hello! I'm Marisabel! Marisabel
Category: upskilling

5 simple tips to learn almost anything more efficiently

Updated on 05.07.21

I began this blog to share my journey with learning. Learning takes time, and I am also passionate about sharing my tools to make every minute count. It is especially important, if like me, you are a mother to small children with many other responsibilities. Right now, I am still searching for a new job, but while I do, I am making every moment count into gaining new skills that would serve in my chosen path. 👩🏻‍🎓

Learning is an essential part of life, if not the most essential. However, isn’t it interesting how the places meant to teach do not teach you the most important thing? How to learn! I decided to share my top 5 tips for learning anything more efficiently. According to the subject, you will need to approach anything to learn from different perspectives. Most websites I found only focus on traditional methods that might or might not work for you. The tips I am sharing are just that, tips! You will need to find the methods yourself and adjust them to your learning style.

I also add extra links here and there to fun articles if you wish to dive deeper into any of the tips (I know I have for years!)

Let’s get right into it! 🏃🏻‍♀️

tip one: keep yourself healthy 🍎

This is the most important one. To learn anything, you need to be in top shape. You can memorize anything with enough time. But memorizing is not the same as assimilating knowledge. To process new information, you need to cover all the basics of human biology. 

  1. proper sleep: nothing about studying until 3AM. I never studied past 10PM in my life, and most days I aimed to study until 9PM. It allowed my brain to process all the new information by going through quality sleep stages.
  2. proper nutrition: if you are hungry or nutrition-deprived, your body’s focus will be on acquiring what you need to function and not on the functioning part. Chips are amazing, but they will not help your body focus on relaxing so your brain can take over. It will just ask for more and more. An apple, however, has proven to stop cravings and keep you healthy and awake! I have used this when trying to cut off coffee, and it works! Until I get bored with them. 😅
  3. exercise: surprise surprise! This one is a no-brainer (pun intended). There are many studies conducted on the benefits of exercise for almost anything, including cognitive functions. So get your sweat on before that test! Anything works. What matters is that you get your blood flow circulating so your brain can perform at its maximum potential.

tip two: cut it in pieces! 🧩

I am an advocate of living life small. With small steps, we build great things. With small bites, we savor a wonderful meal. With small moments we create great memories. With small gestures, we win big hearts. You get the gits.

The same applies to learning. Whether you are starting from nothing or building on present knowledge and skills, the best approach is to plan how much you want to learn and how often. That is called spaced-learning. You repeat this content three times during a period, allowing the brain to assimilate the information better. Try to do this with a big amount of content, and the chances are that in the end, you will remember about a third of what you studied.

Just as with the Agile Method, you need to create a plan of steps. What do you want to learn first, which you will need for something else? But be careful not to run into blocked practice! If you do not understand something after the third time, move on. Sometimes things begin to make sense once you can see how it works in the bigger context.

Learning takes patience and dedication. Consistency is the key. So do not feel discouraged! Reward yourself for those small sessions where you dedicate to and nurture your self-development.

tip three: hocus-pocus… focus! 🎧

Oh, it is hard! I know! Especially with so many things happening around us… eh… inside us… of the phone. You know what I mean, those nasty little bleeps! Focus is a dying practice, that thankfully, we are now trying hard to retain thanks to popular books like 📘 Deep Work by Cal Newport and 📙 Atomic Habits by James Clear. In my old function, they would call it “the zone”. I would set up my headphones with my hyper-focus playlist (hardcore music at a fast tempo to tackle repetitive tasks).

There are many things you can do to help you focus.

  1. have a designated learning space (it was hard for me. But once you assimilate a location to learning, it gets easier)
  2. have a designated time to learn. It can be 20 minutes, 30, 40, an hour. It is all up to you. My focus time is usually about 40 minutes before I start to zone out. When you begin to zone out, you know your brain is asking for a break. So let it zone out but away from the screen or the book. I will cover this at a later point. 👇🏻
  3. use sounds or music to aid concentration. Do not use lyrics or familiar instrumental music (like Disney or video games). These are a distraction, and what you want to do is bore your brain from paying attention to anything outside. You can accomplish this by using instrumentals with repetitive background noise, white noise, pink noise, brown noise, rainbow noise… you know what I mean. Your brain will find this boring and switch to what is interesting the learning! (Pink noise works best for me.)

tip four: rest it out 🧘🏻‍♀️

Do you know why babies sleep so much? They are processing all the new information about the brand-new world. Sleeping allows them to assimilate, and understand and later apply their newfound knowledge. I once tried to ask my toddler for a few days about his dreams (after introducing the subject to him). He kept repeating whatever he did in real life, memories. Sleeping is how we process memories and information. The same applies to learning!

Remember how I mentioned that zoning out is a sign to take a break? You need breaks! Real breaks. Not 5 minutes (I am pointing at you 🍅Pomodoro) If the Pomodoro technique works for you, that is fine. But let’s get real. Do you think five minutes is enough to go to the bathroom, get a new drink, stretch yourself and contemplate, and admire your efforts? Pomodoro is great, but it is great for task management, not for learning purposes.

5 minutes means “oh, now I can stop clicking for 5 minutes, so I will just browse on my phone.” 📴 It means you are not giving your brain a rest. Try to make it 15 minutes at least for difficult subjects, maybe 10 for easy ones. Whatever works for you! Just make sure it is enough to let yourself breathe and not too much to go down the rabbit hole of procrastination.

Set your resting time a limit, just as with your focus time. But make sure to make this time your own.

tip five: use it or lose it ✍🏻

That is true to learning any new skill. The reason you never forget how to bike is due to muscle memory. Muscle memory does not apply to cognitive memory. So you do need to practice what you learn consistently.

Easier done than said! ✅ Anything counts as long as you are applying the knowledge. You can journal about it, talk to someone about it, blog, collaborate in forums like Quora, test yourself finding random online tests, or even better, apply it to different scenarios in life! Like me with coding. The more I learn about algorithms, the more I can use logical thinking in real-life scenarios. Which I could not do before.

Whatever works for you! You can also use many note-taking techniques to apply this, but that is a whole different blog post in itself. So I will save it for later.

Good examples are:

  1. Learning a language? Read a book or watch a movie in that language! A children’s one if you are a beginner, young-adult if you are an intermediary, and documentaries and nonfiction if you are advanced. You can use writing too! (I am using that last one).
  2. Learning to code? Try to read someone else’s code and understand why and how it works! Make a simple, smaller version of it with the essentials to make it work!
  3. Learning to cook? Make cooking videos! It will force you to also act like a real chef. 😉

So there you have it. I hope these tips are useful for all of you out there, like me, at the start of new adventures! Learning and growing to new heights. Keep on learning and keep on sharing!

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with my learning process and share your thoughts and ideas with me. #iamopensource

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