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Ongoing Learning

10 Habits That Help You Learn Twice As Fast

The quickest way to get smarter is to learn how to learn faster.

Chris W. Dunn

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The world is in constant change due to advances in technology, science, and innovation. What was considered “hot” a year ago may no longer be relevant today. Just look at all the new social media platforms that have sprouted since Facebook was created.

Despite all the good that change can bring, you have to keep up or you may get left behind. One of the best ways to stay competitive is to develop habits that can help you quickly learn new skills.

Here are 10 habits to incorporate into your learning to help you learn new material twice as fast.

1. Speed reading

We know that many successful entrepreneurs read as a daily habit. For example, Warren Buffett developed the habit of reading several hours every day.

The average reader reads at approximately 200 to 400 words per minute. The expert speed reader can do read 1 000 to 1 700 words per minute. It’s no surprise that there’s tremendous value in being able to read quickly and efficiently.

Speed reading encompasses skills such as chunking (reading groups of words instead of one word by one word), minimising subvocalisation (reducing the habit of saying the words in your head as your read), skimming (reading through a paragraph quickly to look for important and related information), and meta-guiding (using a tool such as a pen to guide your eyes in your reading).

Speed reading requires practice but once you instill the skill as a habit, you will be able to get through much more information within a shorter time period.

Related: Deon Herbst Of Enterprises University Of Pretoria On The Importance Of Ongoing Learning

2. Control your learning environment

Have you noticed that there are times in the day when you are in the flow and learning seems easy but then there are other times when nothing is sinking in and it feels like you are fighting an uphill battle? We all have biological rhythms for our sleep, body temperature and even peak mental state. Figure out when you are most alert and aware and use that time to do your learning.

Being in a fearful, disorganised and stressed state will also block access to your inner stores of creativity and intelligence. To put yourself in an optimum learning mode, choose a safe, reasonably organised, and comfortable environment. Take deep breaths to help you relax and focus.

There is also research indicating that varying the room temperature can also influence your ability to learn. Try to maintain your room temperature between 72 degrees and 80 degrees Fahrenheit in order to optimise your learning ability.

3. Take notes

Taking notes helps our brains to analyse and synthesise the information that we are learning. The very act of writing makes our brains think that we are undergoing a mini-rehearsal of the information.

Research has shown that making notes using a keyboard does not help students remember the information as well as writing it down. Writing is much slower than typing and when writing, we are forced to make quick judgments about the information that we are hearing. When we type on a keyboard, often we are not thinking about the information but merely copying it word for word.

To increase your learning speed, try to develop the habit of making hand-written notes.

I am a big fan of using tools like Evernote to sync all my notes across all my devices. It can scan and read written notes, and keep track of audio notes. This gives me confidence in the fact that I’ll never misplace an important note no matter how I decide to create the note.

Man-reading-and-learning

4. Combine all learning modalities

All of us have preferred learning modalities: Visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic (VARK). If you are a visual person, you will find learning a lot easier if you see the new material presented visually, such as through pictures, diagrams or PowerPoint. If you learn best by listening, then you will love podcasts, interviews, and audiobooks. Those with a reading or writing modality learn best when they can read the information and write down notes.

If you are kinesthetically-inclined, you learn better when you can use your hands and physically touch or try something out for yourself.

By understanding what your preferred learning modality is, you can speed up your absorption of information by choosing a learning system that supports your modality.

For even faster learning, combine all modalities. For example, if you are reading about coding skills from an article, read it out loud to yourself and draw a mind map while you are doing this. Then immediately try the code on your website.

Related: Breeze Website Designers’ Bongani Gosa On Learning From Mistakes

5. Create mental associations

You can shorten your learning time by creating mental associations to link what you already know to new information. Techniques such as using a familiar acronym or rhyme to help you remember different types of marketing sequences, using favourite colours to help you remember algorithms or visualising something interesting about a client to help you remember their name are all ways for you to create mental associations.

The more mental association techniques you know how to employ, the easier it will be for you to increase your learning speed.

6. Exercise your brain

A brain is just like any muscle in your body – the more you exercise it, the more effective it becomes. Try learning something new, set yourself a new challenge or use fun resources like BrainHQ and Lumosity to increase your attention, memory, cognitive abilities and brain speed. The more you train and exercise your brain, the faster your learning will be.

