How To Learn Anything (And Make It Stick.)

 
 

We spent over a decade of our lives in school, but no one taught us the best way to remember what we learn. You know better than to cram everything in at once, but did you know struggling is actually the key to learning? 

 

The New York Times reported that we only think we learn what is easily absorbed. Eg: You read an article in the paper, understand the concepts, and feel it has been added to your eternal mental repertoire. The more we struggle to grasp the material, however, the better our brains can recall information.

Whether it's your grocery list or rocket science, here's eight tips to make information stick.

1. Recall
Reading doesn't equate to learning. After you've gone through it once, pause the podcast, shut the book, and take a second to summarize the idea as if you were going to explain it someone else. You recall just 10% of what you learn from reading, but 75% of what you practice, and 90% of what you teach. Why? You make mistakes when teaching, forcing you to correct yourself and further ingrain the material. 

2. Re-read
The brain gets "stuck" when it encounters a new problem. This is why you find things you've missed when you reread. After you've recalled and understood the first chunk of info, go back for a second look to find new concepts. Repeat step 1.

3. Write It Out
Handwriting your notes helps the brain encode information more than typing. Yes, it can be a pain in the ass, but the struggle is what makes it stick. Bonus points for marking up the margins with summary thoughts and metaphors.  

4. Interleave It
Interleaving is a fancy word for "skip around." Read the new material, then go back and review something you've already learned, or jump between subjects. While we think traditional learning works better, studies show that individuals test better when using an interleaved method. While the latter takes longer, it'll be worth it in the end.

5. Leave The Library
Ever walk into the kitchen and promptly forget what you went in there for? Only when you go back to your starting point do you remember the purpose behind your journey. The brain associates material with its environment. So if you really want to know what you've learned, test yourself in a new locale.

6. Imagine It
Headed to the grocery store? Think of what you need and imagine each item lying somewhere around your living room: Milk on the sofa, broken eggs on your floor, pasta sauce on your TV. The more creative you get, the more memorable it will be. 

7. Pomodoro It
The Pomodoro Technique is simple, but it works: Set a timer for 25 minutes, shut off all distractions, and have at it the material. The most important part? The rules state that you have to take a break when time's up to avoid mental burnout. (Because you're curious, it's named after the tomato-shaped timer the creator used. Plus, I've now made this technique memorable for you, so ha.)

8. Live What You Learn:
The more methods you combine, (audio, visual, etc.) the more neural pathways you'll set and the better you'll recall information. So write it down, watch a video, and talk about it to anyone who's willing to put up with you.

Have another favorite tip or trick? Let me know at cat@catcastellanos.com