21 Speed Learning Tips For Students
It never seems like there is enough time in the day to learn everything that you need to know to be an effective student or a successful person.
There is always someone out there who knows more and has a more creative way of approaching problems and finding solutions.
The good news is that we don’t have to be the best to be successful. We just have to be well-rounded and learn how to learn. Once you can master this concept, it becomes much easier to speed up your processes and tackle any challenge.
With that said, today we’re going to look at some speed learning tips — 21 to be exact — that should tune you into a well-oiled machine. Let’s get started.
Speed Learning Tip. No. 1. Pretend you’re a teacher.
How do you teach something when you don’t know it? Here’s a little secret. Effective teachers are not necessarily experts in their field. They have just found a way to connect information with what they do know, and then impart that to others in a way that is easy to understand.
Whenever you set out to teach a class full of students, classroom management skills are by far the most vital ingredient, even over content knowledge. You have to break information down to key concepts and help students build a foundation of knowledge, and that does not require that you score at the top of your class.
If you really want to learn something quickly, approach the information as if you are a teacher who must “dummy down” information to key concepts so your “students” will be able to understand.
2. Learn in short bursts of time.
Many people make the mistake of thinking that if they simply throw a lot of time into a subject, they will become more effective at learning it.
It’s actually the opposite, because the longer you go with something, the slower and less productive you get.
The information wears you down essentially, and you end up zoning out and wasting most of the time that you’re supposedly “studying.”
By compacting your study sessions into a reasonably short amount of time — like, say, 20-30 minutes — you’ll be able to harness the power of your focus and point it directly at what you are studying. As a result, you study less but retain more.
3. Take handwritten notes.
We’ve talked about the power of handwriting before when discussing productivity, and it applies just as much to learning for the same reason. When you decide to write by hand, you force your brain and wrist to communicate more effectively so you can translate the key concepts into a sentence or shorthand that makes sense.
Those few extra seconds of time make a world of difference because you’re simplifying things, and simplification is one of the most important techniques when it comes to building the foundations of learning any subject.
4. Study naps.
Napping before a study session helps clear your mind of exhaustion and recharge. Of course, we’re not talking about long naps. You don’t want to do a whole sleep cycle probably (who has 90 minutes to spare during the day).
No, 90 minutes are not necessary for the purpose of a study nap. You may not even need to fall asleep.
What I like to do is give myself at most about 20 minutes if I know I’ll need to be focused and working for the next several hours. I’ll sit in a chair in a comfortable place and set my timer. Then, I’ll close my eyes and focus on breathing (as with meditation) and just count each one off.
Sometimes I fall asleep; sometimes I don’t. But I keep breathing until the timer goes off, and it has never failed to help me “awaken” feeling rested, relaxed, and ready to focus.
5. Space it out.
Any time you have a lot of studying to do, you never want to group it in a manner that forces you to confront everything at once.
We’re talking about speed learning, which implies this is information or subject matter that you are not familiar with. If you overtax your brain with long study sessions and periods of focus, you’re going to end up un-focused and burned out.
Always give yourself enough time ahead of deadlines. If you know that you have to be ready for a test in a month, don’t try to stack all your studying into the week before. Just learn a little each day.
In doing so, you break up the information into more manageable chunks that allow you to better internalize and prepare.
6. Mix, match, and change what you learn.
One way to make sure that you are learning quickly while adhering to tip number five is to mix it up and change what you are learning.
So, you may take a full month to learn some material, but you can break up your study activities by mixing in other subjects that you need to know as well.
By breaking everything down into 30-minute sessions and switching gears from one thing to the next to the next, you maintain control over what is coming into your brain.
That gives you a great advantage in being able to keep from getting oversaturated and, once again, burned out.
Of course, to be juggling so many topics at once, you’ll need to be a great planner, and you’ll definitely have to embrace tip number seven.
7. Be productive first.
Productivity is how you can organize and attack any study plan.
Every time I decide to be productive, it always starts with me putting together a plan. Usually that plan is on paper, and I’ll use a list-based format.
It helps to break things down into as many action steps as possible, at least for me. While you should only tackle one or two major things per day, there is nothing stopping you from building that sense of inertia that comes with crossing through a to-do item.
If you have it in your head to “study for English exam” today, think about how many different concepts/principles will be on your English exam. Count them up. List them out line by line. Then, consult how many days that you have to prepare for your assessment.
Let’s say that you have 20 different concepts to learn for the exam and 10 days to learn them. Just make sure you’re hitting two concepts per day, and you’ll be okay. Those two concepts, however, may translate into more than two action items.
In fact, your action list may look something like this: 1) Read chapter. 2) Handwrite example problems and solutions. 3) Work simple problems. 4) Work at least two more complex problems. Multiply that by two concepts per day, and you’ve got a list of eight individual actions to work through and cross off.
Effective speed learning means effective speed-reading. Speed-reading requires one to not read every word but know what to look for in order to maximize reading time.
When you take off on a speed-reading session, you will want to let your eyes drift across the page, picking out keywords and context clues while letting little words like “a,” “an,” and “the” fall by the wayside.
You’ll also want to pay particularly close attention to subheadings, and it doesn’t hurt to look ahead before you start reading a block of text to see how many pages and sections there are.
This is called “pre-reading,” and it’s useful to speed-reading because it gives you a primer on what you need to pay attention to as well as the things that might be expendable.
When you master the art of speed-reading, speed learning will fall into place.
9. Use your preferred learning style, with caveats.
Your preferred learning style should definitely be at the forefront of the experience when it comes to learning new things, but don’t be enslaved to it as you go along.
