Did you ever wonder – why some people are smarter than you? How do they solve difficult problems so easily? How do some people remember little things so vividly? How do they do it? What are their secrets? Let’s find out.
Our brain is a magical place and many of its operations are still unknown. But thanks to science for bringing out some of the most valuable secrets of how it operates and we all can use them to learn faster and more effectively. We will go into details about how to learn effectively in a moment but first, let’s get ourselves familiar with the two fundamental operational modes of our brain – Focused Mode and Diffused Mode (also called Default Mode).
When we’re deeply concentrated on something our brain works in this mode. In focused mode-type thinking our brain prefers to follow the known patterns or paths for finding solutions to the problem we are trying to solve. For example: Let’s assume you already know how to do multiplication. So, when you try to solve a multiplication problem and you’re in focused mode, the brain would look for an already-existing pattern (path) to follow and solve the problem.
Diffused Mode (Default Mode)
It’s our default mode of thinking. When we’re relaxed or not focused on something we’re in a diffused mode of thinking. This mode comes into play when we’re trying to learn something new. For example, You know multiplication but not division. Now you’re trying to learn how to solve division problems, put your brain in diffused mode. Also, When we are trying to solve a difficult problem and are stuck we tend to keep focusing and focusing on it. It isn’t the best thing to do. Instead, you should relax and turn on your diffused mode of thinking. So, you have to switch between modes for better and more effective problem-solving and learning capability.
We are smart yet there are some “Smarter” people who are better at the stuff they do. So, what makes them smarter? How do they learn and not forget? How do they solve problems faster than others? Are there any proven scientific methods that we can follow? YES!!! Here are some of the most effective methods that you can follow to learn anything and become great at them –
Take your time to learn
Our brain doesn’t work like “Click and Save”. It takes time to develop the neural scaffold that is involved in learning and new thinking processes. So, take your time and learn slowly. Now if you’re thinking there might be a slight chance that I can procrastinate then follow the next point.
Often, when we’re learning something we don’t enjoy we procrastinate. And if it becomes a habit can be detrimental to our life. So, what is the most effective way to avoid procrastination? The “Pomodoro Technique“. It was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique works like this – set a timer, say for 25 minutes, remove all distractions around you and work with focused attention for those 25 minutes straight. Then, when you are done, reward yourself. You can surf the web, take a walk or do whatever you feel like doing and it’s very important. Because some aspects of learning take place during the relaxed process.
Learn and sleep
Yes, sleep is an integral part of our learning process. Because it allows our brain to function more properly. When we learn something and go to sleep that’s when the new synaptic connections in our brain are formed. So you have to have many short learning periods and sleep, learning, sleep and that’s helping you to build that neural scaffold that helps you learn so much better.
To learn and retain that information for a long time, do regular exercises. It helps your brain to grow new neurons and is essential for the learning process. Now, you don’t have to be an Olympic weight-lifter or a marathon runner. Even simple walking can be very very effective.
Practice through spaced repetition
Practice Makes Permanent. The best way to hold the information we’re learning for a long time is to practice. If we practice regularly the things we are learning, they get embedded deeply into our long-term memory. The best way to save information effectively in your brain is to practice through spaced repetition. For example, you can practice on Sunday and Monday and take a break on Tuesday, practice again on Thursday and Friday, and take a rest on Saturday. Spaces between those practices help your brain grow new synaptic connections inside your brain and retain what you’re learning for a long time.
Understand your materials
Understanding what you’re learning is very important. It helps you solve new problems and hold what you are learning for a long time. To improve your problem-solving skill and effectively learn something you should understand the materials clearly.
Consume information in chunks
Chunking allows you to take smaller blocks of information and combine them into something meaningful. By separating disparate individual elements into larger blocks, information becomes easier to retain and recall. For example, it’s easier to remember a phone number ( say 995978937) by grouping or creating multiple(3) chunks of digits like (995) – (978) – (937).
Tests are the best
You may spend hours studying something but if you take tests you can learn more quickly. So make tests an integral part of your learning process.
Try to recall
It’s a very effective way to learn and neurally encode the information in your brain. After you read something try to write or recall what you just learned.
Discuss what you learned
To get a deep understanding of the materials you’re learning, discuss them with your classmates, friends, or colleagues. Try to explain in a way so that a 10 years old can understand. This allows you to understand the materials more deeply and correct yourself if you misunderstood anything.
Get inside the problem
When you’re trying to understand a difficult problem get inside the problem so that you can see and understand the problem more clearly. It will make you a better and more creative problem solver.
Believe in your abilities
Sometimes we feel insecure about our abilities. We think that we are not as good as others and this is called “Imposter Syndrome”. When you have this kind of feeling just remember that it’s very common. Even the smartest guy in the room also feels the same way.
Broaden your passion
Our passion develops about what we are good at and some things take much longer to be good at. So, don’t just follow your passion, be patient, explore and learn new things, broaden your passions and your life will be greatly enriched.
These are the proven scientific principles of effective learning which helped many well-known geniuses in the past. They either used these principles consciously or subconsciously and became great at what they are known for. Now you know their secrets and no one stopping you to become one of them. So, Happy learning!
I’m very grateful to Barbara Oakley, a great personality and professor of engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan for valuable information about effective learning. You can see her talking about how to learn here.