How to Learn Faster – Best Practices for Accelerated Learning
You can train your mind to go deeper and to understand new knowledge more fully. You can retain new information and have more detailed insights readily available if you learn how to learn better.
With these new capabilities, you will be able to work faster, develop more powerful insights, and better apply your thinking.
The shift can be dramatic, others will notice and new opportunities will open up to you. Being able to develop and express more profound thinking will change your life.
It’s common for people to hit a learning plateau at various stages of life — capping their knowledge progression and slowing or stopping their mental growth.
I’m sure you’ve seen people who have simply stopped expanding their minds. At a certain stage of life, they merely aged at that same intellectual level. A person can plateau and become stuck there for the rest of their lives.
Continual learning is available to everyone at remarkably little cost. The only requirement is a desire to learn, and some effort to dig in.
Once that commitment is made, learning how to learn most effectively will be a force multiplier on all of your learning efforts — delivering more and more mental horsepower at a faster and faster rate. Learning compounds.
So here we’re exploring how to dial up the leverage on your efforts to learn. And just as choosing to be a lifelong learner is a choice available to everyone, choosing to be a power learner with massive learning leverage is an equally available and equally free capability available to all.
In this series, we explore creating systems in our lives to perform better and achieve what matters most to each of us.
Power-learning is at the heart of this mission, it’s a massive force-multiplier — making every other action you take more effective and higher impact. It's a keystone skill.
So let's dive in.
1. Question Framing
The first step of learning effectively and learning efficiently is Question Framing. This is asking better questions up front and asking the right questions to set the learning in the clearest direction.
- Why do you want to learn this?
- What will this skill or knowledge enable?
- What is this area of study dependent upon? What is the foundational knowledge or experience or history this area is built upon?
- Identify foundational areas of knowledge.
- Is it worth digging into the foundations up front, or diving into the higher-level field right away? Can you explore them together?
Write out the questions and ideas that you want to learn upfront. This makes the learning more deliberate, intentional, and therefore more efficient.
- Handwriting them on paper is best.
- Then use the paper pad or notebook to jot out ideas you’re playing with. Use bullet points, diagrams, and mindmap-style layouts on the page. This is exploration time.
- Shift to digital tools for summarizing once you've zeroed in on the most important takeaways.
2. Information Capture ⇒ Note Making ⇒ Knowledge Alchemy
Second, as you read, turn information into notes. Then turn the notes into knowledge. This is the essence of a Personal Knowledge Management system, also known as PKM.
- Capture all ideas, information, and insight you encounter and research on a topic in a single place. This is your Digital Knowledge management platform — such as the Notion PPV Vaults we’ve discussed earlier on this channel, or another setup on Notion or any modern digital platform.
- Build a note & ideas supercollider ⇒ smash them together.
- My PPV Vaults System in Notion is optimized for this.
- Establish a system in Notion or any of the other digital knowledge management platforms.
- Watch the new ideas and accumulated knowledge pile up in designated spaces and digital containers such as the Knowledge Vaults described earlier in this video series.
- Apply that knowledge and insight across your life in various forms of expression or creation. These are core ingredients for new thinking and learning
3. Taking Action with the Knowledge
Third, acting in some form with the new knowledge and information will dramatically enhance your grasp and retention of it. It will also shape a multi-dimensional comprehension of it.
We can do this through a physical expression of the new knowledge.
I recommend a less rigid and more adaptable variation on the Feynman Technique — it’s a great set of principles, but people tend to take its steps too literally. The essence of the Feynman Technique is explaining in your own words and simplifying, potentially repeating this process over a few iterations.
We can explain or express what we're learning in several ways. You can use a combination of them:
- Diagram or Mind Map. I'll show examples in a moment.
- You can write it in your own words, simplifying the explanation to the extent possible.
- And you can explain verbally (or teach) in your own words, again simplifying it as you explain the principles.
And of course, along the way adding all of this new insight with your own phrasing within your Knowledge Vault or PKM system.
Here are some examples of how “taking action with the knowledge” would look in practice. This is how one might apply this approach to this topic of learning how to learn better, the subject of this video:
- One approach is to draw a diagram.
- Alternately, you can write it out in your own words.
