Learning Strategies That Actually Work: Boosting Your Learning Efficiency

Syeda Zahirunisa
July 6, 2023
5 min read

Life is all about constantly learning new things and striving to grow and acquire new skills every single day, no matter how small. It is not only the speed of learning that matters; but also important to remember information accurately, recall it later, and use it effectively in various situations.

Whether you're learning a foreign language or trying to improve your math skills, it takes time to understand and learn each lesson. In these kinds of situations, knowing effective study techniques empowers you to make the most of your available time, ensuring that you maximize your potential and knowledge while acquiring new ideas and concepts.

So, what are learning strategies and how can they help you make the most of your time and learn faster?

What are learning strategies?

Before we explore the different types, let's understand what these strategies are and how you can use them to your advantage. Learning strategies are methods we use to acquire new knowledge and ideas. Their main goal is to help us extract information from a specific source and learn how to apply that knowledge in practical situations for our benefit.

Many of us already use some of the techniques and strategies without even realizing it. For example, we often use the blurting method (explained below) as a revision strategy. We can incorporate several easy learning techniques or study strategies into our lives, and they can have a significant impact on our learning process. So here are a few effective strategies on how to learn faster and remember more:

The learning strategies

Learning strategies

1. Second brain

Every day, we come across numerous interesting things around us - on our phones and computers, in books and newspapers - and make a note (physical or mental) of this information. However, when we actually need this information, we struggle to remember it.

Having the correct information at the right time and the right place is the key to achieving anything. For example, when you forget an important fact you read a while ago and didn't save it anywhere for your reference, building a second brain can help you out. Let me explain briefly.

Tiago Forte's latest book, Building a second brain introduces a productivity hack that involves actively saving any useful information you may require in the future. This could include various things such as quotes and ideas from books and movies, helpful screenshots, voice memos, web pages, documents, and much more.

Build a second brain

The whole process of building a second brain goes by C.O.D.E - Capture, Organize, Distill, Express.

  • Decide what you want to capture, from personal to job-related info.
  • Choose an organization app like Google Keep, Notion, Coda, or Roam Research for notes, tasks, to-do lists, etc., like a digital commonplace for storing/writing info.
  • Capture useful information in one place before deciding where to put it.
  • Organize the collected information by creating pages and sub-pages, similar to creating boards on Pinterest.
  • Distill and highlight the important stuff after organizing.
  • Express and output the collected information stored as inputs.

This method saves time and effort, prevents information overload in your brain, and frees up your mind for creativity and productivity.

2. Blurting method

As mentioned before, many people find blurting a useful method for revision and learning. Blurting is a simple and quick way to understand and learn things. In this method, you read through the material or content, such as notes, topics, or presentations, and then put away your notes. After that, you assess how much you know and remember by writing it down.

Practice blurting method

The main purpose of the blurting method is to identify your areas of weakness and work on improving them. It helps you save time in the future by avoiding the need to revise things you already know. This technique utilizes the active recall method, which is a proven and effective approach for studying and ways to improve memory recall. 

3. Feynman technique

“I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there.” – Richard Feynman

Richard Feynman was a Nobel Prize-winning physicist known for his contributions to quantum mechanics, quantum electrodynamics (QED), and particle physics. 

Richard Feynman
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Feynman technique simplifies learning complex concepts and helps you understand them deeply. This is one of the most effective ways to learn and it consists of four simple steps to grasp a concept thoroughly.

  • Choose a concept to learn - Choose a topic, write what you know, keep learning and writing to deepen your knowledge.
  • Teach it to yourself or someone else - Try to simplify the topic and test your understanding by explaining it to yourself or another individual.
  • Review and understand - Identify areas of weakness, revisit and delve deeper for better comprehension.
  • Organize and simplify - Simplify your notes and explanations to make the topic easier to understand. Also, use easy-to-understand comparisons to help illustrate the points.

4. Retrieval practice

Retrieval practice is a learning strategy where you actively remember information from your memory instead of just reviewing it. It helps you learn better and train your memory to remember things for a longer time.

You can practice retrieval by testing yourself, using flashcards, taking practice exams, summarizing information from memory, or explaining concepts to others.

Learn using flashcards

When using this technique, you actively recall information by answering questions, solving problems, or completing tasks related to what you're learning. This strengthens the connections between different facts in your brain, making it easier for you to remember them later on and improve long-term memory.

5. Leitner system

Sebastian Leitner, a German psychologist, developed the Leitner system in the 1970s. It is a widely-used method for long-term memory retention. This learning system utilizes flashcards, which are organized into various boxes or groups according to your familiarity with the material. Each box corresponds to a different level of knowledge, ranging from Box 1 (containing new or unfamiliar information) to Box 5 (consisting of well-understood concepts).

Here's how the Leitner technique works:

  • Begin with flashcards in Box 1, and go through or recall them individually.
  • After you review a flashcard, verify if you answered it correctly. If your answer is correct, move the flashcard to the next box (Box 2). If your answer is incorrect, return the flashcard to Box 1.
  • Move to the next box and repeat the whole process.
  • You may review Box 1 daily, Box 2 every two days, Box 3 every five days, and so on.
Leitner system
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Leitner system optimizes your study time by allowing you to focus on challenging cards and reduce the time spent on easy ones or those that you know well. It makes learning easier and more effective.

6. Pomodoro technique

Have you heard about the Pomodoro Technique? Francesco Cirillo invented this clever time management method in the late 80s. It aims to improve productivity and focus by dividing work or study sessions into 25-minute segments called "pomodoros." Here's how you can use it:

  • Identify a task and set a goal to work on it. 
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes, which represents one pomodoro.
  • Work on the goal, and focus solely on the task for 25 minutes. 
  • Once the timer goes off, take a small 5 to 10 minute break.
  • Repeat the cycle.

The pomodoro technique

With the Pomodoro technique study, you can maintain your motivation and concentration by breaking your study or work sessions into smaller parts and taking regular breaks, which prevents burnout, improves productivity and helps you learn/study effectively.

To summarize, In today's fast-changing world, where information is easily accessible, learning effective study techniques and strategies to improve memory is crucial. By incorporating these strategies, we can continuously learn, adapt to new challenges, and grow our knowledge and skills. These strategies optimize your study time, improve your understanding and retention of the subject matter, and ultimately lead to better results.

However, different people learn in different ways, and what works for one person may not work for another. It's important to remember that everyone has unique learning preferences and study strategies that work best for them. You may need to experiment and reflect to find the strategies that resonate with you. Consider factors like your own traits, the subject you're studying, and the environment you're in when choosing how to learn.

Ultimately, effective study strategies empower you to take control of your education, making the process more enjoyable and rewarding. By embracing the right learning strategies, you can maximize your learning potential, adapt to new challenges, improve your academic performance, and cultivate a love for lifelong learning.

Syeda Zahirunisa

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