We’re not naive. We know that the older we get, the wiser we are, but the harder it is to keep all that information stored in our brains. We’re not actually forgetful. We’re just overcrowded in there. At the same time, we get that learning never ends, and so we’re willing to expand our perspectives, which in turn leads to a happier, more fulfilled, successful life. So how can you train your brain to learn faster and retain more?
Learning and studying can be difficult once we are long past our college years. For all the old dogs who might be reluctant to learning new tricks, we tapped an expert to find out the best ways to learn fast and retain more so we can quickly grasp new concepts, technologies, business strategies and up-level our willingness to learn.
Independent learning is the hot new brain trend. Thanks to digital media, we see a new renaissance when it comes to learning. On the professional side, nearly two-thirds of U.S. workers have taken a course or sought additional training to advance their careers, according to a March 2016 study by Pew Research Center. On the personal development side, a simple Google search can lead anyone to a plethora of courses on everything from mastering personal finances, parenting, our relationships, nutrition, cooking, designing clothes, home organization and design.
The key to longevity is the learning and application of new things. When we stop learning, we stop growing and that is a slow death to our brains and bodies. Luckily today there are online seminars and other ways to learn that speak to our interests. It’s also incredibly convenient to learn.
What are the best ways to learn new things quickly and remember them?
Ready to Train Your Brain? Here are 5 ways to learn fast and retain more
1. Learn in quick sprints.
There’s a sweet spot for learning in the 30-50 minute timeframe. Dedicate that amount of time to learning and then take a 10 to 15-minute break to end a learning segment before starting a new task. You’re more likely to retain more when you focus for a shorter amount of time at once. Using tools like notecards with quick points helps the brain absorb concepts even more.
2. Take written notes and use colour!
Ditch the laptop and go old school with a pen and paper. Outline important points with a different colour pen or highlighter and if you can draw a concept out in the margin, go for it. Writing fuels comprehension and enhances listening skills. Studies out of UCLA and Princeton found students who took notes on laptops didn’t perform as well as students who wrote by hand. When we handwrite notes we listen then process the information before writing. When we type on a laptop, we transcribe what we hear without any self-interpretation which is where the actual learning comes into play.
3. Give your brain time to recharge with sleep.
People brag that they work so much and sleep so little. Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution, and her choice to add nap rooms at her Huffington Post offices shed a spotlight on sleep as a performance enhancer. People who get a full 8 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep retain what they learn and have bandwidth to grasp more information quicker. We often feel tired after a course or following instructions. This is because focusing requires energy. Naturally, when we rest we get to reboot the brain.
4. Read out loud, record, replay.
Research has shown that reading out loud engages both senses of sight and sound which heightens retention. Recording yourself reading and elaborating with your own idea of how the concept resonates then replaying the recording a day or two later, is a great technique that fires up the part of the brain that processes concepts like a computer filing information for later use.
5. Break things down and relate it to what you already know.
We’ve all heard of the math teacher who used the example of rock concert ticket sales to get kids to grasp algebra. When we take a concept and link it to something we already know about or have genuine interest in, we retain that concept. Anytime we can internalize a concept is has resonance. It sticks.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist who addresses some of today’s most common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, and psychopathology.