Learning can be overwhelming, right? But not if you learn how to learn!
In this article, I will show you how to study effectively using 23 proven, easy to use study tips:
In addition to these study tips, you will learn some important facts about the brain: the process of learning, memory, procrastination, and sleep.
Without further due, let’s dive in!
10 Brain Learning Hacks
Before talking about learning, let’s talk first about the engine responsible for learning: the brain.
How Does Your Brain Learn?
The brain is the most complex device on earth.
It weighs 3 pounds and consumes 10 times more energy than the rest of the organs in our body, a very expensive organ. All our hopes, fears, abilities, memories are inside of it.
Did you know that you are not the same person after you exercise or even take a nap? Yes, researchers have proven that the brain can generate new neurons in the areas of learning, memory, and emotion. This phenomenon is called neurogenesis.
There is a lot to say about this little mysterious organ. A good place to find out more about your brain is the website brainfacts.org.
Now, how does the brain learn? The answer is by forming chunks.
What Are Chunks?
Why Are They Important In Learning?
When you start learning about a new concept, you know how hard it is to put the pieces together and how everything starts to seem easy and clear within the next three days after practicing.
Well, Congratulations! You’ve just formed a chunk.
Chunks are compact packages of information that your mind can easily access. Whenever you learn something new, a new chunk is created, and the more you get in-depth the more it gets bigger and larger.
In other words, they are a set of neurons growing and firing together so you can think a thought or perform an action smoothly.
For example, if I say “m, o, m”, a group of neurons will communicate with one another leading your brain to open up the chunk “mom”. It was created a long time ago when you were a kid and stored in an easy to remember file.
Once forming a chunk, you don’t have to remember every detail in it, the main idea is enough.
In fact, 95 to 99% of your life decisions, actions and behavior are unconscious; you create chunks, and store them in the memory to do the work for you. It’s like getting dressed in the morning! You just grab your jacket and you are ready to go.
You might wonder now how to form chunks since they are important in learning!
How To Form A Chunk?
Let’s say you want to learn Spanish. You will start with basic words, then you will learn how to form a comprehensive sentence, then you will learn how to write a paragraph and so on.
Using the same analogy, you create chunks. Once you start learning, your brain forms mini-chunks, then medium chunks then larger chunks.
There is no limit for it as long as you keep learning the material.
Now that you know the important role of chunks in learning, you should also know that not every chunk survives to become a strong one and provides you with information when needed. Sometimes, things might go wrong.
Therefore, here are 23 Study Tips that will help you build powerful chunks for a better learning experience.
Study Tip 1 : Take A Look At It Before
Checking the chapter before the professor’s lecture or before you start on your own is beneficial because you give your brain a chance to become familiar with new terms and concepts.
Reading the headlines, taking a look at the images and the graphs will certainly reinforce your comprehension of the material, leading you to think of the right questions to ask in order to sharpen your understanding.
If you do that, you are one step ahead of many other learners.
Study Tip 2 : Avoid Distraction
When you first learn something new, neurons start connecting with preexisting patterns that are spread through many areas of the brain.
Having TV going on in the background or checking your phone whenever you receive a message, can make constructing a chunk very difficult.
Therefore, pick your favorite place and time to learn.
Set up your study space, organize it, let it be quiet, comfortable and free of distraction.
Click here : We help you organize your desk and keep it clutter free all year long.
Study Tip 3 : Understand Understand Understand
If you want to store the chunk in your long-term memory and make it easy to access, you have to understand what you are learning.
Can you create a chunk without understanding?
Yes, but it’s often a useless chunk that won’t fit in with or relate to other material you’re learning.
So, make sure to form a comprehensive idea around the subject you are learning.
Study Tip 4 : Use Analogy
Have you ever heard the expression, “one good analogy is worth three hours of discussion?”
Successful people not only understand this but also practice it on a regular basis.
Analogy is the cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another. It plays an important role in problem-solving, decision making, argumentation, memory, and creativity.
Using analogy, not only helps you understand better, but also makes the material stick in your brain for a longer time.
Our understanding of the physical world is better than the abstract one. So, if you find it difficult to get a concept clear, compare it to something in your environment.