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7. Listen to alpha state-inducing music

We have four major types of brainwave patterns: Alpha, beta, theta and delta. Out of these, the alpha state (approximately eight to 13 Hz) is where our concentration is best and peak learning is easily achieved.

You can help your brain to enter into the alpha state by listening to music with a beat of eight to 13 Hz (such as baroque music) while you are learning. Even if you don’t like baroque music, you can use other types of music with similar beats. Try to avoid music with singing as lyrics can be distracting.

Related: Will.i.am: The Man Who Took Music to Mars

8. Modified practice after six hours

Malcolm Gladwell first popularised the concept of deliberate practice in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success.” Deliberate practice is practicing with intentional focus on skill improvement and focusing on growing out of one’s comfort zone. In his book, Gladwell uses the concept of deliberate practice to explain why some athletes and musicians improve so much faster than others.

More recent research has found that by modifying your practice slightly, you increase your learning speed, especially if you are trying to learn motor skills.

This is because the process of modifying your practice supports brain reconsolidation where existing memories are strengthened with new knowledge. The ideal time to do your modified practice is six hours after your first practice as the brain takes about six hours to do its reconsolidation work.

9. Get hands-on experience

Nothing beats learning like actual hands-on experience. Textbook knowledge transforms into something much more useful when we can combine it with practical knowledge.

For example, you can read as much as you want about share investing but until you actually buy your first shares of stock, you won’t understand what the process actually entails and what it is like to put real money on the line.

Another alternative is to fully immerse yourself in the experience of learning. For example, if you were trying to learn Spanish, spend a few months living in Mexico and don’t allow yourself to use any English while you are there. You will pick up the language a lot quicker than using audiobooks and textbooks.

10. Teach someone else what you are learning

When you teach someone else what you are learning, you retain approximately 90 percent of what you have just learned, especially if you do this immediately after learning.it yourself.

By sharing your knowledge with someone else, not only are you helping someone else but you will also discover quickly how well you know your subject and discover any gaps.

Build these ten habits into your learning and you will be amazed how quickly your learning speed will increase.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Chris Dunn is an entrepreneur, digital currency trader and advocate, author, real estate developer and angel investor. He is the founder and CEO of Skill Incubator, which helps entrepreneurs and investors develop valuable skills. He is also the host of the Pathways To Wealth podcast.

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1 Comment

  1. benjaminsaccaggi

    Aug 12, 2016 at 13:05

    Thanks for the great read, very succinct and informative. I like ‘teach someone else’, though I do it less formally by consciously discussing what I’m studying with my friends. It helps keep our conversations interesting, and lets me relate to the information in a more relaxed manner.

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Ongoing Learning

15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Improve your outlook, boost your marketability and get a leg up on trends with these digital lesson sessions.

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Real-world experience is the world’s best teacher, but there’s a wealth of knowledge online to help teach ourselves what we don’t have the opportunity to learn from a mentor or navigating life itself. With the help of online courses, we can apply some structured guidance to how we approach our interpersonal interactions, entrepreneurial pursuits and even the way we think. These hyper-focused, organised lesson plans can help us hit refresh and streamline our paths to success.

The following list of online courses covers a range of subjects, some but not all of which have a direct tie to running a business. From AI to VR to happiness to time management, entrepreneurs need to master a wide range of skills.

Most of the courses below come at an cost (often low), though some offer free temporary access to videos and other materials. Read on for an overview of 15 of the best courses out there for entrepreneurs who are lifelong learners.

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Ongoing Learning

6 Free Courses That Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur

Outlined below are some of these courses you can take that will help you to become a more successful entrepreneur.

Amy Galbraith

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Becoming a successful entrepreneur is something that takes a lot of hard work and requires unique skills. However, it can be difficult to achieve this if you are unsure of where to start in building your career as an entrepreneur. You should look into taking courses from skills development companies that can help to develop your entrepreneurial skills and other qualities.

Outlined below are some of these courses you can take that will help you to become a more successful entrepreneur.

