I remember when I was younger how easy it was to learn. I could pickup a guitar and learn some basic chords in just a matter of days. I could speak a little Spanish after taking only a couple of lessons.
As we all get older though, it becomes not only more difficult to learn, but it also takes longer to learn a new piece of information or skill.
You can change this stat by using these 8 tactics that can help you learn faster.
1. Prepare to learn
“The first step in accelerated learning is to prepare your mind and your environment,” writes Mikael ‘Mike’ Olsson, founder of Siforia and author of the Handbook of book series. “If possible, find yourself a quiet, comfortable, and relaxing studying environment with few distractions, so that you can focus single-mindedly on your studies.”
Olsson also suggests that whenever you’re learning something new, “the first thing you should do is overview the entire subject that you are preparing to learn.” After that, “set a clear learning goal for yourself and schedule the time you believe it will take to achieve that goal.”
Remember, the “stronger your reason is for learning the subject, the more motivated you will be and the more you will remember.” Always take into account how this new knowledge or skills is going to improve your life.
Other ways to prepare yourself for learning is to exercise, meditate, and priming.
Why reinvent the wheel? There’s been hundreds, if not thousands of people who have mastered a skill before you. Use that to your advantage by copying them.
As Tony Robbins says;
“Many great leaders have proven that the fastest way to master any skill, strategy or goal in life is to model those who have already forged the path ahead. If you can find someone who is already getting the results that you want and take the same actions they are taking, you can get the same results.”
Robbin adds that no matter your age, gender, or background, "Modeling gives you the capacity to fast track your dreams and achieve more in a much shorter period of time.” You can achieve this through reading books or blogs, watching videos, or hiring a trainer or consultant.
My dad always said, "Stop inventing the wheel, it's been invented."
3. Change up your routine
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University have found that you can double how quickly you learn skills by changing up your routine.
Pablo Celnik, an author on the study, says, "What we found is if you practice a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row."
However, don’t change things up too drastically. For example, you won’t be able to perfect your golf swing by shooting hoops. "If you make the altered task too different, people do not get the gain we observed," Celnik said. "The modification between sessions needs to be subtle."
4. Lie to yourself
How many times have you sat down and tried to start learning something new, such as playing the guitar or cooking a new dish, only to get tired? It happens frequently. And, when we get tired, we push everything off until tomorrow.
Instead of letting this mental fatigue take control do things like eating a well-balanced breakfast, being in the moment, and smiling to overcome it.
Performance psychologist Noa Kageyama, Ph.D., says that, “researchers have found that learning actually continues for at least 24 hours after you have stopped practicing. In fact, a number of studies have found significant gains in performance 24 hours later – even with no further practice.”
The reason? Sleep.
Studies have found that sleeping improves motor skills. Also, people make fewer mistakes after a period of sleep.
How much sleep is enough? Around 3 hours seems to be plenty to make some motor skills improvement - that's not a nightly rate of sleep just a learning period minimum number.
6. The Pareto Principle
Also known as the 80/20 Rule, the Pareto Principle basically states that 80% of your results are going to come from 20% of your efforts. This theory can be used for just about anything in your life. In business, 80% of sales comes from 20% of customers. For time management, 20% of the hours you work account for 80% of your productivity.
When it comes to learning you can apply this principle so that you’ll breakdown the learning process so that you’ll focus on the most important components first. For example, if you wanted to learn a new language, you would start with the 20 most important words so that you’ll be able to survive 80% of daily interactions, as opposed to attempting to learn the entire language.
7. Stop multitasking
What happens when you have a lot of open tabs on your computer screen? Your computer runs slow and may even crash. That’s the same thing that happens when we try to do multiple things at once.
Even worse, multitasking means that you’re more prone to getting distracted. And when you get distracted while working on a task, it can take around 25 minutes to get back on track.
Do one thing at a time and set aside a dedicated time where you’re in a distraction free environment.
8. Practice and get feedback
In Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell argues that it takes about 10,000 hours of hard work to become an expert. For example;
“The Beatles ended up travelling to Hamburg five times between 1960 and the end of 1962. On the first trip, they played 106 nights, of five or more hours a night. Their second trip they played 92 times. Their third trip they played 48 times, for a total of 172 hours on stage. The last two Hamburg stints, in November and December 1962, involved another 90 hours of performing. All told, they performed for 270 nights in just over a year and a half. By the time they had their first burst of success in 1964, they had performed live an estimated 1,200 times, which is extraordinary. Most bands today don't perform 1,200 times in their entire careers. The Hamburg crucible is what set the Beatles apart.”
These early performances not only gave the band a chance to practice, it also gave them feedback from a live audience.