Whether you want to up your game at work, study for a college exam, or take an online course to learn something new, learning is an important skill. And with time being an important commodity in our lives, maximizing the time we spend learning is paramount. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to activate your brain’s ability to learn. Here are ten ways to supercharge your brain’s ability to learn.
Step 1. Be Clear about Why You Want to Learn and Set a Goal
If your first thought is, “Wait, this sounds like work,” you’re not wrong. But it is worthwhile. When you plan to go somewhere, you need to know where you are going. It’s fine to learn for the sake of learning, but you need to know what you want to learn and why.
Are you studying for a test, learning a new skill for work, or investigating a new career. All good. Ultimately, you are seeking knowledge. Knowing what and why helps you reach your goal faster.
Step 2. Have a Way to Take Notes
You need to take notes. More importantly, you need a place to keep your notes organized. Whether you like to write it all down in a notebook or use an online notetaking app such as Microsoft OneNote, Boostnote, or Evernote, you need a way to keep your ideas organized.
Even if you only make note of the key points, being able to review these notes later makes sure you will remember and absorb what you’ve learned.
Step 3. Use Your Finger to Follow Words When You Read
This may seem weird at first, but this easy tip really does work. Try it. Read while using your finger to follow the words. Doesn’t matter what you are reading. Something happens when we connect what we are reading to an action with our physical body. It make us more conscious and keeps us from skipping over words.
The combination of these factors improves our ability to absorb the information we are reading.
Step 4. Find the Right Format for Your Learning Style
We all take in information differently, and we all learn differently. Some of us are more visual or auditory. Some of us aren’t fast readers, and some are. This is not unusual. It’s quite likely that one type of media will work better for you than others.
Keeping that in mind, make sure you are using the one that you are most comfortable with. Don’t suffer through reading a book if that doesn’t work for you. Try an audible book and see what happens.
Step 5. Take Care of Your Health
Overall, this is something that often falls by the wayside. Most of us don’t realize the impact our health has in our ability to learn and perform at our best. Most of us try to power through with sub-optimal nutrition, barely exercising, and last but definitely not least, little sleep.
Each of these things play a key role in optimizing your body and your brain for learning and absorbing new information. Sleep is by far the most critical of these factors.
We’ve all fallen into the trap of missing sleep, thinking we’ll get more done. But you’re not really getting more time or more productivity. In reality, you are losing time, since lack of sleep can make you less effective and productive.
Step 6. Get Rid of Expectations
When we start something new, we usually have an expectation. We may expect a negative or positive experience, however, that expectation will affect how we feel about what we are doing. There’s nothing wrong in anticipating a pleasant experience, and it is normal to dread what we think may be a negative experience.
However, these expectations can affect our perception of what we are learning, so we may not be taking in the information efficiently. This is one of those things that’s easier said than done, but the more you practice, the better you will get at it.
Step 7. Give Yourself Regular Breaks
We’re generally taught to work on things straight through until they are completed without taking a break. We’re now finding out that this may not be the best way for learning.
By setting a steady pace and taking frequent breaks, you can give your brain the rest it needs to take in new information, refocus, and restart the task stronger. How often should the break be? Depends, but the more intense the material, the more often you should take a break. Test it out and find out what works best for you.
Step 8. Immediately Use What You’ve Learned
It might not always be possible to apply something you’ve learned to your everyday life. But if you can, try to use it in a concrete way. Alternatively, you can notice something in your life that mirrors what you’ve learned and discuss it with a friend or family member. This is one reason study groups are so effective. Try this step and see how it skyrockets your brain’s ability to learn something new.
Step 9. Teach What You’ve Learned
Go one step further, and teach what you’ve learned. Nothing is more powerful in supercharging you learning something new than teaching it. This doesn’t mean you have to become a teacher. Start a podcast, blog, or video series about the subject you are learning. There are many free platforms to publish your work. Document your progress and explain or teach what you’ve learned.
Bonus: you may connect with others learning the same things and get positive feedback that helps you improve.
Step 10. Do It Over, and Over, and Over
Repeat everything. Rereading a book, reviewing an online class, and actually applying what you’ve learned in your daily life or at work is one of the best ways to ensure you have a grasp of the information. Otherwise, what’s the point of learning something new?
Activating your brain’s ability to learn is a skill you’ll use your entire life. It’s a skill that can be mastered and refined with effort. Use these ten tips to activate your learning ability, so it will be ready when you need it.