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How To Learn Anything Faster



Learning how to learn is an essential skill that is often overlooked. It is crucial to improve our lives in various aspects. In this article, I will share nine evidence-based tips that have proven to be helpful for learning any subject:

1. Prepare yourself

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This quote emphasizes the importance of preparation. Before diving into learning, it is necessary to be well-prepared.

2. Focus optimization

Using crutches or aids can help enhance focus. These tools can assist in optimizing your learning experience.

The first is the five minute rule. The idea is that if we want to do something and we’re finding it difficult to start, the five minute rule tells us to just work on the thing for 5 minutes. Then, after five minutes, we’re allowed to stop. We don’t have to continue if we don’t want to. But, more often than not, I find that if I’ve already started doing something, I do actually want to continue. The problem was just getting started.

The second ‘crutch’ I found useful is to chuck my phone away. I know it sounds simple but we’re so glued to our phones these days that by tossing our phone on the floor or leaving it in the kitchen, we can remove a key point of distraction and force ourselves to focus, free from distraction. And if there’s anything else we find particularly distracting – like tablets, TVs, or other interesting gadgets – it’s really helpful if we can place them as far as possible from our workspace.

3. Immerse in the subject

To truly grasp a topic, immerse yourself in it. Find opportunities to fully engage with the subject matter.

So the general principle here is that we learn best when we’re in the environment where we’re actually going to be using the skill.

My advice: step out of your comfort zone and fully immerse yourself in the thing you want to learn. It can be scary, but it’s 100% worth it.

4. Identify weak areas

Recognize your weaknesses and focus on improving them. Understanding your weak links can help you create a more effective learning strategy.

Constantly ask yourself the following question:

If the exam were tomorrow, what topic would I be the least happy about?

it’s very tempting to just do the stuff that seems familiar to us. If we’re studying for an exam, it’s very tempting to open the book to page one even though we already know that stuff.

But, learning only really happens when we’re trying to fix our weaknesses and there’s a decent level of difficulty. If something’s too easy, we’re not going to learn anything.

So, if we want to maximise our learning and learn faster, we really want to focus on those areas of weakness. In essence, we need to find the weak links and use drills to improve them as quickly as possible.

5. Test yourself

Regularly assess your knowledge and understanding. Testing yourself reinforces learning and helps identify areas that need more attention.

In the world of studying, there’s this thing called ‘active recall’, which applies to learning anything.

The idea behind active recall (or retrieval practice) is that we don’t learn by trying to put stuff into our brains. We actually learn, counterintuitively, by trying to take stuff out of our brains.

And if you’ve had that experience where you’ve read something in a textbook or on a website and you’ve completely forgotten everything a few days later, that’s just because you haven’t repeatedly tested yourself on that knowledge (try to recall all 9 of these tips in a few days time to practice!).

Without self-testing we’ll just forget everything we’re trying to learn.

6. Seek feedback

Obtain regular and intense feedback on your progress. Feedback provides valuable insights and helps you refine your learning approach.

It’s these tight feedback loops that encourage learning, whether it’s for exams or for anything else in life.

7. Overlearn

Don’t stop at acquiring basic knowledge. Strive to go beyond and master the subject through overlearning.
When we’re learning something we actually want to try and learn it in more depth than we necessarily need to. And the idea here is to continuously be asking why a thing works the way that it does.

In the end, we have a deeper appreciation as to why things are the way they are. And it makes learning anything else in that particular sphere so much easier and more efficient.

8. Use spaced repetition

Space out your study sessions to optimize retention. Spacing allows for better long-term memory formation.

The forgetting curve tells us that when we learn something – whether it’s a fact, a skill, or whatever – we’re going to forget it after a certain period of time. In other words, our memory decays over time.

So, in order to retain that information, we have to keep testing ourselves on the thing for our brain to absorb the information fully. It’s like with our muscles: if we don’t use our muscles, they’ll atrophy and get smaller (☹️). Equally, with our brains, if we learn a language when we’re five years old and then don’t use it for the next 10 years, we’re going to forget most of it.

9. Teach others

Share your knowledge with others. Teaching what you have learned reinforces your understanding and helps you retain information.

We often tell ourselves that we can’t teach someone something because we’re not an expert at it. But, for me, that’s not true. In fact, C.S Lewis talks about this thing called ‘the curse of knowledge’, which is that when we’re trying to learn something, we often don’t learn best from experts. Instead, we learn best from people who are just one step in front of us along the same journey.

It’s better to learn from a guide than a guru.

This is all to say, don’t be afraid to teach what you’re learning.

By following these evidence-based tips, you can enhance your learning abilities and achieve greater success in various aspects of life.

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