Science-based techniques to learn quickly and effectively? Incredible as it may seem, yes, it does exist! We spend an average of fifteen to twenty years in school, and yet there is something very important that we are not taught: learning how to learn. In today’s article, I will share with you some simple tips for learning more effectively, taken directly from my book The Way of the Intelligent Rebel. Let’s get started!
Learn Quickly and Efficiently with Universal Abilities
There are five universal learning abilities that we use every day of our lives for a wide variety of tasks. To learn more effectively and faster, you must perfect yourself in each of them – this will make you more efficient. Let’s start off by taking a look at these five abilities.
You should know that long-term memory enables you to effectively memorize and store what you want to learn: it facilitates the long-term retention of things.
This is short-term memory, a mental workspace if you will. For example, if someone verbally gives you their phone number, you will remember it until you save it into your phone, then you forget it. This is where the information is stored while it is being processed.
The ability to concentrate
Our ability to concentrate can be further developed, by strengthening it, we improve our productivity.
Working on our willpower is essential. It enables us to have a greater ability to resist temptations that distance us from our goals.
When we are aware of our underlying motives, we have more energy, enthusiasm, and creativity to carry out our projects.
The good news is that you can improve in each of these categories to learn more effectively – and you’ll see how.
Techniques for learning how to learn
1. Earn 6 IQ points in 30 days
Our intelligence is divided into two categories: fluid intelligence and crystallized intelligence. Fluid intelligence is raw intelligence, it is our ability to think logically and solve problems in a new situation – it is innate intelligence.
Crystallized intelligence, on the other hand, reflects our skills, knowledge, and experience – it is learned intelligence.
Researchers have developed software to train our working memory – and therefore to change our fluid memory, our ability to think logically. It is thanks to this proven, but little-known scientific technique that it is possible to earn IQ points.
Tests¹ were carried out over several weeks on different groups, and the results are conclusive: the fluid intelligence of those who used the software increased by up to 40%, with the level of increase being directly correlated with the time spent training. It is therefore possible to develop your working memory by training it – just as it is possible to increase your athletic performance.
If you wish to improve your intelligence, several software programs have been developed, incorporating the system used for the experiment: I have personally used IQ Mindware and Brain Workshop. Studies have shown that for optimal gains, it is necessary to practice half an hour a day for at least nine consecutive days. By doing so, you will be able to boost your working memory and increase your concentration as well as your general motivation.
2. Boost your concentration through meditation
Through meditation, it is possible to gain concentration and become less distracted. It is a practice that offers many benefits physically and psychologically.
Meditation helps us to fix our attention on something particular and thus to practice our ability to concentrate. Numerous studies² have proven its benefits:
- Improved ability to manage emotions
- Improved ability to concentrate
- Decrease in attention disorders
- Improved memory
- Improved learning abilities
- Lower risk of multitasking
To train at home, you can start with a simple exercise that is accessible to everyone. Get into a position that is comfortable for you and close your eyes. Take three big, deep breaths to relax, then focus on your breathing. You will notice that thoughts will arise very quickly, and this is normal. You have to occupy your mind: count your breathing cycles (a cycle corresponding to one sequence of inspiration and expiration). The goal is to stay focused for twenty breathing cycles. If your mind wanders during the exercise, repeat until you can do it successfully.
Practice meditation for five minutes a day; you will quickly see a huge difference.
3. Hack your physiology
Regular physical activity is good for your health, your morale, and your learning performance.
Among other things, it has been proven³ that:
- Having older people do regular fitness sessions significantly increases their intellectual performance
- Regular exercise significantly increases our learning and memorization skills
- Cardio sessions make the brain more efficient and better prepared to adapt to new situations
- Exercising regularly for three months increases blood supply to the area of the brain linked to memory and learning
- Doing 30-minute to 1-hour sessions made employees more productive, less stressed, and less tired
And these are just a few benefits. There are many more! All this to prove to you the importance of practicing physical activity.
If you are very busy with your personal and professional obligations, know that there is an application called 7 minutes workout; the goal is to do seven minutes of exercise per day at maximum intensity. You have twelve exercises to do for 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest between each exercise. I challenge you to go ahead and stick with it! You only have to find seven minutes in your day. I’m sure that’s doable.
4. Practice a musical instrument
Practicing a musical instrument improves students’ IQ, attention, and grades. It has benefits both for the body and for the mind.
Playing an instrument – no matter your age – has been proven to boost creativity, positive emotions, and intelligence.
We have just seen how to boost intelligence, concentration, and discipline, now let’s see how it is possible to learn how to learn.
5. Fight the forgetting curve
The principle of the forgetting curve is quite simple: we very quickly forget most of what we are not using. After five days, we have forgotten 80% of what we have learned.
The good news is that there is software that can analyze our forgetting curve and send us reminders when we are about to forget something. If we revisit a concept each time we are about to forget it, we will have less and less need to revisit the concept, as later on it will become part of our long-term memory: this method is called spaced repetition.
