10 Proven Ways To Help Learn Anything Better

1. Plan

Many people underestimate the importance of mental planning. Planning how you’re going to study or go about learning something new is one of the most important steps to learning something quickly and efficiently. If you’re able to get yourself organized and prioritize what you have to do, you’ll be able to perform better and learn more efficiently. You might find it a little hard to plan at first, but luckily this cognitive skill can be trained and improved.

How can you do it?
1. Compile all of the information and material that you think you’ll need. It’s important to do this before you start working!
2. A written test isn’t the same as a multiple choice test – figure out what your goal is
3. Brain storm- Think about different ideas that can get you to your goal
4. Make a study plan based off of how much time you have, possible interruptions, and the type of material
5. Create goals. For example, make a daily goal and break it into smaller, more manageable parts.

2. Use a study method

There are a number of different study methods, and you’ll have to try a few different ones to find what works best in your case. The PQRST is a favorite among students, and has proven helpful in the case of some learning disorders like dyslexia, ADHD, etc… PQRST is an acronym: Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite, Test.[1]

How can you do it? The PQRST method has 5 steps:
1. Review the entire chapter or text that you want to study. This will give you a general idea of the material that you’ll be covering. Take a look at your notes, read summaries about the topic, research the author, etc.
2. Create questions to ask yourself after each section. This will help you understand the main idea of the text.
3. Read through the text carefully and try to relate the information to other topics or information that you already know. You can underline and highlight sections here (with discretion!)
4. Write a short summary about what you’ve read.
5. Test yourself about the material you’ve read. If you realize you need more work on one section, go back and study that material.

3. Curiosity activates your brain

Why are we able to remember so many details when we watch a movie or read a book or hear an interesting story? The answer is simple: the mix of curiosity and emotion is the key to learning. If you can spark curiosity about a certain topic, you’ll be able to remember it better.[2]

How can you do it? Make it a game for yourself, give yourself some motivation, and think about how you’ll explain it to a friend. Maybe what you’re learning relates to a hobby of yours? Try to find these connections- it’ll make learning more fun and more efficient. For example, maybe you’re really interested in football and you’re studying Algebra. Think about how many points the team would need to score to have x points.

4. Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can help your superior cognitive processes, which is closely related to learning.[3]Mindfulness is characterized by understanding your body, living in the present, controlling anxiety and emotions, and concentrating on breathing.

How can you do it? Try to focus on your breathing and how your eyes move when you’re reading. Doing this will keep you present while you study, which will help you stay focused and remember more information. There are applications available to help you master mindfulness. Spend a few minutes each day “centering” yourself and you’ll be able to learn more efficiently.

5. The more strategies, the better

There are many different learning strategies that have been proven to help people study and retain information. Try to combine learning strategies to get the most out of studying and help you remember a larger amount of information. If you think you may need to improve your memory, you’re in luck. There are different programs to help improve and memory, which will save you time and improve learning over time.

How can you do it?
1. Associative strategies are the easiest. It consists of reviewing the material through repetition: review, copy, highlight, repeat out loud, etc.
2. Organizational strategies group the study material by chunks.
3. Elaborative strategies require that understand the material. Create outlines, summaries, keywords, etc.

6. Spread it out

It doesn’t matter if you’re studying for two, four, or eight hours a day, spreading out your studying can help you learn more effectively. Give yourself time to internalize the information that you learned, without over-saturating your brain. Remember that our bodies internalize information while we sleep, so try to avoid those all-nighters and give the body the rest it needs – you’ll see the difference when studying the next day.

How can you do it? Instead of cramming one day for five hours, study one hour a day for five days. You’ll internalize and integrate the information better than if you tried to memorize everything in just one day.

7. Take a break

Psychology research has shown that our ability to stay focused on a single task declines after about 20-25 minutes. It seems like a short amount of time- and it is. It may be hard to get in the “groove” with these short intervals, but it’s been proven to be the best for learning new information.[4]

How can you do it? This learning strategy was designed by neuropsychologist Francesco Cirillo. Set a timer for 20 minutes intervals. When time is up, take a short break and do something comfortable, like chatting with someone, checking your email, stretching, etc. and drink water, because a dehydrated brain doesn’t perform as well as a hydrated one. After a few minutes, get back to studying.

8. Positive vibes, positive experience

Our feelings are closely related to learning. If we can be positive while studying, the better we’ll be able to remember information and learn.

How can you do it? Try to keep yourself from getting frustrated. Often times, the material can be daunting or boring, and it can make us frustrated or angry. Do your best to keep these feelings at bay, and keep your spirit up. Feel good about what you’re doing and how hard you’re working. You’ll see how being positive can make a difference in your studying.

9. Reward yourself

Positive reinforcements make us feel happier about the work that we’re doing. If you feel like the work you’re doing has a positive outcome, you’ll be more likely to do it well and happily.[5]

How can you do it? Give yourself some kind of reward after finishing a certain task. This reinforcement can be verbal or physical, like saying congratulations or giving yourself some ice cream. These rewards shouldn’t be extravagant, but just a little motivation to keep you going. Also keep in mind that if you snack, you should snack on superfoods for your brain, which will make sure you’re brain is getting all the nutrition it needs to work well.

10. Believe in yourself!

If you’re constantly worrying about failing and not doing well, you’ll actually start to believe it and it could change your performance. Positive thinking and believing in yourself is a big part of learning a new skill or idea, so thinking that you can do it will help you actually achieve it.[6]

How can you do it? Visualize yourself completing the goal you set for yourself. Say a mantra to yourself- it can help you focus and make you feel better. Try something like “you got this”, or “believe in yourself”. It may feel silly at first, but you’ll see that it’ll come naturally over time and can have big benefits.
How the Brain Retains Information Infographic

Image Source: Mindflash

About The Author

Pablo García-Bartolomé is a writer and psychologist for CogniFit, a major vendor in neuropsychological assessments. Pablo is a Development and Educational psychologist., and his research field covers memory, metamemory, language and childhood development. Pablo is passionate about psychology and is always happy to share his knowledge with others.