Hacking Knowledge: Tips on How to Learn Faster, Deeper, and Better
While we all may follow our own unique pursuits in a lifetime, the quest for purpose through self-improvement and knowledge is among the great unifiers of humankind. Progressive thinking is the backbone of society’s progress. Great visionaries and their quests for knowledge have inspired the majority of the modern marvels we rely on today. While the process of seeking purpose in your life may not seem as universal or consequential as Einstein’s, it is crucial to find how to learn in a way that works for you, which can lead to greater self-awareness and wisdom—not to mention a new job, better pay, a new hobby, or simply knowledge for knowledge’s sake—whatever is important to you as an end goal.
This brand of introspection and knowledge is not necessarily acquired through traditional means, and the learning techniques that work best may differ from one person to the next. In fact, some of these tips may surprise you. Imagine all of the ways you may have been perfecting how to learn to find your smartest self for years without even knowing it!
Reduce stress + depression:Stress and depression can affect the ability to recall information and cause short-term memory loss. In mild cases, depression can sometimes be improved simply by exposing yourself to more white light and eating fewer refined foods.
Shake a leg: Lack of blood flow is a common reason for lack of concentration. If you’ve been sitting in one place for awhile, bounce or bend and flex one of your legs for a minute or two. It gets your blood flowing and sharpens both concentration and recall abilities.
Food for thought:Eat breakfast. A lot of people skip breakfast, but creativity is often optimal in the early morning and it helps to have some protein in you to “feed” your brain. Plus, a lack of protein can actually cause headaches.
Food for thought, part 2:Eat a light lunch. Heavy lunches have a tendency to make people drowsy. While you could turn this to your advantage by taking a “thinking nap” (we’ll get to that later), most people haven’t learned how to actually make this work on a regular basis.
Ginkgo biloba:Ginkgo biloba is a natural supplement that has been used in China and other countries for centuries and has been acclaimed for its brain-energizing properties.
Sleep on it:Hitting an REM cycle not only helps you rest and reset, it may also help with high-level problem solving. Researchers at University of California, San Diego noticed that getting some rest and dreaming allowed creative thinkers to work through some of their toughest problems.
Take a break:Sometimes, in order to change your physical or mental perspective and lighten the invisible stress that can sometimes occur when you sit in one place too long, it helps to take a 5-15 minute break every hour during study sessions. Studies show this is more beneficial than non-stop study, as it gives your mind time to relax and absorb information.
Take a hike:Changing your perspective (and surroundings) often relieves tension, thus freeing your creative mind. Taking a short walk around the neighborhood may help you liberate those latent learning skills.
Change your focus:Sometimes you just don’t have enough time to take a long break, however you can always just change subject focus. Try alternating between technical and non-technical subjects, for example.
Perspective and Focus
Do walking meditation:If you’re taking a hike, don’t stop there! Go one step further and learn walking meditation as a way to tap into your inner resources and strengthen your ability to focus. Just make sure to not get so carried away that you disregard safety and traffic rules.
Change your focus, part 2:There are three primary ways to learn: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic (VAK). If one isn’t working for you, simply try another.
Full immerse yourself: Focus only on whatever you’re studying, not watching TV at the same time or worrying yourself about other things. Anxiety is known to inhibit the absorption of information and ideas.
Turn out the lights:If meditation isn’t for you, this can be another way to focus your mind. Sit in the dark, to literally and figuratively block out extraneous influences. This is especially helpful for learning something kinesthetically, such as guitar chord changes.
Take a bath or shower:We know this one may be a bit surprising, but both activities can loosen you up, making your mind more receptive to recognizing brilliant ideas.
Listen to music:Research has long shown that certain types of music can act as a “key” to open doors and recall memories. The theory is that Information learned while listening to a particular song or collection can often be recalled simply by replaying the songs in your head.
Speedread:Some people believe that speedreading causes you to miss vital information, however the idea is that, when done right, speedreading results in filtering out irrelevant information. If necessary, you can always read and re-read technical subjects that often require slower reading, though some studies show slow reading actually hinders the ability to absorb general ideas. Trying this reading technique online? Try the free Spreeder application.
Use acronyms and other mnemonic devices:Mnemonics are essentially tricks for remembering information. Some tricks are so effective that proper application will let you recall loads of mundane information months or even years later.
Every picture tells a story:Draw or sketch whatever it is you are trying to achieve to help you visualize it. Having a concrete goal in mind can help you progress towards reaching your goal.
Brainmap it: Need to plan something? Brain maps, or mind maps, offer a compact way to get both an overview of a project as well as better manage it. Through mind mapping, you can see the relationships between disparate ideas and better utilize brainstorming techniques.
Learn symbolism and semiotics:Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols. Having an understanding of the iconography of a particular discipline not only aids in the learning process, but also allows you to retain information more efficiently.
Use information design:When dealing with information that has an inherent structure, applying the tenets of information design can help to convey that information more clearly. A great resource is Information Aesthetics, which gives examples of different types of information design and provides links to their sources.
Use visual learning techniques:Try gliffy to explore all kinds of structured diagrams, flow charts, and more and to see what might pique your visual interest. If this works for you, find even more webbing and outlining ideas, plus graphic organizers, concept maps, and plots at Inspiration.com.
Map your task flow:Learning often requires gaining knowledge in a specific sequence. Task flow mapping your course of actions, or organizing your thoughts on what needs to be done, is a powerful way to prepare yourself to complete tasks or learn “how to learn.”
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