5 Methods to Learn Anything Faster
Today I’ll be talking about learning. Now, learning has been probably one of my main superpowers since I was a young adult.
Learning how to learn is one of the meta-skills that one ever really teaches us but that can have an enormous impact on our life in basically everything that we do. So, I gonna share 5 tips that I found really helpful that are evidence-based about how we can learn anything we want to faster, Let’s go.
Sharpen the axe
Now this is from a quote that’s attributed to Abraham Lincoln, where he famously said that
If you gave me six hours to chop down a tree, I would spend the first four sharpening the axe.
He is really talking here about the power of preparation and this definitely applies to learning anything as well.
Let’s say we’re trying to learn something like guitar or chess or anything like that. We should still spend a decent amount of time figuring out the meta-learning behind what we’re actually gonna learn like how we are going to learn anything.
Optimise your Focus
Now, whenever we’re learning anything it’s really tempting to kind of learn it in the background like practising the guitar while watching TV or something like that. Obviously, when we’re fully focused on the thing that we’re learning, our brains learn the thing a lot better.
So I found a few hacks that have been particularly helpful in helping me focus on things. 5 Minute Rule — which is a general tip for productivity as well, is that if we wanna do something and we’re feeling ourselves having difficulty starting out doing the thing, overcoming the activation energy.
The five-minute rule says, we just have to convince ourselves that we’re just gonna do the thing for five minutes. Another thing that’s really helpful is to just chuck my phone away and then I’m ready to focus and not be distracted by the thing that I’m trying to learn.
Figure out weak links
First, figure out weak areas and then use lots of drills and stuff to improve them. So if we use college as an example, I had a few subjects that I was pretty weak in. Mathematics was one of them. If you’d asked me what “Second-order differentiation” I have absolutely no idea.
So when it came to studying efficiently for exams, I knew that I have to drill the things that I’m weakest on. I spent just a whole day basically creating a one-page syllabus of just Mathematics, just focusing on that one subject.
The question I would keep on asking myself every day when I was sitting down to study was if the exam were tomorrow, what topic would I be least happy or the most pissed off about? Then I would just study that topic.
If something is too easy, we're not gonna learn anything at all. So if we wanna maximise the learning and learn anything faster, we wanna really hone down on our weak areas and try to operate at a decent level of difficulty.
This is a thing that in the world of studying is called Active Recall but it also applies to the world of learning anything in general. The idea behind the active recall is that we don’t learn by trying to put stuff into our brains, we actually learn when we try to take stuff out of our brains.
If you have that experience where you’ve read something in a textbook or on a website and someone asks about it a few days later and you’ve completely forgotten about it, that is just because you haven’t tested yourself on that knowledge.
The word ‘ Test ’ has all these negative connotations because we think of testing as like a school thing and we get graded and judged but if we move towards thinking of testing ourselves as being a strategy for learning, everything becomes so much easier. In the field of learning, there is this concept called ‘ Desirable difficulty concept ’.
When basically means some things shouldn’t be too hard, if I tried playing tennis against Roger Federer, it would be too hard. I wouldn’t really learn anything. But equally, if I were playing against a 10-year-old who doesn’t know how to play, it wouldn’t be fun, I wouldn’t learn anything because the difficulty is at two extremes.
I wanna be play tennis against someone who is ta my level or a little bit better than me because that is the real arena in which I’m gonna be learning. Learning is not supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be hard. If it’s easy then it means we’re doing something wrong.
Teach what you’re learning
We often have this thing of like, oh I’m not allowed to teach something until I became an expert at it. There is a concept ‘ Curse of Knowledge ’ that when we’re trying to learn something often we don’t learn best from experts, we learn best from the people who are just one step in front of us along that same journey. The way I think of it is that I would rather learn from the guide, than learn from a guru and I would rather be a guide than try and be a guru.
So now I have a general policy that whenever I’m learning anything, I’m documenting my process while learning it. It helps me learn better because I know that I’m possibly gonna be teaching this thing a few months or years from now.