In order to succeed as a pro in your field, you need to pursue knowledge and new skills on an ongoing basis — even if you dispose of limited amount of time and resources and your study habits are getting a bit rusty with time.
Some might say the key is continuous learning, as technology and organizations are permanently changing and along with these changes comes the need to adapt. If you cease to learn, technology — as well as your competitors — will outrun you. It’s true that becoming an effective and efficient student does not just happen overnight, but here are some tips we think could be useful in helping you do it as fast and as productive as possible.
1. Understand your learning ways
One good strategy for improving your learning efficiency is to identify your learning habits and use them proactively. You can pick and choose the theories regarding learning styles, as there are many and you can find a lot of information online and at the library about each of them.
Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence describes eight different types of intelligence that can help reveal your individual strengths. Looking at Carl Jung’s learning style dimensions can also help you better see which learning strategies might work best for you. Other models such as the VARK learning styles and Kolb’s learning styles can offer information about how you prefer to learn new things.
All the theories out there have been subject to debate and criticism, but your own personal filter can help you make the right choice. Just be attentive to yourself!
2. Learn actively rather than passively
As Einstein said, you should question everything, in a sense that it’s better when you reflect a bit, on your own, on what people/society presents as a certainty or undisputed facts. When studying a certain topic, do your research well. Don’t just limit yourself to a few easily obtained materials; ask yourself questions and go above and beyond to find out the answers. This is what active learning means — always keeping in touch with reality, keeping your research methods up to date and your knowledge synced with the progress of the domain you are working in. You will find out that these efforts will reinforce your learning and will eventually pay off.
3. Try to relate to what you’re learning and apply what you’ve learned
Another efficient and intuitive way of making your learning easier is to be able to relate personally to what you’re learning. This way your retention will be easier. No matter the subject, there is a big chance that, if you think about it, you can find a connection to your own life and this way you will have a greater chance to remember even the little details. Try to relate to what you’re learning and find its significance for you. Remember that the learning experience has to be a personal experience.
Also, if you use your knowledge soon after reading about the topic/studying it, it will get into your memory easier and in a practical rather than theoretical manner. So try to get tasks and assignments that make use of what you’ve been studying.
4. Allow your brain to absorb new stuff
No matter how eager you are to become acquainted with whatever topics interest your field of expertise, first you need to figure out what your learning rhythm is. We are not all the same. Some learn best in the morning, other assimilate more at night. Once you’ve discovered your optimum formula, start working on it wisely. This means that you will also need to give your brain the time to rest and take in all the information you are throwing at it. One way to do it is to sleep on it — give it a few days before taking on a new intellectual challenge. Also, it’s advisable to take frequent breaks and practice a hobby or just do something completely different to take your mind of your studying topics every once in a while.
5. Teach someone else what you’ve learned
They say those who can’t do, teach, but in our experience there couldn’t be something more inaccurate than this statement. Experience has taught us that after you become proficient at a subject, the next step to solidify your knowledge is teach it to someone else. So actually the best way to master a field is to teach it, because not only must you know the material by heart, but you also must be able to explain it. Not to speak about all the questions that might come from your trainees and that could actually challenge your knowledge and make you realize that there are still areas you need to improve. So sharing is caring and sharing is also knowing.
6. Have someone else review your work
Your work may be challenged from time to time by various factors such as authenticity of the sources, clarity of vision or diligence in performing specific tasks, when presented to other people. This is why it would be a good idea to have someone who knows the topic take a look at your work from time to time. Maybe you have a mentor or a friend or you know a professional in the field who can advise you and possibly correct your mistakes in due time.
7. Set realistic goals
If you’re aiming to improve yourself and master your domain, you need to be careful with setting the goals on your way to success. They shouldn’t be too high, as you’ll feel discouraged if you fail, but shouldn’t be too easy either, as you need to force yourself a bit to stretch in order to achieve them. For an extra shot of endorphins, it could be helpful to write them down and cross them out when completed.
8. Write about what you’ve learned
You know this from school — taking notes helps with the memorizing of the study material, either if you’re taking a class or reading on your own, at home. Writing about it and adding your personal view of the topic — such as writing a blog post or recording a podcast — is similar to teaching, except that you won’t have direct contact with your students. Still, the writing process forces you to verify your knowledge. And if it’s good quality writing, it can even raise your professional visibility and exposure and could earn you some extra money. And let’s admit it — seeing your name in print is pretty cool!
9. Triumph over the environment
When trying to focus, your surrounding environment can help or disturb you. It’s too hot, too cold, too bright, too dark, too noisy, too silent — whichever it is, you need to dominate it and don’t give in to any inconvenience. If possible, try to make your study environment as friendly and comfortable as possible. But there are things that you just can’t change and improve regarding the work/learning place and conditions, so you need to master the circumstances. Stay concentrated on the big picture — your learning goals!
10. Stop multitasking
A wise man once said we haven’t got better at multitasking, we just got better at getting distracted. True thing! There’s this myth that people who multitask have an edge over those who can’t. However, over the past years, all research in this respect proved that multitasking can actually make learning less effective and determine more errors than usual. So don’t let yourself fooled by the promise of doing 3 tasks at once and finishing your projects faster. This strategy will rather prove counterproductive and make you lose precious time. Instead, focus your attention on the task at hand and after finishing it, move on to the next one. It might be challenging if you’ve been trying to do it otherwise, but in the end you’ll see what we’re talking about.
For many people, personal development always brings its good friends along — self-improvement and knowledge. Acquiring life-changing knowledge however typically requires advanced learning techniques, that you need to explore and try on permanently. Great thinkers such as Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and others’ quests for knowledge, have led society to many of the marvels we enjoy today. Your quest for knowledge doesn’t have to be as Earth-shattering as Einstein’s, but it can be an essential part of your life, leading to a new job, better pay, a new hobby, or simply knowledge for knowledge’s sake — whatever is important to you as an end goal.
TRISOFT believes — It’s only natural that becoming a more effective learner can take time, practice and determination, as you basically need to establish new habits. We have gone through the process ourselves and we can promise it’s as rewarding as an ice tea on a hot summer’s evening. Give it a try, start by focusing on just a few of these tips to see if you can get more out of your learning in the next period of time. Happy learning, everyone!