Six ways to become a more effective learner

Six ways to become a more effective learner

Continuing to learn impacts every facet of our lives. Whether it’s learning a new skill to make you a more-rounded individual or encouraging your employees to learn so that your can business can improve, constantly learning is one of the most beneficial strategies that you have at your disposal.

At this time in history, it is easier than ever to learn whatever you want to learn about. You don’t have to wait for the library to open. At 2 am – or anytime day or night – you can research whatever you want to.

  • You don’t have to have a set of encyclopaedias
  • You don’t have to wait to find a teacher
  • Even your granny can search online and figure out how to hook up her own computer or television if she wants to (you can still help granny though)

While there’s no debate on why learning is so crucial, there are multiple ways that you can become a more effective learner. I’ve found that the following six ways happen to be the most powerful.

1. Challenge yourself

For example, if you join a gym and start lifting 10kg weights you’re probably going to find that challenging. So, you switch down to 5kg weights and suddenly your workout is easier. Since the weights are lighter, it’s obvious why lifting these were easier. But, that doesn’t mean that it was a better workout than the lifting the heavier weights.

The same thing happens with learning – when it’s easy, you feel like you are learning more. In reality, “you actually learn more when what you are learning is something with which you are struggling.”

If you don’t challenge yourself and take risks you reach a plateau in your study where you don’t experiment and you don’t practice new skills. The people who achieve the most in life are the ones that aren’t satisfied with 8 out of 10; the people who don’t stop until they are a 10 out of 10.

2. Find your preferred learning style

We all learn differently. Some of us are visual learners, while others learn best by doing or listening. (see previous Blog). Knowing and understanding your preferred learning style will help you absorb information more quickly and effectively.

A strategy to use is multi-sensory techniques like reading aloud which will benefit visual and auditory learners.

3. Practice, practice, practice

It is difficult to overstate the value of practice. For a new skill to become automatic or for new knowledge to become long-lasting, sustained practice is necessary.

Practice increases our memories, helps develop skills, and is required if you want to become an expert in a particular field. For example, if you want to become a drummer, the more you practice the amount of grey matter (in the brain) increases. Also, muscle memory increases.

In short, practice is a vital component of the learning process.

4. Schedule a time for a learning

When it comes to achieving focused learning goals, our minds appreciate regularity and rhythm. You need to set aside “a specific time each day, ideally, always in the same place – to devote to your learning activities. You should also remove “distractions like e-mail and your mobile during this time and focus your attention on your learning goals.

5. Reflect

According to research published it’s been found that reflecting on experiences can improve learning because it builds confidence in achieving goals.

To ensure continuous progress, get into the habit of asking yourself questions like:

  • ‘What have I learned from this experience?’
  • ‘What turned out differently than I expected?’

Furthermore, the leaders “who demonstrate and encourage reflection not only learn more themselves, they also support increased contextual awareness and reflective practice in others, thereby laying a foundation for higher levels of learning agility in their teams and organisations.”

6. Improve your study mindset

Think about the times that you’ve stressed out or have been going through a personal crisis. Do you think that you were able to learn something new?  Sometimes you can’t ‘force’ yourself to be in the right mindset, and it is during such times you should simply avoid studying. In that case, revisit your studies when you’re not focused by something else going on in your life.

However, you can improve your study mindset by taking the following steps:

  • Think positively whenever you study.
  • Avoid thinking like “I’ll never understand this!”
  • Avoid thinking, such as “I’m such an idiot,” and focus on how you can improve.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
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