For example, procrastination can be compared to a zombie knocking his head againt the wall.
Study Tip 5 : Intuition Is A Fruit Of The Sequential Reasoning
There are two ways for solving problems: sequential and holistic intuition.
The sequential method is a step by step reasoning, each step leads you to the solution and involves the focused mode.
Intuition, on the other hand, is a more creative way of combining different concepts and thoughts until you find the exact solution.
The most difficult problems are solved using the intuitive mode.
In order to be able to use the intuitive problem solving, the basic chunks involved in building the solution should be very well constructed, so that the linking between them creatively and intuitively would be easy.
Sometimes, you may find that there are a lot of problems and rules in a single chapter or section. All you have to do is to be sequential.
Meaning; focus on the first problem, form the first chunk, then move to the second, then to the third and so on.
The more you achieve, the easier it gets. Just start!
Study Tip 6 : Practice and Recall
Trust me, mental retrieval of the main ideas will make your study time more focused and effective.
Evoking what you’ve learned helps you enhance deep learning and create brain hooks.
Look away and see what you can recall from the material, as much information as you could.
By simply practicing and recalling you will learn far more and at a much deeper level.
Some students think that mind mapping is the best way to fix a subject in mind. Maybe, but playing advanced chess before learning how the main pieces move is not a good idea.
In other words, trying to build connections between chunks before the initial chunks are embedded in the brain is probably not the best idea.
Therefore, make sure to enclose the key ideas first in your brain then start mind mapping.
Study Tip 7 : Be Careful With Highlighting & Underlining
Making lots of motions with your hand can lead you to think that you’ve got it all in your brain.
Highlighting and underlining in an excessive manner cannot only be ineffective, but also misleading.
Therefore, try to underline or highlight only one sentence per paragraph if needed.
You can also leave notes in a margin pointing at key concepts.
Study Tip 8 : Test Yourself
One of my favorite ways to learn is testing. It is the best opportunity for you to face the illusion of competence in whatever you are learning.
Allowing yourself to make mistakes is actually a very good way to correct your thinking bit by bit.
And just because you see it or understand it, doesn’t mean you can do it.
For example, understanding a theorem doesn’t give you the ability to solve all the problems related to that theorem.
You have to practice.
How? Close the book and test whether you can actually do it yourself.
Put yourself in the context to know when and where you will be needing that specific chunk.
Study Tip 9 : Be Careful With The Illusion Of Competence!
When doing problem-solving, many students look at the solution and say “I know why they did that! It’s easy!”.
And that’s wrong because they didn’t give their brain a chance to form his own neural circuitry.
On the day of the test, they will be asked to creatively solve uneasy problems about the material they’ve studied, so if they don’t know how to do it basically, how can they do it creatively?
Study Tip 10 : Overlearning
Did you know that expert public speakers practice more than 20 hours for a 20 minutes TED TALK?!
They make sure to produce automaticity that will come in need if they panic or stress during the talk.
Therefore, it is important to practice over and over again during a study session.
But overlearning can make you lose some valuable time.
Not only that, continuing to study after mastering the material may cause you the illusion of competence or even block you from discovering other ways to process the same information and that is called Einstellung.
What’s that now? It’s when you find yourself unable to solve a given problem in a different way from the one you know.
6 Different Ways to Fight Procrastination
Before jumping to how to cure procrastination, let us first answer the following question:
Why Does Procrastination Arise?
You know that moment when you open the book, take a look at the chapter you should read and then close it.
Well, at that moment, your brain activates an area associated with pain.
Obviously, stopping the negative sensation would be its next move.
So, you shut down the whole thing, and switch to YouTube to watch some funny videos or Facebook to chat with friends.
It’s normal to feel some negative sensations when starting work, let’s face it we are human beings!
The important thing is to realize that we should get things done and that postponing it to a later time won’t do us any good.
Learning how to handle those feelings matters a lot.
So, what are the techniques we can use to quit wasting our time and jump to work?
Study Tip 11 : Focus on The Process Not The Product
Many learners make the mistake of focusing on the product rather than focusing on the process.
