I have been learning how to learn for a couple of years now and it’s been an amazing journey so far. It’s tough to believe it has only been one year since I first started writing my blog. I have learned a lot about my brain in that time, some good and some bad things. I have found that the more I share my thoughts on what I have learned, the more I am able to grow and learn.
Here are my five recommendations for others who want to improve their learnings.
1. Get the right mindset
Open your mind to learning, this is key, the most crucial step. Without a desire to learn, or worse, thinking you’re too old, you’re too busy or other negative thoughts, you’ll be doomed to failure.
You need to be thinking about how much fun learning new skills will be. Believe that you can master new skills, believe that if you set your mind on something, you will succeed.
2. Learning how to learn
Everybody learns. From the cradle to the grave. It happens all the time and often we don’t even know that we are doing it.
So learning is natural, but it’s not always done consciously or with the technique and determination to enable successful learning. It could take a lifetime to learn a new language through a 2-week vacation every year of your life – on the other hand, if you decide you want to learn the language and apply yourself correctly you will master it much more quickly.
Head on over to Coursera for “Learning How to Learn: Powerful mental tools to help you master tough subjects“, it’s available for zero cost (unless you want the certificate of completion). You’ll be presented with a highly used and rated course that will set you on the best path for more effective learning.
3. Get a plan
As with so many things a little planning goes a long way to ensuring success.
So what’s in the plan? These are the usual things you need in your plan:
- An objective
- A schedule with milestones
State your objective using the popular SMART acronym.
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant
T – Time-based
And build a schedule, add calendar events for the times of the day you will spend time working towards your goals. These will act as reminders.
As with any plan, it needs follow-through, to be successful, you need to apply yourself, you need to commit. If you are a person who needs accountability, then make your objective public (or at least, tell your partner or friends, if you have a mentor, they will be the ideal person to help).
4. Record your learning
Spend the time to express what you’ve learned in your own words. You can do this as you go along making notes, summarising key concepts, and writing them down. This technique helps to improve learning over just reading alone. Taking this to the next step, verbalizing your summary and explaining the concepts to someone else truly helps clarify your own understanding.
5. Turn teacher
Your goal may have been to gain new knowledge and not to become a teacher, but if you knew that teaching your new material would help you retain 90% of your learnings would that sound worthwhile?
That’s right, teaching will enable you to retain 90% of your new knowledge – it’s extremely effective.
Practically, this could mean creating a webinar, a podcast, or writing a blog. If you have a friend that’s interested, you could prepare some slides or other convenient materials and teach in person.
The effort will be repaid in spades.
Learning to learn doesn’t have to be a huge task. Be proactive, open your mind and follow the steps I’ve described in this article. Most of all, enjoy the journey.