Everyone wants to learn in ways that help to retain the information. It is better to learn things that stick in your mind, rather than be forgotten once the period of study is over. This seems easy to achieve on paper, but how can we boost the learning process so that information stays in our heads? Well, in this article, we share with you 10 ways to learn more effectively.
Why is learning effectively important?
Throughout our busy lives, we are constantly adding new perspectives in order to reshape the ideas and knowledge we currently have.
In the workplace, in particular, we are always adding to what we know to build our capability. Our knowledge base continues to expand as we add more information, improve our skill sets, or change attitudes. We are always building on what we know.
Here are 10 ways that can help you learn more effectively, so you can make more of your available time and effort in your world.
This might seem a little obvious, but in our increasingly busy and connected world, it can be increasingly hard to disconnect from unwanted distractions. However, investing the time in ensuring your environment is as peaceful as it can be before attempting to absorb information, will allow you a much greater focus.
Clear your desk, shut your door, silence your phone, but also take a moment to write down all the things that might cause your thoughts to wander. In writing them down, you will clear your mind and open yourself to a more valuable learning experience.
Have the information in multiple formats
How information is presented to you can influence how easy it is to learn. Although it is not always possible to control how the information to be learned is presented to you, using a variety of presentation modes and other mediums can help.
Some people learn better when presented with the same information in different forms. Words, pictures, and audio are all different ways that can be used to present the same information. Don’t stick to one form of learning; try multiple, and find the ones that work best for you.
Virtual training or VILT (Virtual Instructor-Led Training), webinars, and e-learning are all very different ways of learning. They all have advantages and disadvantages.
Very few people who think they can multitask can actually multitask. It isn’t doing two (or more) things at once as is commonly thought, but rather, when your brain is rapidly switching between the tasks all at once.
All this switching is a strain on the brain and can hugely impact your ability to learn. Take the time instead to focus on one task at a time so that you can lend your full concentration to the learning experience.
By reducing the mental costs of ‘switching’ rapidly between tasks, you can focus on one task and learn that information more effectively.
Catherine has some tips on how you can keep learners engaged.
Take time to connect the new information with the old
The brain is a network of information, with each piece of information linking to another, forming a whole structure of concepts, figures, names, words, facts, and events. It's quite incredible when you think about it.
When you recall a piece of information, it causes the network to pull the other, relevant pieces of information out of your memory as well.
So, similarly, when learning something new, it can be useful to connect new information to existing knowledge already firmly embedded in your memory. This can be helpful with recall later.
Practice retrieving the information
Calling on knowledge routinely can help aid memory, and this retrieval practice is key in ensuring information is easy to recall. It helps reinforce the memory connection in your brain and simultaneously makes you more resistant to forgetting.
Practice this retrieval often, to ensure learning transfer and keep information fresh in your mind.
Have a goal
Motivation is key when it comes to learning new things. Learning for the sake of learning can sometimes fail because the motivation is lacking, and therefore so is the necessary mental effort.
Often, there is a bigger goal that is being worked towards - the reason you are learning this information in the first place. Identifying that goal and the reward that awaits at the end by achieving this goal can help to drive motivation.
Knowing what the long-term benefits are can positively affect the effort that you need to put in, which ultimately helps you learn more effectively.
The onset of the global pandemic meant a F2F event was no longer possible, so the client sought assistance from The Virtual Training Team to pursue a virtual alternative and bring all 22 colleagues together in a virtual yet constructive process.
Use your emotions
Information that has an emotional link to it is often better remembered than information that is emotionally neutral or emotionally void. Your mood is integral to the way you learn, so try and think emotionally about the information that you are learning. Creating a human connection can be helpful for this, so try to connect it to real-life stories or examples.
Even better if you can relate the new information to emotional or personal experiences in your own life. This can help to reinforce your memory for the information you are trying to take in.
Feeling anxious, bored, or angry can also negatively affect your motivation to learn, on top of affecting your ability to absorb new information in the first place. Ensure you are in a positive mindset when learning, to have a better learning experience.
Create deeper understanding using your social surroundings
Learning rarely takes place in a vacuum. Rather, it happens in active settings in which you interact with people around you.
Other people are integral to most learning journeys as they can provide valuable feedback, sounding boards, and offer opportunities to observe and learn ‘on the job’ rather than in a passive, heavily structured training environment.
In addition to this, talking through ideas with others allows you to vocalise your learning, rather than simply internalising it. This helps you to work through ideas and discuss information thoroughly, which can help learning transfer.
The client was looking to encourage a growth mindset for employees in a forward-looking city council in the UK. Culturally, the client organisation wanted to encourage truly self-developing employees who would drive their own performance conversations.
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is absolutely essential when it comes to learning as it is the time when your brain has the opportunity to consolidate and process your experiences through the day, without any unwanted mental disruptions.
Suffering a poor night’s sleep or not getting enough effective REM ‘deep sleep’ can hinder your brain’s ability to process through what you have learned that day.
It comes as no surprise that learning is easier if you are interested and engaged in the information at hand. Though this isn’t always something you can control, it is something you can help to generate.
Everything has a level of innate interest that can be found within, however small. Try to find the aspects of the information that catch your interest and even get input from others as to why you should get excited about it.
Additionally, trying new things and stepping out of your comfort zone can increase your likelihood to discover new things, new interests, and help to broaden your curiosity.
There you have it. 10 ways to learn more effectively and improve your learning transfer. What other ways do you have which help you to learn?