There’s no doubt that learning should be an important part of your life if you want to expand and grow.
Setting about to learn something new or at least improve what you already know every single day is a commitment worth making to yourself.
But what about when you’re short on time and overwhelmed with other obligations?
In the previous episode I taught you 11 Benefits of Learning Something New.
And in this episode, as promised, I share how to learn anything more quickly including:
- five hacks to learn anything more quickly
- four of the best online course learning platforms to use;
- as well as what on earth should you actually be learning?
5 Hacks To Learn Anything More Quickly
In Fast Company’s article Six Brain Hacks To Learn Anything Faster, the first hack Stephanie Vozza suggests, is one I personally used to get my through my Certificate in Fitness Management back in 2004.
#1 Teach Someone Else
I remember that I had just on a year to do this pretty full on Certificate in Fitness Management through Otago University.
And as I was learning about nutrition, exercise prescription, sports psychology and even injuries, I just had to tell people about it.
Otherwise, there was no way I was going to remember it.
I would come home and coach and teach my parents on exactly what we are eating and how that was broken down in the body and which of our muscles we are using to do that. When we were out playing tennis or doing something together with friends, I’ll be like “Hey! Do you know that we are using these muscles and these bones, these insertion points and this is what’s going on”. And the only way that I could remember stuff and good at it was to teach it.
I also used to dance around in my room and talk it out as if I was lecturing in a university hall or teaching as a personal trainer and it really worked.
When you have to teach a concept that you’ve just learned, you really have to understand that concept in order to put it out in your own terms.
If you imagine that you’ll need to teach someone else the material or task you are trying to grasp, you can speed up your learning and remember more, according to a study done at Washington University in St. Louis.
The expectation changes your mindset so that you engage in more effective approaches to learning than those who simply learn to pass a test.
#2 Take Notes by Hand
While it’s faster to take notes on a laptop, using a pen and paper will help you learn and comprehend better. Researchers at Princeton University and UCLA found that when students took notes by hand, they listened more actively and were able to identify important concepts. Taking notes on a laptop, however, leads to mindless transcription, as well as an opportunity for distraction, such as email.
“In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand,” writes coauthor and Princeton University psychology professor Pam Mueller. “We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.”
The course I’m taking right now called Become a Master Writer by my friend Elisa Doucette, is designed with a (now) rarely used way of learning writing and language called COPYWORK.
Copywork is exactly what it sounds like – doing the work by copying the writing of someone else. This is how schools taught for centuries. The daily assignments you get will include an excerpt or essay up to ~2500 words for you to hand-copy, along with an explanation of what you will learn from that day’s lesson.
#3 Use the Power of Mental Spacing
While it sounds counterintuitive, you can learn faster when you practice distributed learning, or “spacing.” Learning is like watering a lawn.
You can water a lawn once a week for 90 minutes or three times a week for 30 minutes.
Spacing out the watering during the week will keep the lawn greener over time.
To retain material, author Benedict Carey said it’s best to review the information one to two days after first studying it.
“One theory is that the brain actually pays less attention during short learning intervals, so repeating the information over a longer interval–say a few days or a week later, rather than in rapid succession–sends a stronger signal to the brain that it needs to retain the information.”
In Lifehack’s article 8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More, author Maria Briliaki suggests to:
#4 Do something different repeatedly
“By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.
Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.
Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!” Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.
So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?”
Maria also suggests you
#5 Work your body.
You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.
Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.
Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.
Just like I shared above in training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.
What Should You Learn
So now you have those five hacks to focus on next time you learn anything new, what should you actually be learning and where?
So this is actually completely personal to you. No surprises there.
I mean if you are a coach or a consultant, it’s always great to upskill in that area whether you are taking a new actual certificate or a level diploma something like that will actually upskill you as a coach.
Or whether you are going to a course that’s around effective leadership. Maybe it’s around financial management. Maybe it’s around negotiations and people skills and bringing out the best in people that you are working with. Maybe you are taking a project management course because that’s going to help you with your clients.
If you are a web designer or an artist perhaps you are going to do a course that’s going to help you to expand your skills, learn new code or a different platform. Just so that you can expand the reach of what you can offer your clients.
But I’d like to challenge you here to think a little bit outside of that because I love learning about stuff that is completely new and outside the scope of what I’d normally be discussing with friends or clients and that will actually stimulate my brain in a different way.
Right now I am doing art classes, I am doing a “become a master writer course”.
I’ve written a best selling book, The Suitcase Entrepreneur and another book and I’ve written 900+ blog posts on my site, you might wonder why I am taking a writing course but I want to improve as a writer. I never taught myself writing. I’ve never actually taken a course on it.
Other things that I might want to do is learn how to sing or learn how to play piano or another instrument. You may want to learn about neuroscience or space or something completely different.
And I think the reason why this is so good to do is it expand your horizons, it opens up your mind, it expands your perspective, it allows you to reach new people because you’ll often go along into an event, a course, a workshop or an actual physical class and you’ll be introduced to all these new people who just think differently, passionate about this topic that maybe you’ve never heard about before.
Right now my partner, Josh is getting into a Bitcoin training and he’s introducing me to all these platforms that he is using, the art behind trading which is no different to normal trades to normal stock exchanges but why Bitcoin is different and I am just learning this from watching and observing him.
