Effective learning is one of the most useful skills we can ever develop.
Unfortunately, the way most of us absorb new information isn’t just ineffective – it’s unsustainable. So, not only are we stunting our personal growth, we’re running head-on into an inevitable burnout. That is, if we don’t quit on our efforts before then.
However, over the past decade, I’ve learned a lot about, well… learning that’s helped me not just learn faster but also retain more of what I’m studying. Want to know my best secrets for learning more in a shorter period of time and actually remembering more of that which you’re studying? Keep reading.
10 Ways to Supercharge Your Learning Ability
Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.
– Henry Ford
Whether it’s reading a business or self-improvement book to up your game, studying for a college exam, or taking an online course to learn something brand new, learning is important and useful to all of us. That’s why it’s so important that we know how to maximize the time we spend learning and improve our learning ability as a whole.
Here are ten ways to supercharge your learning ability:
1. Know why you want to learn said thing and have a central goal
Before setting out on your journey, you need to have an intention. Why do you want to learn this? Why are you reading this book, taking this course, or studying for this exam? What is the long-term goal?
Knowing this beforehand helps focus you before taking in all that new information. Unconsciously, you know what you’re looking for: information to help further this goal. This helps you filter information based on the goal, sifting out the useless information and picking out the useful.
2. Have an area to take notes
You need to take notes. Pretty basic, I know. But, more than that, you need to have a central place where you keep and organize those notes.
Even if you only take notes on the major overarching “key points,” the ability to come back to these notes later ensures you can absorb more of the most important information in the book (or, if you forgot, remember it).
I’d suggest something like Evernote for organizing your notes. I literally don’t know what I’d do without it.
3. Use your finger to read
This is a super quick and simple tip that might sound odd at first but really does work. Ready? Use your finger to follow along with the words as you read something (anything).
Easy, right? But something special happens when we follow what we’re reading with our physical body. It forces us to be more conscious as we’re reading and keeps us from unconsciously skipping over words as we’re prone to do at times.
Both of these things combined contribute greatly to our ability to absorb the information we’re reading. Try it for yourself, it works wonders.
4. Find the format that works best for you
Some of us are more auditory or visual by nature. Some of us aren’t the fastest or most confident readers, while some of us are.
The likelihood is, one particular format of media is more effective for you than the others.
With that in mind, make sure the one you’re using is the one that is most comfortable for you and you don’t force yourself to, say, sit down to read a physical book if that’s an excruciating process for you.
5. Take care of yourself
This is a huge one that most get wrong. Many of us don’t realize how significant an impact our health plays in our ability to learn. Most of us push ourselves with little sleep, sub-optimal nutrition, and little if any exercise.
However, the truth is, each and every one of these things plays an important part in optimizing your body for learning and absorbing new information, with sleep being the most critical of the abovementioned factors by far.
If you’re not getting a full night’s sleep, you’re not being more productive by gaining yourself more time. You’re actually losing time by making yourself far less effective at everything you do.
6. Remove expectations
Usually, we step into a new book, course, subject, or whatever it is we’re studying with a particular expectation. Whether that’s a negative or positive expectation, the problem lies in that the expectation colors our perception of what it is we’re learning, so we’re not taking the information in as the author or creator intended it, but rather in a way that fits with our worldview.
It’s not hard to see how making a conscious effort to remove these expectations beforehand can help us learn and expand our mind. Keep in mind that this is one of those easier-said-than-done kind of things, however, the more you work at it the easier it gets to see through these personal trappings.
7. Take regular breaks
The way most of us were taught to work on anything is to do it straight through without even so much as breathing. Obviously, we’re now learning this was always incredibly ineffective and has resulted in billions of dollars of debt through the resulting burnout in the workforce, but that’s another story. The point is, this way of working…doesn’t work.
By pacing yourself and taking short and frequent breaks, you’re able to give your brain the rest it needs to refocus and come back stronger. How often? If you’re reading or consuming learning material, even five minutes every hour is enough to start or you could even do five minutes every thirty. Test it out and find what works best for you.
8. Immediately apply what you’ve learned
This doesn’t have to be anything significant, just try to take what you’re learning and immediately apply it in some concrete way. This isn’t always possible, however, when it is and you execute on this step it helps skyrocket your absorption rate of whatever you’re learning.
If you’re reading a self-improvement or business book, they typically already include some sort of actionable steps you can use in place of this to apply the information.
9. Teach (or document publicly)
Of everything on this list, nothing is more powerful for helping supercharge your learning than teaching.
In the past, this was much more difficult to do. However, nowadays, you have the opportunity to start up a blog, podcast, or video series about the subject you want to learn about, document your process of learning about the subject, teach what you learn along the way, and refine your knowledge and gain experience as you go.
This process isn’t just highly effective, it’s incredibly rewarding to you and helpful to others as they’re able to see and connect with you, someone who is doing or learning what they’d like to do or learn. The feedback you then get is invaluable for improving as you go.
10. Repeat (everything)
Some people read just to say they’ve completed another book or complete a course just so that they can get a job working somewhere. But, assuming you actually care about what you’re doing, this is a horrible strategy to adopt.
Learning in this way means you’re probably absorbing as little as 10% of whatever you’re studying, reading, or listening to (or less). But even that can be okay if you’re following one simple practice: repeat.
Repeat everything. Just finished a new self-improvement book that you feel can really change your life? Great. To make sure you actually apply the principles in the book – read it again. And again. I’ve listened to some audiobooks over forty times just because I wanted to fully absorb the information in them. And I can tell you it was absolutely worth it.
Effective learning is an invaluable tool you’ll use for the rest of your life. It’s a hallmark of all highly successful men and women and a skill which truly can be refined and mastered with effort. Use these tips to refine your own learning ability, get out there, and show the world what you’re made of.