How to Learn Anything Quickly: 6 Basic Rules
Scientists have been studying for many years how to accelerate the absorption of new knowledge. Sean Kim, author of Entrepreneur, gave some tips on this topic.
How great it would have been to know Spanish three years ago… How great it would have been to understand investment when I was only twenty years old…
Many of us would like to be able to do much more than time allows us. And since there’s a lot of information online, we want to learn something new all the time. So the only variable we can control is the time we spend on learning.
Scientists have been learning for years how to speed up the learning process. These are the most fundamental of these rules that can help you quickly learn anything from a new language to business skills or playing a musical instrument.
- Don’t invent the bike.
When we have to learn something new, we often try to do it alone and underestimate how much time and effort can be saved by asking for help from someone who has already learned the subject or skill. Remember when you have studied something yourself. It was difficult at first, but after a few years or even months you understand what you were doing wrong, and you can advise a friend to avoid making such mistakes. So consult with leading experts in the field you need and use the path they have taken to success. And you don’t have to consult in person – if you don’t know the right people, read books, blogs, watch videos online. “Good artists copy,” said Pablo Picasso. – “Great artists steal.
- Dismember the skill…
It’s another life jack in terms of training. Divide the skill you need into the most fundamental parts. Choose the most important part – what you need to learn first. As we remember from the Pareto principle, 80 percent of results are achieved with 20 percent of effort. And it can be applied in any field – in business, in personnel assessment, in assessment of happiness or quality of travels.
This approach makes it clear that success in any area of life – including training – actually depends on a few specific things. Accordingly, our task is to identify those 20% that will give us 80% results. Speed learning experts have already adopted this approach. For example, Josh Kaufman, in his speech at the TED conference, says that you don’t have to learn 10,000 hours to learn a skill. It’s better to focus on the first 20 hours and learn the most important basic ingredients of the right craft to fit in at that time. Research into motor and cognitive skills shows that the first few hours of training always bring the most radical success.
- give up multitasking
We check our mail every ten minutes, look into Instagram feeds all the time or take frequent breaks to chat with colleagues. This is one of the main obstacles to fast learning.
Think about your computer. When you have 20-30 different tabs open in your browser, it starts to slow down and new actions take more and more time. Studies have shown that when we are distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to focus on the task again. However, as one study from the University of California shows, the average employee makes an effort of only 11 minutes – and then starts to get distracted.
This also applies to long-term concentration. Many of us are unable to spend 6-12 (or even more) months learning a new skill because of new projects, ideas, or hobbies that are constantly emerging. And when we decide to switch to something else, it is much harder to find the old interest and motivation to go back to the previous skill.
So once you’ve “picked out” the basic elements of the skill that will give you the best results, focus only on improving them and do not take up any other new subjects until you master them.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat.
This is the most difficult thing for most people. Many of us do not want to hear about the fact that fast learning requires practice. It requires regularity and perseverance in rehearsing the same skill over and over again, until you begin to do it subconsciously without thinking. Leading experts in many areas do this, but they say little about it because the emphasis on repetition is not fun. But it is this practice that provides mastery of skills, not some innate talents.
- Get feedback – and immediately.
In 1960, when the Beatles were not yet known to anyone school band, they went to Hamburg and played there in local clubs. They didn’t pay much there. The sound was terrible. The audience didn’t care about them. So what did the Beatles get from Hamburg? Many hours of non-stop concerts, practice and immediate feedback that forced them to get better and better. This is one of the key components of the Beatles’ success, Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book “Geniuses and Outsiders”. They practiced not just for the sake of practice – they sought to play in front of an audience that will immediately give them their criticism and their opinions. And the better they played, the more opportunities they got for this kind of feedback.
In 1962, they played eight hours a night, seven days a week. By 1964, when they became international stars, the Beatles had already played over 1,200 concerts together. Today, most bands have never played 1200 times in their entire lives.
- Count on the long distance…
Unfortunately, most of us drop new projects during what Seth Godin calls “recession” or even before that. Godin says that while in some cases it is important to finish a project on time, many potential winners do not succeed simply because they drop out too early. That’s how it happens:
- you run out of time (and you quit);
- you’re running out of money (and you quit);
- you get scared (and you quit);
- you don’t take it seriously (and you quit);
- you lose interest (and you quit).
Psychologists also describe a “transition cycle”: it’s a cycle that we go through during changes or some new event. At first, we experience the euphoria of novelty. That’s why we get so hooked on notifications from social networks, because every time dopamine is thrown out. But as soon as this “honeymoon” phase ends, we encounter a “decline”, our progress begins to slow down. That’s when most of us drop out of a new case. This is very important: if you can anticipate this downturn in advance when you learn something new, it is much easier to fight it. And more importantly, those who are persistent enough to overcome the recession are able to ride the new wave that is waiting on the other side.
So, the ground rules:
- Repeat to the experts, don’t invent the bike.
- Highlight the skill elements that bring 80% success.
- Forget multitasking.
- Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And look for feedback.
- Play long and remember the decline.