He is reading trading books, he is listening to podcasts, he is watching Youtube videos by Bitcoin experts and along the way I am kind of learning little snippets about it.
So I do suggest that you often learn something that is completely outside your realm of interests.
I mean, I hope you are interested in it. But you know something that is completely outside your realm of expertise and what you do on an everyday basis.
Best Online Learning Sites
The reason I am focusing on online learning sites is that if you are going to classes, workshops, events, conferences, seminars, or coaching in your own town, city, location – wherever you are in the world, that’s obviously a perfect choice for you.
And if you know of events and things that are happening local to you, then I highly recommend you do something in person. That’s a brilliant way to learn.
I am going to a gardening workshop down the road this weekend for about 3 hours to learn about permaculture, gardening and what I should be planting, so that’s going to be a first for me.
I know I will learn way more by being there and doing the actual planting then if I’d taken an online course.
But in terms of online learning, you can do this from anywhere, anytime. That’s the beauty of it.
So long as you now know to write out the notes by hand. So some of my favorite learning sites are:
Coursera is basically some of the world’s best courses online from Penn University, John Hopkins University, University of Michigan, Stanford, UC, San Diego, Duke University and more.
Some of the things that they have in there are like Deep Learning, Data Science, Python for everybody, Excel to MySQL, Analytics Techniques for Businesses and many of these are free.
You get to learn from the top universities around the world, even if it’s a little bit of a US focused and bias, but you are learning often for free.
There’s courses on Machine Learning, Neural Networks and Deep Learning, and around Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency technologies. There’s even one on Learning How to Learn!
So for example, if I click on the Learning How to Learn, you’ll see when to enroll.
It’s taught by two university professors and they talk to you about the commitment you’ll need; about three hours of videos, three hours of exercises and three hours of bonus material.
It’s in about ten different languages too. They show you through the syllabus and an FAQ of when you get access to everything and do you have to pay for this course etc.
And often these sites as you’ll hear from me as I go, they often have certificates. So this course is often free but to get qualified or certified in it, is anywhere between $49 and a $150. And you’ll often see reviews on there because people have already taken the course.
One online learning platform that I’ve been loving is edX.
It’s a bit cheeky to mimic the name Tedx, but hey! All the courses are free.
Their motto is they have ‘Courses to advance, create and improve your life’.
There are ones from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Berkeley University of California, University of Texas, University of Queensland Australia, TU Delft, The University of British Columbia and more.
Some of the most popular subjects that they offer are around Computer Science, Economics and Finance, Engineering, Business and Management, Humanities, Language, Biology and Life Sciences.
This is where I did the Science of Happiness course through Berkeley University and loved it!
It was quite intense. It was over three months and I only had four weeks in which to do it live, because I came to it late but I could have re-enrolled again to start with the next live round.
The material was great. I loved it. There were videos that you could play and none of them were over seven minutes.
At the same time as you are watching the video, you could watch a live transcript. You can also download the transcript after.
Plus they have little tests throughout and quizzes that you have to take and you actually get graded on those. So really really neat site.
Skillshare classes are taught by expert practitioners and they really focus on classes for your career and for your passions.
Once again you can choose from all sorts of different categories: design, business, technology, photography, film, writing, crafts, culinary.
These courses are more practical. Not saying that computer science isn’t but these are things like:
- Street photography: Capture the Life of Your City
- Logo Design: Secrets of Shape, Type and Color
- Going Freelance: Building and Branding Your Own Business
- Knife Skills: A Mini Class to Chop Like a Chef and;
- Learn How to Mix Music with a Young Guru.
You can also see the ratings of them, how many people have taken them. Almost all of them you have to pay for but they constantly have specials going on with massive discounts on the normal price.
Another online learning platform that you probably would have heard of which is huge is Udemy.
Essentially, they have over 55,000 courses taught by experts and instructor, that you can enroll at them at anytime with lifetime access.
It’s learning at your own pace, whereas ones on edX and Coursera can often be time limited as they are doing it in a university setting with start and end dates.
The point here is there’s almost nothing you can’t learn online.
I mean, as a course creator and as somebody who teaches people skills in business and building an online business, lifestyle, systems, sales funnels, you name it, it’s quite easy for me to be able to put some of my courses up here.
In fact, Udemy approached earlier this year to do that. And there are benefits for you as a business owner if this is what you do.
So look at some of these platforms and see whether it’s actually worth putting them up on there rather than on your own site.
If you have a small list or reach then tapping into their huge databases of students is definitely a bonus.
Those four would be my top picks for Online Learning Platforms. There are many others.
I hope that this episode has given you an understanding of some of the hacks that you can use to learn more effectively and also some of the things that you might want to be learning as well as where in the heck you can go to learn those things.
Before we finish off, I would love to say, if you’d like to learn more about creating freedom in business and adventure in life, the 3rd edition of my book, The Suitcase Entrepreneur is out!
It is available in Amazon, Itunes, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Bam Books a Million and a couple of other book shops for the first time, it’s available in books shops in North America. For full details, go to suitcaseentrepreneur.com/book.
We have a little contest going on right now, all details are on that page so I’d love for you to check it out.
This episode is proudly brought to you by Freshbooks.
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