In other words, they point out the “what” rather than pointing out the “how”.
For example, you need to hand in a 5 questions homework next Friday. Instead of focusing on the outcome which is the paper that you have to give, focus on the content.
Start to think about how to answer the questions, what specific part of the course you should pay attention to, what will make you do it faster, and so on.
Concentrating on the product is a pain generator for the brain, but focusing on the flow of time associated with the process is a productivity booster.
Study Tip 12 : Pomodoro Technique
The method was invented in 1980 by Francesco Cirillo. It’s basically an uninterrupted focus method followed by a bit of relaxation. All you need to do is:
- Turn off all sources of distraction: phone, TV…
- Set the timer to 25 minutes.
- Focus deeply in your work until the 25 minutes are done.
- Take a short break (5 minutes) or a long break (10 minutes).
- Repeat the process.
Distractions are inevitable, but you want to minimize them.
You can go to the library or use noise cancelling headphones (link to Amazon).
They reduce unwanted sounds using active noise control, and hence they’ll be useful not only for studying but also for sleeping.
25 minutes isn’t a golden rule, it’s up to you. If you know the average duration of you staying focused, stick to it.
You can use this website as a tool for tracking time, getting notifications to take a break and more.
Rewards are important, just make sure to delay them until you finish the task.
Study Tip 13 : Keep A Planner Journal
Keep a planner journal all the time with you, so you can easily track your goals and tasks.
While listing what you have to do, make sure to arrange your work into a series of small challenges.
This way, your brain will savor the feeling of happiness of achievement hence pushes you to accomplish more.
I love checking the tasks listed on my to-do list. It keeps me motivated to finish them all.
Although it’s hard sometimes to handle, I can always adjust it according to what works for me.
Study Tip 14 : Have Backup Plans
No one is perfect!
Unexpected events happened. You want to make sure to have backup plans for when you still procrastinate.
Study Tip 15 : Avoid Cramming
You have an exam next week, and you leave all the work to the night before.
You decide to rush into the course, read the main sections, and go through some exercises you think the teacher is interested in.
By some miracle, you make it, and you pass the exam.
It’s the best scenario that has happened to me when I was studying engineering.
But to be honest, I don’t remember that course at ALL!
And you know why? Because I crammed. The knowledge base I formed in that little time preparing for the exam, was weak.
I didn’t give my brain a chance to embed all the concepts, I didn’t give my chunks the time to be well constructed.
So, I ended up with a quickly faded poor foundation. Luckily, it wasn’t a course I used over the years I worked as an engineer.
The output of this story is that knowledge can’t be acquired overnight.
Give your brain a chance to form a strong base of information.
Study Tip 16 : Build Habits
Habits are an indicator of strong existing chunks and memory.
They save energy and effort, allowing our minds to think of other activities.
How can we build habits?
Here are 4 steps you can follow to create a new habit and fight procrastination:
- The hint: Identify when and why you procrastinate.
- The routine: Once you detect the cause, make a plan, build a routine, develop a ritual like going to the library.
- The reward: Watch a video on YouTube or drink a cappuccino. Rewards are important.
- The belief: Have a strong belief that you can do it, and your system is working.
Building habits takes time, so make sure to do it gradually because your brain needs time to embed new systems.
7 Methods to Improve Memory
Memory is a crucial part of the learning process because it lets you store and retrieve the information that you learn.
How Many Types Of Memory Are There?
There are two major memory systems: working and long-term memory.
1.Working Memory (or Short-Term Memory)
It’s the part of the brain where you’re immediately and consciously processing information. It is centered out of the prefrontal cortex.
Researchers used to believe that our working memory can hold seven chunks or items at the same time.
But now, it’s widely believed that the average capacity of the working memory is only four chunks.
On this level, information is temporary. Depending on the situation, the brain can send it to the long-term memory, replace it, or deteriorate it.
2. Long-term Memory
It’s a wide storage warehouse distributed over a big area of the brain, containing all the information you’ve learned throughout your life.
Its capacity is IMMENSE. In other words, long term memory can collect and save unlimited items.