You may not be a visual learner, for instance, but in certain subjects, you will need to embrace the visual component because there is no real way of presenting the information in a strictly text based format.
(Think statistics and scientific notations, for example.)
Definitely use your preferred learning style for internalizing key concepts, but be willing and able to switch gears as the material demands it.
10. Absorption time.
You can’t always be reading or working problems. You’ve got to give your brain time to tackle the subject matter in a non-pressured environment.
Think about your favorite video game growing up. There was probably a level on it that stumped you, and no matter how many times you tried to get through its obstacles you couldn’t.
Then you would go to bed at night, allowing your dreams and subconscious to work through the problem on its own. Before long, it would occur to you, “Well, maybe if I did this or that, it would work.” Sure enough, the next time you got ready to play, you tried it the new way and got through the level.
That’s the power of absorption, and you have to break free and allow your brain to have that time away from the books in order for magic to happen.
11. No batching.
Batching is where productivity and speed learning part ways. While it is often good to batch like items on a to-do list, it is a practice that too often leads to burnout when it comes to grappling with difficult information or concepts.
When you batch in these cases, you can flood your mental hard drive in a hurry and things will start to shut down.
Instead of batching, try to keep your brain active and moving from one item to the next in a way that allows you to stay energized.
12. No cramming.
Similarly, don’t cram. Not if you really want to know something. While cramming may be an effective way to get a decent grade on a short pop quiz or test, it will never lead you to expertise because it commits everything to short term memory, which expunges itself after a short period of time.
You will go much further if you adhere to the learning principles mentioned in Nos. 5 and 6 on this list.
13. Sit at the front of the class.
As the website College Raptor points out, sitting at the front has its advantages:
“If you really want to focus in a class, have a hard time staying awake, or have a tendency to get distracted easily, sit in the front row. Being right in front of a professor tends to keep you engaged,” the site notes, adding that you won’t miss a thing.
“Being close to the front means you won’t have a hard time hearing the professor and you won’t have a hard time seeing them or the slide-show. In big lectures teachers will often use microphones that are hooked up to a sound system, but even then the technology can be spotty and some prefer just to project their voices.
“If you’re in the front, you don’t have to worry about hearing them, and you’re likely right in front of the projector so you won’t have to squint your eyes to see either.”
14. Take it one step at a time.
Again, don’t get bogged down with thinking you have to do everything at once (cramming). Instead focus on what you can learn right this minute, and what more difficult concept that may lead to.
By taking things one step at a time, you will keep your brain from getting overwhelmed, and you will be well on your way to eating the proverbial elephant one bite at a time.
15. Jot down questions and concerns as you go.
As you are going through foreign materials, you are going to have lots of questions and concerns. Don’t ignore them.
By making notes to yourself as you go along, you will realize what limitations you have, and you’ll also be able to start untangling them from what you know or have learned about the subject.
This gives you the opportunity to make additional notes as questions are answered organically in further studies, and it gives you a study guide of sorts that you can refer back to, thus making it easier to address key concepts without having to wade back through the material.
16. Connect to your existing knowledge.
If you don’t know where to start with a subject, then try connecting with your existing knowledge. This is where finding metaphors and similes can come in handy.
If you can “explain” something new to yourself using terms that are already familiar, then you have a much more narrow gap to bridge. But how do you do that?
For a good idea of what I’m talking about here, let me point you to this Psychology Today article in which writer Kimberly Sena Moore, Ph.D, writes about 5 very difficult concepts to understand that are expertly explained by the Disney film Inside Out.
17. Read aloud.
When you are dealing with difficult-to-understand information, think about pausing from your silent studies to read aloud. This principle works the same as the suggestion to handwrite everything.
Since humans read slower aloud than they do quietly, you will be forced to slow down, look at, and enunciate the words more clearly. This extra time gives you the chance to make connections and do whatever you need to do to achieve understanding.
18. Reward yourself in little ways every time you have a break.
Be sensible about this one. Some people over-reward themselves by spending money they don’t have or playing a favorite video game for one hour after 15 minutes of study time.
Don’t be guilty of this, but do find little things you can “give” yourself for a job well done (in this case, studying for a full 30 minutes to an hour and mastering previously unfamiliar concepts).
As long as you are able to experience growth, you deserve some kind of reward. Think about taking a walk or getting a beverage from the refrigerator. Maybe one game of Crossy Road or Temple Run or the game du jour. Just don’t let one game turn into five.
19. Water and exercise: get plenty of both.
Water and exercise have positive effects on the body. With water, the extra hydration will allow normal kidney function, and it also aids other systems within the body to ensure you’re operating at full potential.
With exercise, your body releases endorphins that make you better equipped to focus and attain clarity. The combination place you in prime position for speed learning.
20. Rest well.
The body and mind needs rest to recover, and if you’re not getting enough sleep each night, then you are making it harder to achieve your full potential. Some people will tell you to get at least eight hours of sleep per night. As you get older, you’ll come to understand that is pie-in-the-sky if you want to make money and have relationships with people.
But you can get better quality sleep by using sleep calculators to only wake up at the end of REM cycles. That will ensure whatever rest you do get is complete. Just make sure you add about 15 minutes to the recommended time to account for the time it takes to fall asleep.
And the Final Speed Learning Tip: Eat right.
Garbage in, garbage out.
If you’re not eating right, then your digestive system and, subsequently, the rest of your body, is going to revolt.
Speed learning is a useful tool for anyone wanting to stay relevant in the 21st Century workforce. The sooner you can learn it, the better off you’ll be. What are some of your favorite tips we’ve covered here, and what did we leave off? Sound off in the comments section below!
[Featured Image by Udemy]