  1. Finance and accounting
  2. Business management
  3. Marketing
  4. Business writing
  5. Time management
  6. IT courses
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Ongoing Learning

Why Reading Is The Most Important Tool In Your Arsenal

Every great entrepreneur reads — voraciously. If you’re serious about success, it’s time to jump on their bandwagon.

Allon Raiz

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I hated reading as a kid. I hated reading as a teenager. I even hated reading in my early 20s. And then came In Search of Excellence by Robert H Waterman Jr and Tom Peters, which I was given as a birthday present in 1985. It sat on my shelf unread for seven years. In 1992, at the age of 25, I pulled the book off the shelf and began to read… and I’ve never stopped.

The irony is that In Search of Excellence has since been largely debunked, with the lessons it taught regarded by some as fraudulent. Regardless, I found this reading experience incredibly helpful as I tried to apply the book’s lessons in my first entrepreneurial endeavour, the New York Sausage Factory.

I am fascinated by the correlation between successful entrepreneurs and their obsession with reading. Warren Buffet estimates that he spends 80% of his working day reading, while Bill Gates and Elon Musk are famous bookworms. Self-made millionaire and author, Steve Siebold, has interviewed over 1 200 of the world’s wealthiest people and says one of the first things you’ll notice in a wealthy person’s home is an extensive library of books.

All the entrepreneurs I mentor personally are now required to go on a strict diet of one business-related book every two weeks. Any who fail to comply very quickly land up as one of my ex-mentees.

So why is reading so important for entrepreneurs?

1. Opens your mind to new concepts

We are the sum of all our experiences. Books open us up to the experiences of others, too, and show us — conceptually — how they have overcome some of the problems they’ve encountered. This can broaden your arsenal of tools to manage the future. An example of this was when I read The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber. This book completely reshaped my respect for documenting processes; something that permeates Raizcorp today.

2. Reinforces old concepts

We all know how lonely the entrepreneurship journey can be. When reading about how others have overcome obstacles or used a certain ‘formula’ as part of their strategy, it is very affirming when you discover that you are using the same ‘formula’ and it encourages you to continue pursuing that strategy. For example, one of the rules at Raizcorp is that we don’t do training only, and we don’t engage with anyone before they have passed our selection process. Very often, there has been a temptation to relax the rules for the lure of a big contract. It can become a lonely space in your mind when wrestling with that decision. But, when you read about other successful entrepreneurs who have stuck to their principles despite a commercial sacrifice and still succeeded, it encourages you to remain true to your own.

Related: Why You Should Be Reading More Fiction And Watching Less News

3. Apply what works for you right now

The saying that the master appears when the student is ready is particularly applicable to reading a book. You can read the same book at two different periods on your entrepreneurial journey and take away completely different lessons. A healthy way to read any book is not to believe it, but to use it as information that may become applicable to your particular situation. Every entrepreneur’s journey is different and every context is different, so it’s important for you to filter and discern the most important information for you to use or adapt.

4. Cheap learning curve

It’s said that nothing teaches you like experience. The only problem with this is that experience generally costs you money or pain. By reading other people’s experiences and thoughts through their books, you can identify different patterns that are replicated time and again. There is a strong probability these lessons will apply to you, too, and I would always err on the side of this ‘wisdom’. If you’ve read 20 books that all reinforce the importance of spending more time on selecting your team, you would be wise to devise a strong selection process even if you haven’t had an issue with this previously.

5. Great way to connect

Recently, I was sitting on an overseas flight and noticed the person next to me was reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. I had also read the book and loved it. I used the common experience to open up a conversation that subsequently led to a deal. Even if I haven’t read the book someone is reading, my genuine curiosity about whether the book is valuable or not can be a way of connecting with a random stranger. If they are reading a business book, it’s highly probable they are in business themselves, which increases my chances of widening my business network.

Pulling it all together

Reading books is not for everyone but, with apps such as Audible and a pair of earphones, nowadays you can have someone read to you. I never travel in my car or on a plane without an audiobook playing away. I find myself pausing the book and allowing my mind to wander as I reflect on and synthesise what I’ve just heard with a view to how it could be applied to my own business. Every book I have read has provided useable nuggets that have been instrumental in driving my business forward, and I believe they can do the same for you.

“Warren Buffet estimates that he spends 80% of his working day reading, while Bill Gates and Elon Musk are famous bookworms.”

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