Whether you are learning a new instrument, language, or from a course, you can always learn in a better way.
With the learning community growing constantly, there is always research and studies that have talked about certain habits; specifically habits that promote a smarter and efficient learning atmosphere. In fact, the habits I’ll bring up are so effective, most schools don’t talk about them.
This post will explore why that’s the case and how you can integrate these learning habits in your life.
What Is Considered To Be Efficient Learning?
Before getting to the techniques, first it’s best to understand what efficient learning is. In short, efficient learning is a blanket term that applies to widespread techniques.
There’s no one method of learning efficiently that is above everything. It’s any technique you can think of that smoothes out the learning process and makes retaining the information easier.
For example, one technique that Inc. recommended was the idea of spreading out learning. Research uncovered that if you want the information to stick, then try out “distributed practice.” The idea behind it is to study briefly, take a break, and then study again.
These intense bursts of learning over a long period of time are similar to other techniques I recommended in the past. As such, they are highly effective in any field. Some other examples can be self-directed learning, leveraging a memory palace, and more.
As you can see, these techniques make studying and learning easier than it otherwise would be. But that raises a key question I hinted at above:
If they’re so effective and highly regarded, why haven’t schools adopted these strategies?
Kent State’s John Dunlosky commented about it once and shed some light on the problem:
“These strategies are largely overlooked in the educational psychology textbooks that beginning teachers read, so they don’t get a good introduction to them or how to use them while teaching.”
You also have regulations. In the United States, there is a Federal Curriculum (FC) that teachers must structure their courses around. As you are no doubt aware, the FC is not up to date with current learning strategies.
That being said, it doesn’t mean you can’t apply these techniques in your everyday life. Whether you are going to school or not, the methods below will help you to better grasp efficient learning and retain information better.
What Can You Do To Learn More Efficiently
There are all kinds of research studies out there talking about various methods. Below are some simple and ready to use strategies:
1. Eat and Avoid Certain Foods
Research has uncovered that there are certain foods that boost learning while others inhibit learning. The focus on these studies revolves around general brain function.
For foods to avoid, a lot of it points to food that has refined sugar or is highly processed. This also includes baked goods like doughnuts and cookies. However, there are other foods you might not have expected. Examples are margarine, fruit juice, or white bread.
As for foods to actually eat, good brain food would be foods with Omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid. What this means is you want to eat sardines, salmon, walnuts, broccoli, spinach, celery, avocados, and blueberries.
As the study uncovered, eating these particular foods – in their raw or cooked state depending – will help you focus and have a better memory. These foods also reduce brain injury.
All you need to do is eat the right foods around the time you are planning on studying. This also means avoiding the listed bad foods at any cost during that time, even after you finished studying.
2. Drink Water
Our brain is 73% water. So if you feel your brain isn’t working right, it’s likely you are dehydrated. Even a mild case of dehydration can inhibit your learning capabilities. One study found that when we feel thirsty, we experience a 10% decline in cognition.
This might not seem like much but 10% can be a big difference. It can be the difference between grasping and processing information properly and misinterpreting it.
So stay hydrated over the course of the day. And if you struggle remembering that, or any other information, bring a water bottle with you and sip on it during class.
While this one seems counter-productive, it really isn’t. Harvard researchers found that dreaming may be used as a method to reactivate and reorganize material recently learned. This makes sense since so many other studies have mentioned that sleep is conducive to improving brain function in general.
But don’t think that you need a long sleep in order for this to work. One German study also found that even a 6-minute nap can help improve memory too.
4. Collaborative Learning
Teamwork provides all kinds of benefits. When you are in the right kind of group, studying and learning together can provide ample benefits. One study from Science Direct found that through this, students:
- Improves both collaboration and communication skills;
- Were more engaged with other students and the topic;
- Had a deeper understanding of the subject;
- And had long-term retention benefits.
Of course, this technique can be hit or miss with some people. Some people don’t always have the luxury of studying in a group. Some may prefer studying by themselves naturally. And there are benefits to studying alone. Take self-directed learning which is focused more on independent learning.
That being said, studying in a group does have those benefits amongst finding motivation, and learning new perspectives. Who knows, you may be one conversation away from solving a problem that you’ve struggled with.
5. Remove Stress
No matter who you are, stress can be a massive impairment to learning and even recalling information. Most people have experienced the feeling during test time where they blank on an answer. That’s likely due to stress at that moment.
But even stress outside of testing situations is bad. One study looked at short term stress and how it would associate with brain-cell communication. It impaired it so much that individuals experienced those blank moments. What’s worse is those stressful events occurred a few hours before tests or presentations.
Because you want to avoid stress, you want to practice all kinds of techniques to reduce stress. Physical activity, breathing exercises, and meditating are all techniques that calm us and remove stress. Try these 7 Stress Management Techniques to Get Back on Track.
6. Listen To Music
In studying situations, you’d think you want a nice quiet area to curl up and study. In school, that’s typically the library. However, there’s been research that shows that a quiet place may not be the most ideal spot.
In fact, one study from Stanford found listening to certain music to improve studying. The study uncovered that music activated certain areas in the brain associated with making predictions and paying attention. It also made students more receptive to information.
Unfortunately, these studies do have a bit of a flaw. They used classical music. So it’s hard to say what other types of music would be conducive for studying.
Regardless, there are all kinds of calming and soothing music online. And there’re also music for productivity: Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists).
You’re always just one search away from various music that’s meant to help you learn. Try it out!
7. Avoid Multitasking
Over the years, we’ve grown used to doing multiple things at once. Texting, reading, and streaming media all at once for example. However, in a studying atmosphere that won’t work.
Trying to do multitasking is merely a distraction. It reduces our brain’s ability to store new information and to properly process it. After all, we are forcing our brain to jump from one task to a completely different one.
To help with avoiding multitasking, find yourself a learning environment to help you not get distracted. A library, a café, or a room in your house or apartment that’s away from other noise.
8. Teach Someone Else (Or Think About It)
As one of the many old sayings go:
“While we teach, we learn.”
That saying is true thanks in part to a study that was published in Memory and Cognition. The study found that students who taught – or even thought they had to teach – the material were efficient learning.
The study found that those students spent more time thinking about how they would explain topics or concepts. This, in turn, improved their overall understanding and grasp of topics and theories.
Even if you don’t end up teaching someone, the mere thought you have to can help you to solidify topics.
9. Try Various Learning Techniques
The last efficient learning technique I’d suggest is to learn using various strategies. Not necessarily these techniques but other forms of learning.
Are you someone who learns from a book or needs visual aids? Try learning by listening to speeches, or podcasts.
Do you study alone most times? Consider forming a study group and collaborating with people.
Each study method is good in its own way. But the thing with these study methods is they activate certain parts of your brain. They also store that information in those particular parts. So by having information spread out throughout various sections of your brain, the more interconnected the information is.
At the core, efficient learning is a matter of retaining, recalling, and understanding a topic. Each person has their own tricks and tips that work for them and its a reason to explore. To explore new study methods.
Who knows, maybe you’ll find a better system to help you grasp topics like never before. That’s the beauty of learning! There are no right or wrong answers for what method is best for you.
More About Learning
- 7 Most Important Cognitive Skills for Fast and Successful Learning
- Essential Learning Methods to Help You Learn Effectively
- How to Apply the Adult Learning Theory to Learn Faster
Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com