How to REALLY Learn?

Research shows us that within 1 hour of learning new information, if it is not used in some sort of activity, 50% of it is already forgotten. 70% of it after 24 hours and 90% of it after 1 week…

Imagine if you had a water bucket and it leaked 90% of everything you put in it. What would you do? I bet you would fix the bucket before trying to refill it with more water. So, next time you read that self-improvement book or watch that incredibly inspiring TED Talk, if you really want to learn the information, read on to see what you could do to fix your water bucket and enhance your learning.

Although it’s a no brainer, statistics help us prove that when you engage more senses in the learning process, you learn more efficiently and remember more. Using visual aids whenever you can is a great way to enhance your learning. So when learning about a topic, start researching it in various mediums; watch instructional videos on Youtube or find infographics about the topic.

I believe our strongest sense is our imagination and if we manage to use it well, it can be the most beneficial for our learning efficiency along with many other positive effects... Next time you really want to learn about a subject, after digesting the new information you just fed your brain, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine a classroom full of people and try teaching them about what you just learned.

I’ll tell you what's going to happen; you are going to make mistakes trying to recall the information you just learned. This is because our brains dwell on the first new idea it learns whilst we keep reading the book or watching the video. When was the last time you paused to take some time to digest each new information from a book or a video?

So when we try to teach the material we just learned, we make mistakes. Fear none, making mistakes is good! Like all other aspects of our lives, making mistakes is the best way to learn. When you are imagining to teach the information to others, you will realize that you forget most of the information or better, make mistakes while remembering…

After this point, you make a conscious decision to force yourself to go back to the information to correct your mistakes and learn better. This time, since you had to use willpower to actually learn the information, your brain obeys and it concentrates much better on the information, and it is obvious you learn better when you spend more effort towards anything.

Forcing your brain might come of as a scary thought but our brains are like work horses if they are well trained and the more you force it to concentrate, the better and stronger it gets. It is obvious we all want stronger brains because it is one of the most important things on the path to a better quality of life and a better future.

Think of a person who exercised moderately everyday for 20 years, and a person who doesn’t spend any kind of conscious effort to improve their body. Which person do you think will have a easier time moving their body or which person will be in better health in general? Let’s get back to our topic of what to do to enhance learning.

Research shows that, discussing what you have learned with others increases our chances of learning the information by a whole 25%. So next time you learn new information which you would like to keep, try to talk about the information with others and have a discussion about it as soon as possible.

This is one of the reasons why group learning is a staple in our society.

Probably the exact reason why classrooms are such a big part of our culture… I mean we all have either sat in a classroom at one point or at least know what it is.

But, as technology is becoming more and more of an efficient way to create communities we might slowly drop the classroom culture over time. So if technology makes it obsolete to have physical classrooms with new online learning startups and community creation tools coming out everyday, how long do you think before this major change happens and how will this effect our society? Although these are big questions awaiting answers, this is another HUGE topic for a later conversation :)

Remember that mate who took the most and the neatest notes? Here is why she became so successful:

Another way to enhance learning is to put the information in to practice. Taking notes while learning is the first practice you should start doing. An experiment done in a TED Talk proves that, although learners taking notes by hand-writing are slower in their word/minute rate, they remember more of the information compared to those who took notes by typing. This is probably because of the more effort and time needed to take hand-written notes. Remember the more we use willpower to learn something new, the more chance we have of remembering that information when we need it. Next time you are learning new information start taking notes and prefer hand-writing whenever possible to increase your chances of remembering the information.

Research shows that another good way to enhance learning is to relate the information with that of you already know. Let’s say you want to learn about the Ottoman Empire; start by sitting down first and forcing yourself to remember everything you already know or anything you could think about the Ottoman Empire and take physical notes. Even though you might make mistakes or have so little information about the topic, don’t worry… Later when learning from your sources, you will make a conscious effort to research and correct the wrong known information and you guessed it right, this will enhance the learning process :)

I could think of many other ways to enhance learning like reading the information out loud or pausing and repeating after information while watching informational videos or documentaries. But if you want to do it right and learn as much of the information as you can, my advice would be to focus on being able to teach the subject. It seems like common sense that you would know about a topic if you thought yourself to be able to teach it right? Yes it does and it’s funny how we almost never make use of this logic when trying to learn…

How would I teach myself to be able to teach the information? I would start by going through the entire input. After digesting the fresh information, without referring back to the source; I would jot down hand-written notes about every detail I can remember and draw sort of a mind map of how I digested the information. Then I would go through the material again to see what points I remembered right, what mistakes I made while trying to remember and what essential information I completely missed.

This will allow you to have sort of a brain map to show you which information your brain dwelled on while you kept giving it more. Our brains like to get stuck with each new concept and disregard the new information flow in the meantime.

At this point I have already enhanced my learning by at least a huge 50% and trust me this makes a huge change. But if I’m really serious about learning the topic; I would start by writing a unique article about the information I learned. An article which I would be proud to post online and share with others. This requires you to do the extra work of researching more about the information, probably from different sources as well since you will have your unique reflections on the topic as well.

So the way of learning better comes down to creating educational content for others. Creating content is good!

I mean good for others who you can educate and be a new information source for them to research from and good for you since this will enhance your learning right?

Also, if you keep consistently creating quality content, the online community will start rewarding you financially and by boosting some well deserved self confidence ;)

Happy learning!