3 Smart Ways to Be a Faster Learner

Oct 18, 2016 | Goal-setting

Numerous mega-moguls have spoken at length about how being a constant learner is a vital success ingredient. But sometimes, that’s a lot easier said than done during a hectic day.

Thankfully, science offers a some useful ways to be a faster learner. Start incorporating these into your day, and see just how quickly you start improving:


The Pareto principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule, was originally developed by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, when he discovered that 20 percent of the farms produced 80 percent of Italy’s crops.

Nowadays, productivity expert Tim Ferriss has popularized a modern approach to this rule for faster learning. He says you should focus first on the most important 20 percent of what you’re trying to learn, which will actually cover 80 percent of what you need to know.

Ask yourself: What are the most important elements that yield the biggest return on investment? For example, if you’re learning a foreign language–what 20 percent of words are used 80 percent of the time?

Change up your learning methods

Reconsolidation–the process in which memories are recalled and modified with new knowledge–plays a pivotal role in strengthening skills and learning.

A Johns Hopkins study found that “if you perform a slightly modified version of a task you want to master, you actually learn more and faster than if you just keep practicing the exact same thing multiple times in a row.”

Think about modifying your self-teaching techniques as you learn. If you use flashcards in one session, think about a more hands-on method the next time, or listening to a podcast or webinar. This will help your brain remember and recall information at a quicker rate.

Take notes the old-fashioned way

Princeton University and UCLA researchers found that taking notes by hand leads to more active listening and the ability to identify important concepts. On the other hand, laptop notes lead to more mindless transcription and open up more opportunities to check Facebook and get distracted.

The tip from this study is obvious: Ditch the typing in favor of plain old pen and paper. When taking notes, only write down what matters. Stick to keywords and short sentences in lieu of writing down notes verbatim.

Do you have any other ways to be a faster learner? Give me a shout-out on Twitter! 

If you liked this advice, be sure to check out my articles in Inc. Magazine and Medium. 

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