vary Your Learning Location
Give your brain a refresh by switching up where you learn. If you always study in one place in your home, try venturing outside and working at a park instead. You can also take a walk while you listen to a podcast on your topic (keeping your body moving while taking in new information is a great way for kinesthetic learners to retain information). If you can work outside your home, go to a coffee shop or shared space occasionally.
If you have to stay inside, move around to different parts of your home throughout your day. Changing key aspects of your routine, like location, keeps your brain more active and focused.
6. Teach What You Learn to Others
The true test of information recall is whether you’re able to teach that information to someone else. That’s because before you teach, you need to translate the information you’ve learned into your own words, which helps solidify concepts in your brain. If something doesn’t make sense, you’re more likely to notice it when sharing that information—or the person you’re teaching will notice and ask questions. Either way, you’re gaining a better understanding of the topic.
Tell us! What skills are you trying to learn this year?