These types of software were designed to remind us regularly of what we have trouble remembering, and less often of what we remember more easily. It is possible to input them with what we want to learn. They are incredible tools for hacking our way of learning.
There are two very powerful and free software programs: Mosalingua, which is a foreign language learning software, and Anki, which is extremely customizable (you can incorporate what you want to learn quickly or take inspiration from the elements that are included in the basic software, as well as concepts added by other users).
Read : Master 9 Concepts to Increase Productivity and Creativity, a great compliment to this article
6. Educate yourself through gamification
The second solution to learning effectively – and which works for me – is gamification. The software programs mentioned above are very effective, but only if you use them regularly and for sufficiently long periods of time, which paves the way to possible boredom.
Software makers were aware of this and looked for solutions to motivate people to use software over the long term – this is what gave rise to gamification.
They have created new, more enjoyable software programs, notably by incorporating a visual progression system (with point gains as the learning progresses), a ranking system with other users, the possibility of competing with friends, or a story where extras can be unlocked according to your progress.
There are two very powerful software programs in this area: Habitica, which enables you to gamify your life by setting goals like a role-playing game, and Duolingo, a free application on computers and smartphones for learning foreign languages.
The experience is much more immersive, and therefore better than what you get with traditional software.
7. Double your learning performance with reminders
To learn a text effectively, for example, most people think that you have to reread it over and over again and that this will make it easier to memorize. Not true! You are giving your brain too much information, and it may get lost in non-essential details.
The best technique for remembering a text, a lesson, or what you have learned during a conference, for example, is to take thirty seconds to write down the things that you think are the most important. You then train your brain to scan all the information that is given to you, and to extract the essence of it.
If you get into the habit of doing this every time you want to remember something, then you will develop an incredible ability to remember the essential elements through synthesis.
8. Prioritize consistency
When you are in a learning phase, regular sessions, even short ones, will always be more effective than intensive sessions that are spaced out. This goes for guitar, meditation, dancing, languages, anything you want to learn!
The best is still to find yourself a couple of thirty-minute time slots during which you can practice during the week.
9. Challenge yourself
When you learn something, ask yourself the following question: are you learning something new that challenges you, or are you just redoing something that you have already done hundreds of times, which does not teach you anything fundamental?
If you really want to learn and step it up a notch, you have to challenge yourself and take action, so that your intellectual knowledge becomes real skills. You have to get out of your comfort zone and succeed in challenges that put your knowledge to use.
For example, I decided to drop out of school at eighteen to start my own business. It was a complicated challenge but one that I really wanted to take on. The result of this challenge is that in just a few months, I went from an unmotivated dropout to someone with unwavering motivation. I was exactly the same person, but I had found a project that encouraged me, and it was the best learning experience I could have.
If you are learning a foreign language, Spanish, for example, plan a three-day weekend in Spain in six months in order to allow your language learning to become much more concrete, and you will instantly step it up a notch.
10. Teach to better educate yourself
Teaching is the best way to educate yourself and learn quickly. You don’t have to wait until you become an expert in your field!
If you’ve been practicing judo for two years, you’re probably neither an Olympic champion nor a black belt. However, this does not prevent you from giving advice to beginners, and your advice may even be better than that of someone who has practiced for twenty years because your early days starting out and the advice you wish you had been given are still all fresh in your head.
Teaching requires you to structure your knowledge, to talk about your field in a simple and precise way, and to clear up any gray areas you have on the subject. Your brain then acts as a search engine and is constantly trying to improve both in terms of the subject in question and the way you teach it.
“The best way to learn is to teach” – Docendo discimus, Old latin principle
If you’re looking to learn more about a particular area or topic, start a blog, YouTube channel, or podcast (or even all three)!
I have the amazing example of one of my student pro bloggers. He came to see me a few years ago when he had just bought his first camera and asked me if I thought it was possible for him to start his blog on photography. I told him that he obviously could not assume the role as an expert and that he had to be very transparent and honest with his audience.
He assumed the role of a beginner who learns with his audience and talks about his experience – and that’s how he established a good reputation. His blog Apprendre la photo ensemble et pas à pas (“Learn photography together and step by step”) is now the most popular photography blog in the French-speaking world. He has published a book on the subject and speaks every year at the photography fair.
As you can see, learning quickly and effectively requires both methodology and tools. Now that you have them, get started!
If you have any other tips, share them in the comments!
² « A Randomized Controlled Trial Of Compassion Cultivation Training: Effects On Mindfulness, Affect, And Emotion Regulation », Hooria Jazaieri, 2013. « Initial results from a study of the effects of meditation on multitasking performance », David M. Levy, 2011 « Effects of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy on neurophysiological correlates of performance monitoring in adult attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder », Poppy L.A. Schoenberg, 2013. « Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training », Fadel Zeidan, 2010 « Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation », Richard J. Davidson, 2010. « Initial results from a study of the effects of meditation on multitasking performance », David M. Levy, 2011
³ The relation of physical activity and exercise to mental health