The following quick learning strategies strategies were originally shared on Quora by Mark Harrison, Will Stern, Robert Frost and Mark Chen. Most quick learners know this and are using them to consciously or unconsciously to learn better and faster.
“The key to quicker learning is to understand how learning happens and then taking advantage of that process. If we study how neurons work in our brains, we can reach two conclusions:
1. Learning occurs because of repetition.
2. Learners must connect new knowledge to previous knowledge in order to learn.
The first one is pretty straightforward. Repeatedly think about something and the neurons related to that something will grow dendrites and make associations with other neurons, making it easier for us to remember and recall that something, when needed. We all know how to learn or memorize by repetition.
The second is the more complicated one. Our brains store information by context and association based on existing mental models (AKA schema). If we want to learn new information successfully we need to either find an existing mental model that will associate with the new information or we need to build a new mental model in which the new information will fit.
The quick learner determines the analogous existing mental model or realizes when they don’t have an existing acceptable mental model and they back-off and build a new mental model before trying to absorb the concept that is new. Building new mental models can be done by outlining or mind-mapping.
Start with the central new concept and branch off to the key features of that concept. Keep branching off until you reach a point where you have existing knowledge that can connect to the new knowledge.
These are a few more ways to you can increase your ability to learn anything better and quicker.
1. Don’t start at the bottom, start at the top. Find the very best person in the field and follow what they say. If you don’t understand their words because they’re over your head, listen to them more – google their terminologies – until you do understand the world they live in. Compare your work to the best on earth, not to your peers.
2. Put yourself in a place that’s way over your head. Apply for a job that you probably won’t get…the failed interview will provide invaluable information as to what people value on the playing field you want to be on.
3. “Play with the big boys” any chance you get. Get addicted to the feeling of being the worst on the team. If you become the best, find a new place to work where you aren’t anymore.
4. Start a blog. Disseminate the valuable information you’re learning to others. The simple act of teaching will cause you to process the knowledge to a level of simplicity that greatly increases your understanding. Plus, any human interaction surrounding the knowledge – comments, arguments, corrections, will cause it to lock-in deeper into your memory.
5. Practice shorter, but more frequently rather than longer, but less frequently. A guitar student who practices 10 minutes every day will do far better than one who plays 2 hours once a week. The latter will simply keep re-learning much of the same thing each week, forgetting it by the next week. Your brain remembers the first and last things the most, so make sure to recap each “learning session” with the most important things you want to remember.
6. Finally don’t worry about time, learn something, and learn it well. Build your intuition – ask questions like, “Does this make sense?” “How does this fit in with everything I already know?” Make this a habit, and one day I guarantee someone will take you as a fast learner.”