8 Easy Steps to Become a More Productive Learner PDF Print E-mail
Univetica Staff

Amid the myriad distractions of modern life, it can be difficult to find additional time to learn new things. While the abundance of information on the Internet is quite beneficial, it also presents new challenges for the mind, with numerous studies showing that technology may inhibit our ability to think critically1 and take in new information.

The good news is that deep, sustainable learning is still within reach if you have the necessary time, energy, and will power. Here are some 8 ideas for improving your learning process.

1. Invest time
We have grown accustomed to everything being instantly accessible, but the human brain still needs time to process information. If you try to rush through new information and don’t take the time to think and reflect upon it,2 it’s not going to take root, and anything you learn will soon escape your mind. While time-intensive learning may seem out of step with the modern lifestyle, investing time is vital to learning deeply.

2. Slow down
Productive learning requires repetition and reflection. Before new information takes root, it requires review, at least two or three times. It’s also crucial to think about what you learn to a point where it becomes integrated with your existing knowledge. There are no realistic shortcuts to productive learning.

3. Work in an organized space
Your surroundings can have a surprisingly powerful effect on your cognitive functioning. When you work in a cluttered space, your mind is liable to have extra background noise that interferes with what you’re trying to learn. When you work in a clean and clutter-free space, the mind will be less chaotic, meaning that there will be fewer barriers against new information.

4. Diversify your learning
Countless studies have shown that different areas of learning interact with one another in mutually beneficial ways. Examples abound: learning music helps with math,3 learning a foreign language improves critical thinking,4 and having knowledge about literature can deepen your experience when learning about science. Strive for a well-rounded education, and you will develop a brighter and more agile mind.

5. Focus
Your desk is the most natural place for reading and studying. The problem is that this is probably where you keep your computer, which means that the Internet is always just a click away. But if you want the things you learn to take root in the mind, it’s best to have will power and avoid trying to multitask as you’re studying. You need all your mental resources to absorb the new information. Distractions will just diminish your mental capabilities.

6. Write things down
From very early in our educational lives our teachers encourage us to take notes about the things we learn in class. It’s nice to have notes for future reference, but there is another reason why note-taking is such a crucial part of learning: when you write something down, it causes you to more deeply internalize that information,5 making it much easier to recall at a later time.

7. Talk about what you learn
We are naturally social creatures, and it often seems like our thoughts and feelings don’t become real until we have a chance to talk about them with others. This applies to new information that your mind is still working to grasp. What may start out as unformed, precarious knowledge can become deeply engrained when you discuss what you’ve learned with others. This causes you to think through the ideas behind the lessons, solidifying the concepts in a more meaningful way.

8. Don’t be afraid to be wrong
Nobody likes to be wrong, but sometimes venturing an idea only to be proven incorrect is a quick and efficient way to learn something.6 Even when you’re wrong, having at least a working concept about something indicates that your mind is engaged with that subject, requiring only some adjustments in your thinking. Getting something wrong encourages this process.

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