Believe it or not, hearing is not learning. Neither is reading.
In order to learn, you need to create connections in your brain between the old stuff you know and the new stuff you’re learning.
So how can we ensure we are learning to the best of our ability?
Here are 4 techniques to help you learn:
#1. Implement interval training for your brain.
You may have heard of interval training in the gym: it’s all about working hard for a short period of time and then resting for a short period of time. This method allows you to exercise for longer overall, and your resting heart rate remains higher overall.
It’s the same thing for your brain. It’s all about focusing and then taking a break: focus, break, focus, break. This will allow your brain to process the new information during your down time, and you will be able to study for longer overall.
“During rest mode, connections between bits of information, and unexpected insights, can occur. That’s why it’s helpful to take a brief break after a burst of focused work.” – Dr Barbara Oakley, Learning How To Learn.
#2. Try the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique involves doing focused work for 25 minutes at a time, followed by a break and a reward. This backs up the interval training method, with the added bonus of rewarding yourself for your hard work.
“The reward — listening to a song, taking a walk, anything to enter a relaxed state — takes your mind off the task at hand. Precisely because you’re not thinking about the task, the brain can subconsciously consolidate the new knowledge.” – Dr Barbara Oakley, Learning How To Learn.
Start with focused work for 25 minutes, and you may find that as you progress you can focus for 45 minutes or even an hour at a time.
#3. Spaced practice makes perfect.
Spaced practice is the exact opposite of cramming.
“When you cram, you study for a long, intense period of time close to an exam. When you space your learning, you take that same amount of study time, and spread it out across a much longer period of time. Doing it this way, that same amount of study time will produce more long-lasting learning. For example, five hours spread out over two weeks is better than the same five hours right before the exam.” – Learning Scientists.
#4. Know Yourself
Take the time to think about what learning method has worked best for you in the past. Do hand written notes allow you to soak in the information? Do you retain more information from watching someone explain a concept? Do you learn best by being part of a group discussion?
As well as knowing what has worked for you in the past, don’t be afraid to try out new learning methods in the future. Try listening to podcasts whilst driving or reading your textbook out loud, or even try teaching a concept to family members to ensure you know what you’re talking about.