Some Tips for Learning Anything Faster
It’s great when we finally learn something new. It’s wonderful to finally have grasped a new topic or have mastered a new skill such as a foreign language.
Yet, the task of actually sitting down and putting in all that nasty work to learn seems overwhelming. It seems like learning anything new will take years, and you have an insanely busy life to lead.
Of course, like anything else in life that is worth doing and requires work, the first thing is to get your mind right. You have to really want to do it. It has to actually mean something to you. It has to hit you on an emotional level.
Until you truly commit to doing something you are likely to fall short of your goal. Here are some tips that will convince you to commit, but also help you reach your goals faster:
- Practice and Repetition: Doing the same thing over and over again eventually hammers it home. The more your mind is exposed to something the quicker it learns it. Use flash, i.e. note, cards to practice any material you are trying to learn. Writing something down over and over again is also foolproof. No, it’s not sexy, and it’s not exactly fun. It just works.
- Listening to Music: Listening to music has been shown in studies to stimulate learning. Listening to Megadeth at full blast probably ain’t gonna do it, but listening to classical music has been shown to boost performance on tests when taken immediately after learning while listening to music. It also helps to listen to ambient electronic music as well as listening to the same song on repeat many times. You fall into a groove and focus harder.
- Visualization: Picture yourself actually working on what you will learn. See yourself sitting down with a book, or using flash cards, having the music on, what you are wearing, the time of day, the whole nine yards. And most importantly, picture yourself enjoying it and being successful at it. This way you’ve taken some of the dread out of it, and gotten used to the idea of putting in that work.
- Overviews: If you are learning from a book or an online course, take a look at the table of contents and skim the topics. Then go to each chapter and get a brief overview of what it is about. Again, this can take away some of the dread you may feel, and it may even make you look forward to it. It will also demystify the subject and ease you into it.
- Learn by Dreaming: Say what? Stop laughing! This sounds hokey as hell and I don’t blame you for rolling your eyes but I can assure you I have had so many good ideas come to me in the middle of the night. The key is to think about what you are learning right before you go to bed. The best thing to think about is something you are confused about. Our minds actually do process information in our sleep. It might not work every time but it does work.
- Discuss with Others: Working on just about anything with other people usually leads to quicker results. Talk over hard material with other people. They can give you tips, but just explaining it to them is a new and different way of learning material that you may have struggled with locked away alone trying to learn. Albert Einstein had his most important breakthrough in formulating his Theory of Relativity when discussing it with a friend. He had been close to giving up before that conversation.
- Know Why You Are Learning: Learning about history is easy for me because I enjoy history. Learning about constitutional law was not easy for me, but I did it because it was necessary to become a lawyer. Figure out why you are learning and that will aid you in actually getting it done. There has to be something in it for you; figure out what it is.
- Engage Your Senses: When I was studying for a 19th century American history final in college I went out and saw a movie called Dances with Wolves. Yes, I sort of rationalized going to see a movie to get out of studying but it actually helped synthesize what I had been studying. Seeing how Indians lived and how they interacted with whites gave me a better appreciation of that history. So if you are learning about a subject don’t just read about it, watch a show on TV or Youtube on it or listen to an audiobook.
- Take Some Well-Time Breaks: Cramming for an exam can help you learn a lot of material in a short amount of time, but you only retain it for a short amount of time as well. To really learn something you need to take your time. Work intensely for short bursts, and then take a break. You avoid burnout this way, but your mind also needs this time to refresh itself. Your mind also subconsciously continues to work while you take a break.
I hope that takes some of the stress out of learning for you. To have learned something is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, but putting in that work is not always pleasant. Follow these tips and I know you will find learning easier and faster than you previously imagined.