- Verbally explaining as I have done in the video itself. I am in fact using this method at this very moment as I speak, not only sharing with you how to learn better but myself learning how to learn better by articulating it in this video, plus all the preparation and scripting I did in preparation for this recording. Which is kind of meta, right?
A. Pacing Variability
Fourth, we can introduce variability in our exposure to and interaction with the new material. This further embeds it in our minds and broadens our ability to access and apply it in more circumstances.
One way is to vary the pacing — do it faster and/or go slower. Speak faster. Draw faster. Mistakes and sloppiness are ok, it activates your brain slightly differently. Then do it slower.
Also, create sub-categories for the sections to change the pacing. Break it into pieces, organize the smaller pieces. Change it up.
B. Environmental Variability
Additionally, we can change our physical location or setting. Revisit and practice in a second and third location. Perpetually change the environment where you engage with the information.
Context variability forms deeper, stronger brain connections that are less dependent on the original setting. It also better enables you to apply it in new and unexpected ways as the changing context sparks a wider range of potential thoughts to connect with the new material.
Keep modifying the settings.
C. Distributed Practice (…aka... Spaced repetition)
And there’s Distributed Practice, also known as Spaced Repetition.
Learning is not a single act of studying or even practicing. It's doing so continuously. But to be most effective, it needs to have time gaps in between engagement on the topic — time for it to coalesce in your mind and to spread out the exposure. Continuously revisiting the material and concepts embeds it and builds the brain pathways that make it a part of your long-term memory.
Revisiting it with variances in the perspectives and use cases broadens your understanding and comprehension. Spacing out the exposure to the various perspectives and use cases and tangential concepts gives time for each to be explored fully. Then settle in as you reflect on it later doing other activities. Coming back deepens the brain pathways that hold it. Repeated exposure makes it stick.
5. Learn several subjects together — in parallel or in succession
Fifth — a powerful way to learn more faster and deeper is to explore multiple related topics at roughly the same time. Jump around between them. Connect the dots and look for overlap.
You can either do the topics in parallel, hopping around — or you can study one, then another, then the next in sequence.
- They will reinforce and enhance your understanding of each of them.
- This is consistent with the Systems Thinking approach we emphasize here, examining the other systems that your system is a part of.
- Exploring and learning-related areas either in parallel or one after another will deepen your memory and mental reference points to access the new information and ideas.
This approach is known as Interleaving.
“Interleaving” (as opposed to “blocking”) ensures that the practice of any particular skill is distributed, or spaced, because any two opportunities to practice the same task are not consecutive.” –Wiley Online Library
- Spaced learning enhances internalization and neuroplasticity — which is how the brain strengthens connections and enables stickiness of the new concepts.
- Interleaving facilitates your ability to differentiate between concepts or skills. Instead of rote memorization, you truly learn its nuances and variances — able to apply it and adapt it as needed to new thinking (rather than merely regurgitating it).
- You also understand its elements, instead of just seeing it as a single block.
- Instead of building muscle memory, you learn to apply it dynamically in a variety of situations.
…all of these are essentially the active application of the knowledge (or practice) under a diverse variety of conditions. That is how we learn best.
6. Get more sleep
And finally Sixth, to enhance the effectiveness of all these activities, it's essential that you are also getting sufficient sleep.
- During sleep, the brain “digests” and processes much of what it has been exposed to during the day. While sleeping, it solidifies into formats accessible later on.
- Getting proper sleep ensures that your brain will do this processing as fully as possible — delivering you more access and insight from what you ingested earlier in the day.
- Full nights of sleep and naps both serve this purpose. Numerous studies have consistently demonstrated this role of sleep in memory and knowledge formation.
- Sleep deprivation is the enemy of learning and internalizing what you have been exposed to.
You can see several patterns here:
- Reframe what you're learning by using your active, engaged mind in either your own words or your own visualization. Force yourself to re-state the ideas you’ve been newly exposed to with your own expression.
- Introduce variability to how you are consuming and re-expressing the new ideas and information.
- And ensure that your health is optimal for learning, starting with rest and extending into other aspects of energy optimization — we will explore many of these in future videos
With these conditions in place, you will be a power learner. As you compound knowledge and share insights with the world, opportunities open up and you will connect dots that you never even knew existed.
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