Have you ever noticed that some people effortlessly learn new concepts and materials while others struggle? Napoleon Bonaparte learned the names of thousands of his loyal soldiers. World champion chess players can replay games in their mind from years ago. I have often wondered how these intellectual marvels have accomplished such great feats.
Some were born with extraordinarily high IQ’s, but certainly not all.
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that will help you to learn faster, study better, and begin absorbing information like a sponge.
Here are 7 tips to get you started.
1. Teach Someone Else.
If there’s something you want to learn, try teaching it to someone else.
Traditional studying helps you to memorize ideas but teaching it to someone else forces you to truly ‘get’ all of the concepts and apply them to a number of solutions. To teach others you must anticipate any potential questions and explore the topic from all angles. Teaching others will dramatically increase your own understanding.
2. Write an Article.
It’s easy to learn about something in a book. However, it’s a completely different story to write an article or even a book about a particular topic. If you want to become an expert in the topic of your choice, write a book about it. This will allow you to explore every aspect of what you are learning. By writing about it you will soon begin connecting new ideas with things you already know, creating an interlinking web of knowledge.
3. Start a Blog.
Start a blog that talks about your experiences with a subject in order to increase your learning. I have found that starting my own blog has been the greatest learning experience of my entire life.
Writing a blog requires you to learn information backwards and forwards and then explain it in plain English to others. If you are looking to take your brain power to the next level, then I would highly suggest that you start your own blog.
It is sure to be one of the most intellectually stimulating activities you ever do.
4. Treat Your Body Well.
When you’re trying to increase your learning speed, you need to make sure you are feeding your brain – quite literally. The brain is a part of your body that requires plenty of fuel and oxygen in order to work efficiently. In the task of learning, you need to be feeding and treating your body well to maximize this process. This means that you should:
- Eat every few hours to keep your blood sugar levels up.
- Exercise on a daily basis.
- Try to relax a few minutes each day.
- Sleep at least seven hours each night.
- Stay hydrated with water.
- Eat a light lunch. Heavy lunches tend to make people drowsy. Instead, recharge with a light lunch and a power walk.
5. Learn with All Five Senses.
While everyone learns in different ways, we all began the learning process by seeing pictures and then translating them into ideas. From the earliest picture books, we were learning how to learn through our visual senses.
When you’re trying to learn something quickly, it can help to create a visual picture of the topic in your mind.
Draw it out on paper as well. It can be a picture, a graph, a chart, or just a timeline.
Keep adding to your mental picture as you learn more and recreate the picture in your head whenever you think of it.
However, don’t limit yourself to just visual pictures. Learn with all five senses.
For example, if you want to learn about Buenos Aires, the best thing for you to do is to book a trip, explore the city, take some tango lessons, enjoy the local cuisine, and talk with the locals. You haven’t learned anything until you have put it into practice in your own life. Engage in learning through touch, sight, sound, hearing, and smell.
6. Increase Your Motivation.
Motivation is the greatest memory enhancer. Think about all of the college students who pull an all-nighter to cram for a test. They have incredible motivation because they have done little studying before hand and now must absorb all of the information in one night. They can master the material because they want to. Actually, they have to. And this motivation kicks their learning into high gear. Unfortunately, cramming produces poor long-term retention.
If you’re not a procrastinating college student but still want to motivate yourself, then nothing beats a good reward. If you create a reward system that you actually look forward to, you will be able to learn faster in anticipation of that reward.
For example, if you study or work to learn a subject for so many hours or for so many pages, you might reward yourself with a trip to the store, some video game time, or perhaps your favorite TV show. Create whatever type of motivation works for you.
7. Learn While You Sleep.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to spend your sleep hours learning your studies simply by pressing play on the CD player? Yes, it does sound nice. Unfortunately, university studies have shown that you cannot during deep sleep or dream sleep, which makes
up most of your sleeping time.
However, evidence has shown that you can learn in the very light sleep that precedes deep sleep.
Keep in mind that this material must be limited to facts, dates, vocabulary and other objective material. You can not learn complex material during the first stages of sleep.
More recently, German researchers have found that by using electrical stimulation during a particular phase of the sleep cycle, they can improve a person’s ability toremember facts.
So, who knows what kind of new learning technologies we will see in the future.
Kim Roach is a productivity junkie who blogs regularly at The Optimized Life. Read her articles on 50 Essential GTD Resources, How to Have a 46 Hour Day, What They Don’t Teach You in School, and Free Yourself From the Inbox.
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.
More About Working From Home
- 10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home
- 7 Ways To Supercharge Your Productivity When You Work From Home
- 10 Work from Home Desks to Boost Your Productivity