How do some people learn so quickly—even without studying? Then others spend days cramming and still not make the grade.
Science has some key insights about what’s really going on. Thankfully, anyone can apply them to learn more efficiently – read on to make sure you’re spending your learning time productively.
1. Start Learning Earlier
Whether you have to memorize a speech or learn new skills for work, studies suggest you should start earlier so you can spread learning out over a period of time and a number of sessions.
2. Do It Right After You Learn It
Studies show that you’ll learn and remember something more thoroughly if you revisit, practice, and put it into practice closer to the time you first learned it vs. right before you need it.
For example, if you’re taking a course for your MBA, the most efficient time to study for the test two weeks from now is within a day or two of learning the information in class.
In some cases, like learning names, you should try to use them within minutes of learning them.
Why does this work? You’re telling the brain this is important information. The brain takes heed and stores it in long-term memory.
3. Write It Down
If you can’t put something into practice right after you learn it, write it down. Not only are you once again telling your brain this is important; you’re adding kinetic learning to visual and auditory learning through this tactile experience.
In doing so, you’re creating multiple pathways in your brain to the same information. Studies show different parts of the brain activate when handwriting vs. typing. The regions activated with writing are associated with memory, and studies show this translates to better recall of learned information.
4. Sleep After Learning
Studies have shown if a person goes to sleep within 12 hours of learning they’re more likely to retain that information. Sleep is critical for memory in general. Lack of sleep leads to trouble learning and organizing new information as well as moving it to long-term storage and recalling it later.
5. Don’t Re-Read to Learn
It may seem like reading a textbook chapter or class notes over and over would make the information stick. But research shows the opposite happens because your brain tunes out repetitive information and the ideas get scrambled because you already know what’s coming next.
It’s much more effective to read something, wait an hour, and then write down key information you remember.
There’s no harm in re-reading something to understand. But don’t confuse endless re-reading with learning.
6. Learn It Like You Have to Teach It
You’d want to remember this clearly if you had to teach someone later, wouldn’t you?
Having this mindset while learning tells the brain to organize the information strategically so you can easily recall it later.
7. Exercise Regularly
Regular aerobic exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, a part of your brain responsible for helping you learn and apply new things. Scientists found the increase sufficient enough to completely reverse age-related hippocampus loss, which makes learning and memory harder as people age.
Additionally, exercising before learning and before you need to apply that learning increases oxygen to the brain, which improves brain function overall.
Put these 7 strategies to work for you. This is how to learn more efficiently.