Five tips to learn faster and more efficiently

To stay competitive in business and ahead of the game, it‘s increasingly important to continually learn new skills, languages and information.

Diana Vornicu-Eger
Written on
May 2019

There are a few important steps to help you learn anything in half the time, according to science.

50 minutes or less

Research says our brains end up powering down very quickly when they‘re running all the time.

Ellen Dunn of Louisiana State University explains that „anything less than 30 minutes is just not enough, but anything more than 50 is too much information for your brain to take in at one time“.

To put this into practice, make sure you‘re scheduling your learning sessions for short periods of time, using quick methods like flashcards.

Schedule at least 10-minute time between sessions to give your brain some break.

Stop the multitasking

Your brain is like a computer - when you have several tabs open in your browser, it slows down processing speed. Research shows that working on multiple tasks at once detracts from the quality of all of them.

Another study found that when you get distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to return to the task at hand. That‘s a lot of time wasted. In our age of constant distraction, it‘s important to close out your email during your sessions. Silence your phone and turn off your notifications.

Multitasking slows down your learning and inhibits your brain from performing at its highest best.

Change your learning methods

Reconsolidation - the process in which memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge - plays a pivotal role in strengthening skills and learning.

A Johns Hopkins study found that „if you perform a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practising the exact same thing multiple times in a row.“

Think of modifying your self-teaching techniques as you learn.

If you use flashcards in one session, think about a more hands-on method the next time, or listening to a podcast or webinar. This will help your brain remember and recall information at a quicker rate.

Take notes the old-fashioned way

Princeton University found that taking notes by hand leads to more active listening and the ability to identify important concepts.

On the other hand, laptop notes lead to more mindless transcripton and open up more opportunities to check your emails and get distracted.
The tip from this study is obvious: Give up the typing in favour of plain old pen and paper.

When taking notes, only write down what matters. Stick to keywords and short sentences instead of writing down notes word by word.

Prepare for the long game

We‘ve all experienced it - that moment when you run out of time, money, or motivation to keep learning something new and quit. Seth Godin calls it „the dip“ - when the honeymoon phase of learning a new skill disappears.

The best way to avoid this dip is to prepare for it and know it will come at some point.

As Steve Jobs once said, „Half of what separates successful businessmen from non-successful ones is pure perseverance“.

Remember, learning something new isn‘t a sprint, it‘s a marathon. Those who are persistent through this time will be the ones to succeed.