How To Learn Quickly

From learning to walk and talk as an infant, to using a Bluetooth speaker as an adult, you would be hard pressed to find someone who can say they have never had to learn anything. At some point or another, new information is introduced to us, and it becomes our job to understand and learn what we can from it. After all, learning does not start or stop within the classroom, it is a lifelong journey. Inevitably, in the near future, you will have to learn something, and the best thing you can do to help your future-self is to take a deliberate, intelligent approach to learning using our top 5 tips. You might even learn a few hacks and shortcuts along the way!

1. Stop Multitasking

Your computer will struggle to run efficiently with 30 browser tabs open, music playing, and someone on Skype reliving the latest Game of Thrones episode. It will begin to slow down, get overheated, and (if it’s Galaxy Note 7) may even explode. The same goes for your brain: stop trying to do so much.

In her book “Ignite Student Learning” Judy Willis says, “information about the world enters the body through the senses”. Watching TV or having your smartphone within reach are learned habits that distract your brain from the task at hand. To make sure that you are maximising your learning time and focusing on the task at hand, avoid any distractions or irrelevant stimuli. With just a little discipline, multitasking will be a thing of the past (unless you’re looking to become a juggler, in which case, multitask away!).

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2. Look after your brain

Just like any other muscle in your body, your brain can be overworked. Pushed beyond its usual working limits, it becomes fatigued and try as it might, it stops performing at its peak. It can be frustrating knowing you need to learn something urgently, but your brain can’t seem to retain anything. The only solution to a sleepy, overworked, or hungry brain is to treat it well.

Never underestimate the importance of eating well, and getting enough sleep and exercise when you’re looking to learn things faster.

Mimma Mason, Social, Emotional and Cognitive Learning Specialist that “the neurotransmitters that facilitate new brain connections are produced in abundance when our bodies get the right amount of exercise, nutrition and rest”. If you’re looking to produce more brain connections, make sure to take care of your brain. After all, it’s your best friend in the learning journey (along with a good nap).

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3. Get yourself a mentor

When learning a new skill, the first step is to learn from the mistakes and successes of others. Do you think Da Vinci was left completely alone in a room as a small child with some assorted paints and suddenly emerged with the Mona Lisa? It would have made a great movie starring Chris Hemsworth, but the truth is that the Renaissance artists of the past enhanced the speed of their learning by following their mentor. Your mentor has already done all of the work before you, so let them guide you on the right path.

The first mentor you might want to adopt is Da Vinci himself. He wanted to learn something so he became an apprentice, and set out to learn all he could from Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Find someone who knows more than you do; as their advice will catapult your learning forward, and you could create your own Mona Lisa.

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4. Deconstruct and eliminate

Although it sounds a little threatening, the next step to learning faster is to create a deconstructed list of what you will need to learn, and then eliminate anything extra. A good place to begin is by applying the Pareto Principle, which "describes a goal of generating 80% of results by putting in 20% of the effort”. Management consultant Joseph M. Juran first suggested the principle and named it in honour of Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto discussed the 80/20 connection in his first paper "Cours d'économie politique", observing that approximately 80% of the land ownership in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. By acknowledging that it is the 20% that gives the 80% result, one can apply the Pareto Principle into their learning journey. Create a list of the components you will need to learn, and then identify which items you need to learn right away. Discover which 20% of the material will give you 80% of the knowledge you are seeking.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he deduced that the requirement for those perceived as masters or the elites in their field all had one common trait: they had all undergone at least 10,000 hours of practice. However, the Pareto Principle suggests that 20% of this effort is responsible for 80% of the results.

By applying the Pareto Principle to this concept, you wouldn’t need 10,000 hours of practice; although you might need the 10,000 hours if you want to be an Olympic athlete, and if you do, go for gold! As Josh Kaufman discussed in his latest TED Talk, it’s the first 20 hours of learning that will give you the most crucial, fundamental skills you will need. Master the fundamental 20% and the other 80% for your Tokyo 2020 debut.

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5. Repetition

Although it may be the least enjoyable way to learn, repetition is the most crucial part of learning. Information becomes firmly stamped onto your brain when you repeat, repeat, repeat. As Mimma Mason puts it: “The more you practice something, reinforce those pathways, the stronger the connections and the more likely it is that you speed up learning”. Copying notes, making flashcards, reading aloud, are all incredibly effective ways you can alter the learning curve in your favour. Never again underestimate the power of repetition in learning.

Improving your ability to learn is a spectacular way to prepare yourself for future tasks and challenges, and allows you to understand and retain new information in an efficient and effective manner. Work, study, and learning new recreational activities will become easier to conquer and your brain will thank you for it.

By holding off on multitasking, taking care of your brain, and asking for advice from your mentor, you can help yourself approach information with fresh eyes and a clear mind. Remember to deconstruct the skill you are learning, and that your greatest friend in learning will always be repetition. Switch up your learning style with these tips and watch the learning curve shift in your favour.


To learn more about scientific methods of learning, continue onto our article Working Memory 101 by Jarad Horvath.

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