How effective are your personal learning efforts?
Learning is fundamental for human development and growth. We process and retain information every single day. But learning new skills and information is sometimes complicated. The good news is, you can get better at it.
This post offers 15 tips that will help you increase your knowledge. But first, let’s talk about why learning is so important.
Why Learning Is Important for Humans
As I said before, learning is indispensable to human growth and survival in the world. Learning also helps professionals take advantage of new opportunities. New skills or information can help you take advantage of career opportunities or find a new hobby that enriches your life.
For example, keeping your knowledge relevant makes it easier to navigate through the challenges of the world. You will know how to interact with current technologies and behave in new social situations and unknown territories.
Perhaps, most importantly, personal learning projects can keep you healthy. The brain needs exercise like any other muscle, and absorbing new information keeps it active. You can also learn ways to keep your body healthy, such as the types of foods to eat and avoid, as well as the exercises that best suit you.
Four Types of Personal Learning Techniques
Now that you know why learning is central to your life, here is how to do it more easily. We broke them up into five categories.
- Knowing yourself as a learner
- Priming the body for learning
- Helping the brain learn
- Making learning fun
- Learning study skills
Three Ways to Know Yourself as a Learner
1. Understand Teaching Modalities
When you are in a training session, your instructor might present new material using different modalities: visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile. Most people can learn no matter the modality used. But we each have our preferences for the one that is best for us.
Additionally, certain material is best presented using a specific modality. When learning something new, switch between modalities. Sometimes, engage with the content by using your preference. Other times, use the natural modality for the material. Combining modalities makes your learning efforts more effective and efficient
2. Connect New Information to Existing Information
Any time you learn something new, ask yourself, “How does this relate to something I already know?” For example, if you’re learning a new cooking technique, try to remember dishes you’ve eaten that were cooked this way. Perhaps you’ve seen someone else cook in this style. Or, you can think about how this novel way of cooking is similar to a cooking technique you know already.
3. Try It Yourself
There is a difference between acquiring knowledge and learning a skill. Rather than just reading about something you want to learn or simply watching a YouTube video, try to do it yourself.
For instance, If you’re learning how to write a sonnet, for example, write one for practice. If you’re learning how to write song lyrics, test out what you’re learning with a new song. By applying your knowledge, you increase the likelihood of learning that skill well.
Two Ways to Prime Your Body for Learning
Now that you understand the best ways for you to learn, it’s time to get your body in shape for learning. If you want a car to drive well and fast, you get it tuned up before worrying about the most efficient way to shift gears. It’s the same here. Your body needs priming before you focus on specific study techniques.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep
We all know that we should get seven to nine hours of deep sleep every night. When you’re learning something new, stick to that rule. But also, space out your learning between sleep sessions. You can study a topic over successive days with sleep in between, or you can take study naps. A 20-minute nap can do wonders to recharge your brain.
5. Stay Hydrated
Your body is over 70 percent water. Dehydration can affect brain function and your ability to absorb and retain information. You don’t want your brain to work harder than is necessary. So, aim for 64 ounces (8 glasses) of water a day, or more if you’re active.
Four Ways to Help the Brain Learn
Now that your body is primed to learn, you can develop techniques that make it easier for your brain to take in information. There are quite a few of these techniques and they are easy to implement. So, you might see a significant improvement in your ability to retain information with these tips.
6. Take Breaks
Have you ever felt confused after reading a passage or seeing a new technique on video? If you’ve reviewed the material a few times and just cannot seem to get it, take a break. Shifting activities for just a few minutes can help you recharge. Listen to a song, check your email, or just stare at a bird outside for a few minutes.
7. Space Out Your Study Sessions
Study for at least 30 minutes, but not longer than an hour at a time. It’s easier and more effective to complete short study sessions. Do these sessions several times per week. Distributed studying promotes deep learning rather than simple, short-term memorization.
8. Share What You’re Learning
Telling someone else what you’ve learned in your own words is a great way to remember the content, increase learning speed, and assess what you need to study more. Study as if you were going to teach the material to someone else. You can also do this with a study group. Each member can take a turn teaching a section of the material.
9. Change Your Study Activities
Studying the same material in different ways helps you learn faster too. For example, if you always study using a computer, try using a whiteboard or paper to take notes. Even changing venues can help. If you usually listen to lectures while sitting on your porch, try listening while taking a walk around your backyard. This simple change can increase your awareness and focus.
Two Ways to Make Personal Learning Interesting and Fun
Personal learning activities don’t have to be drudgery. When you’re learning something you enjoy, it’s more like play than work. You can develop that mindset for all types of learning. Below are some more tips.
10. Take Up a Hobby
Have you always wanted to learn to play the guitar or sing? By studying fun activities, you’ll see ways to add that same fun into your mandatory studying. Pairing your required studying with pleasurable learning breaks up the monotony of learning. You won’t consider it a chore. Instead, it will be fun and more motivating.
11. Get Curious
The world is a big and mysterious place. No matter how much education we have or how old we are, there’s still fantastic stuff out there to learn. As you go through your day, be on the lookout for the extraordinary things you can discover.
Do you know about the strange habits of your local birds? Or do you know how your favorite food is made? Approach your mandatory studying with that same mindset. This will make it less tedious and more fun.
Practice Effective Study Skills
Most articles about learning and studying start with practical skills. But we learn study skills just like anything else. Your ability to learn study skills is affected by the factors we discussed above. That’s why it’s essential to work on your mindset, health and self-awareness first. Your study skills will then be supercharged because of the solid foundation you’ve laid.
Here are a few concrete study skills you should practice.
12. Look Up Answers
There’s no way you’ll remember all the details in new materials. Rather than spending lots of time trying to recall details, look them up. The time you take trying to recall this information trains your brain to think it’s difficult to remember. You may also remember the wrong answer, which trains your brain to remember that same wrong answer repeatedly. If you don’t know something, look up the answer until you can recall it easily.
13. Take Good Notes
When taking notes, write information in your own words. Leave room to edit the notes later. Finally, write notes you’ll understand later. You might color code information or use abbreviations and symbols to help you categorize and highlight important information.
14. Use Mnemonic devices
Mnemonic devices use coding to help you remember complex information. Some common mnemonics are Roy G. Biv for the rainbow’s colors or the ABC song we all learned as children. Is there a song, abbreviation or another technique you can use to remember a sequence? Use them as much as possible.
15: Test Yourself
Take time to examine what is working and what needs to improve in your personal learning strategies and efforts. Adjust accordingly.
After you study, spend a few minutes seeing how easy it is to recall what you learned. If you don’t remember right away, look at the answer until you can recall it easily. A simple way to do this is with flashcards.
This article showed you 15 ways to process and retain information. We covered several aspects: your health, mindset and concrete study skills. New challenges and opportunities appear all the time in life. We hope these insights will help you increase and enjoy your personal learning activities.