Try These 9 Hacks to Help Learn New Things Faster

These science-based tips may sharpen memory.

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In the book The 5AM Club, author Robin Sharma, proposes waking up at 5 a.m. and dedicating twenty minutes every day to study. In his view, successful people are always eager to learn something new that will make them grow.

Being a fast learner can help us in many aspects of life, so here are nine scientifically-proven methods that can speed up the learning process.

Teach someone else or simply say it out loud!

According to research, “producing a word aloud during study, relative to simply reading a word silently, improves explicit memory”. This means that saying something out loud to someone else, or even to ourselves, can be a powerful way to improve memory.

Scientists have proved that “it is the dual action of speaking and hearing oneself that has the most beneficial impact on memory”. The reason behind is that learning and memory benefit from active involvement.


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Learn for short periods of time

Experts at the Louisiana State University’s Center for Academic Success suggest dedicating 30-50 minutes to learning new things, business magazine Fast Company shares. Less than 30 minutes is apparently not enough, but more than 50 is too much for the brain to take in at once. Frequency is better than length and short breaks are a must before starting a new study session.

Take handwritten notes, old-school style

Research shows students who take notes by hand remember more and have a deeper understanding of the material than those who take notes with a laptop.

In the second scenario, students tend to take more notes and include more quotes from their professors. But while typing notes on digital devices may sound more impressive, it actually doesn’t optimize information retention.

Those who took notes by hand “had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material than those who took notes with their laptops” the researchers revealed. Handwriting forces comprehension and retention through the processing of the information in a deeper way, Inc. Magazine details.

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Embrace “distributed practice”

Researchers believe that spaced-out study sessions allow for more durable learning and retention.

This method involves distributing several practices or study sessions on a specific topic over a period of time, as opposed to “cram sessions” which take place only once and tend to promote rote learning, Entrepreneur Magazine details.

Study, sleep and keep studying

Naps are key to retaining what we learn. Why? According to a study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, “getting some sleep in between study sessions may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you've forgotten, even 6 months later”.

Sleeping after learning is a widely known strategy for optimizing learning. But sleeping between two learning sessions has proved to boost that ability even more.

Young student taking a nap.

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Learn in new and different ways

We tend to study or practice in the same way, but a study shows that it’s best to change it up in order to learn a new skill.

“What we found is that 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.” Pablo A. Celnik, senior study author and professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation told Fast Company.

Connect something new to something you're familiar with

The more you can relate new ideas to concepts that you already know, the faster you’ll understand and incorporate the new information. This is how associative learning works.

Memory plays a key role in enabling us to apply previous knowledge to new problems, Entrepreneur Magazine explains. By making these connections,  it becomes easier to understand the new concepts even when we encounter them for the very first time.

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Take “brain breaks” 

For neurologist Dr. Judy Willis, an authority on learning related  brain research, “when students’ brains become anxious, highly confused, or overwhelmed”, she writes on education website Edutopia, “new learning no longer passes through to reach the prefrontal cortex and sustain memory.”

Therefore, brain breaks can really help to restore an optimal state that will enable information to flow successfully. All we need to do is switch the type of mental activity and focus on something new.

Take care of your body 

This study is among those showing that regular exercise can improve cognitive function. Additionally, another study reveals that staying hydrated is also essential to our cognitive functioning, allowing students to perform better.

And last but not least, we must not forget that even a short nap can improve memory recall given that sleep is when most of the memory consolidation process takes place, Inc points out.

Sporty woman sitting on the floor with sports equipment around her as she uses a laptop.