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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.

music-development-earphones

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 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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Company Posts

Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Company Posts

Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Entrepreneur Today

How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?

A new study reveals individual fear that their skills will outdate and a growing need for lifelong learning.

Andrew Johnston

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A research report by MasterStart has found that just 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in ten years’ time. With the burgeoning Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to ‘future-proof’ their careers. And for 95%, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy.

Related: 15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Based on a survey with a sample group of over 1000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that – while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar – other factors are currently seen as more immediate factors impacting job retention.

Andrew Johnston, CEO of MasterStart says, “Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable.

In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible in order to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Some pivotal findings in the report included:

  1. It’s tough out there: 80% of the sample believed the job market to be tougher now than it was ten years ago. People in media and marketing especially agreed with this (92.9%), along with those in the manufacturing (87.9%) and financial services (87%) industries.
  2. Why’s it perceived as so tough? Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.
  3. Age and lack of skills are the biggest barriers: While age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those over 50 – in the 18-24 and 25-34 year old brackets, lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.
  4. People in IT and tech felt most secure about their skills: Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by lack of skills. 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the ten year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.
  5. We’re not yet comfortable sharing our workloads with robots: Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

Whilst the Barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, positively, people were putting plans in place to learn further to acquire the skills they need.

It was good to see that 80% of respondents were planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%). 58% of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.

Johnston says, “This shows a workforce that’s committed to continuously learning the new hard and soft skills that’ll entrench the adaptability required to survive the breakneck pace of the workplace.”

Those that had already studied listed the ‘big gains’ as being:

  • Tangible results: like a salary increase, promotion, skills (to be more marketable), more experience and more opportunities.
  • Higher performance: like better knowledge, keeping up-to-date, better understanding of the way the workplace works, faster completion of tasks, and having to employ fewer people as they had the skills themselves.
  • Better motivation and soft skills: like being better at dealing with people, the ability to explain concepts to clients, and overall improved communication skills.

Johnston concludes, “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the rise of automation – having a sought-after skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.  This means using learning to get to grips with AI and RPA in order to build efficiencies and one’s overall value-add.”

He says we also need to consider providing alternate adult education programmes to give young people the best chance of gainful employment, “It’s important we make ongoing online learning materials easily accessible in ‘snackable’, bite-sized pieces to make learning easier.”

Lastly, he believes a lot of learning is up to corporates, “Providing ongoing executive-level education grooms great leaders and provides turn-key or customised solutions to bridge big capability gaps to foster greater efficiency, productivity and profitability. Our research shows that South Africans are hungry to learn – so companies that provide this opportunity will have a greater chance of talent retention, and attraction.”

To find out more, access the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer report here.

 Related: 6 Free Courses That Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur

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