5 ways to learn anything faster and better

Try these hacks to master any skill faster and shorten the learning curve.

1. Practice the Pareto principle
Otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto principle reveals the unequal relationship between input and output. As per the principle, 20 per cent input is responsible for 80 per cent of the final result. For example, 20 per cent of your customers are responsible for 80 per cent of your revenues. The same thought can be extended to learning. The idea is to focus on 20 per cent of the learning that will ultimately cover 80 per cent of your final goal. So you need to figure out the 20 per cent that will make 80 per cent of the difference. For example, say you’re learning a foreign language. Identify the most commonly used words (the 20 per cent) that you will be using majority of the time (the 80 per cent). This way you’ll be conversing much faster.

2. Stop multitasking
Switching back and forth between tasks makes it harder for your brain to refocus and get back into the needed mindset. You are making your brain work harder than it should. Learning something new requires your complete attention. Every time there’s a distraction you’re reducing the brain’s ability to absorb information. Research done at the University of California has found that it takes office workers 25 minutes to return to the task at hand after an interruption. Imagine the time and brain power being wasted. So when in learning mode, make a conscious effort to shut out distractions. Put the phone away/turn it silent and turn off social media notifications.

3. Go old school, take notes
Remember those days in school and college when you took notes by hand, noting down important points and concepts? Researchers at UCLA and Princeton University have found that you were actually going about it the right way. Longhand note taking is conducive to active listening, helping process information more effectively, leading to better learning. The researchers suggest you ditch the laptop when it comes to note taking. Take up a paper and pen and note down the important points; use short sentences or keywords for quicker recall value.

4. Try to explain it to a child
Nobel laureate and physicist Richard Feynman conducted research on one of the most hard to understand topics—quantum mechanics. But his advice on how to accelerate learning was to keep things as simple as possible. His suggestion was that you should make whatever you’re studying so simple that even an eight-year-old child would understand it. By making things so simple you are forcing yourself to bring it down to its absolute basic concept, encouraging a deeper understanding. If you’re struggling to do that then there are clearly some gaps in your understanding.

5. Slot 30-50 minute learning sessions
As part of her research, Ellen Dunn from Louisiana State University has found that 30 to 50 minutes is the perfect duration to dedicate towards learning something new. Anything less than 30 minutes ends up being too little, while anything more than 50 minutes is too much for your brain to process in one go. So schedule your learning sessions keeping this in mind. Short frequent sessions are better than long drawn out ones at sporadic intervals. Remember to stagger them with at least 10-minute breaks so that you don’t end up overburdening your brain. 

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