There is a continuous transfer of information between long-term memory and short-term memory.
Memory Case Study
HM was 27 years old when he had an operation for epilepsy. Doctors took the hippocampus on both sides of his brain.
The hippocampus plays an important role in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory.
The operation was a success. The epilepsy was cured but the price was steep. HM could no longer remember new things.
You could have a normal conversation with this person, but if you leave the room for a few minutes, HM could not remember you or what you had discussed.
HM could remember things from his childhood but had trouble remembering things that had occurred in the years just before the operation.
In other words, he could no longer remember information that hadn’t yet become fully consolidated.
This case study shows the crucial role that the Hippocampus plays in building our long-term memory.
Study Tip 17 : Use Your Visual Memory
As I mentioned before, your brain has a huge visual memory capacity.
You can use it to make the process of learning easy and efficient.
All your senses can help you remember things better.
The smell is the most powerful one because its brain area is located near the memory area.
The more you link emotions to thoughts, the more vivid your memories are.
Study Tip 18 : Spaced Repetition Technique
Spaced repetition is a great technique to form a solid foundation of knowledge.
For example, if you are learning a new language, learning all the vocabulary in one day might be a bad idea.
Instead, repeat on Monday for some time, then Wednesday, then Saturday and so on.
You’ll be surprised by how much you can achieve within one week.
If you try to glue things by repeating them in one evening, you’ll probably forget most of them after a short while.
It’s like building a brick wall, if you don’t give the mortar time to dry, you won’t have a strong structure.
Study Tip 19 : Memory Palace Technique
Memory palace technique is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualizations, spatial memory and familiar information about one’s environment, to quickly and efficiently recall information.
Here is how to do it: Choose your favorite place, take a list of items you want to memorize, associate each element to a specific part of the place, and try to make it alive with all your senses.
This video will explain it in detail for you.
Study Tip 20 : Memorable Events
It’s easy to remember numbers by associating them with events.
For example, an earthquake hits western Colombia in 1999, my sister’s birth year.
Study Tip 21 : First Letters Abbreviation
Let’s say you want to remember this list of fruits: apples, bananas, kiwis, grapes, and oranges.
You can use the word “KABOG” to remember it, K for kiwis, A for apples and so on. KABOG is a meal in the Philippines.
Study Tip 22 : Funny Weird Sentences
For example, “Old People From Texas Eat Spiders” is the sentence that medicine students use to remember the cranial bones:
Sleep Is Your Superpower
Did you know that you spend 25 to 30 years sleeping? That’s approximately a third of your life. Sleep is an important part of your daily routine, it’s essential to survival as food and water.
What Happens When We Sleep?
When we fall asleep, the brain does not merely go offline.
Here are some of the things that happen during sleep and impact your learning process:
1. The conscious mind given by the prefrontal cortex gets deactivated, allowing the rest of the brain’s areas to have better communication.
2. All the information you’ve learned during the day is stored and structured during the night to form memories.
3. The brain cells shrink to create space for a fluid that passes through them and cleans your brain from toxic components.
Study Tip 23: Sleep To Remember And Remember To Sleep!
If you have an exam the very next day, make sure to do these two things:
- Get enough sleep.
- Take a look at the course right before you close your eyes.
According to studies, going to sleep 3 hours after memorizing the formulas, and 1 hour after practicing your scale would be the best ideal.
Sleep deprivation can really harm your brain and body.
Don’t think of it as a waste of time.
Instead, think of it as a way to keep your brain clean, balanced and regulated.
Without sleep, you can’t form or maintain the learning pathways you formed earlier. Besides, it’s hard to concentrate or even respond quickly.
How To Force Myself To Study?
Emotions are not separated from cognition.
Sometimes, studying can be overwhelming, which leads you to feel stressed.
As a response, procrastination arises generating more stressful feelings.
Forcing yourself to learn isn’t a good idea. Instead, you can use the following ideas in order to motivate yourself to study effectively:
- Don’t blame yourself for procrastinating.
- Face your fears and express yourself by writing all your thoughts down.
- Find your study style.
- Schedule your tasks.
- Tell your friends about your issues concerning the course.
- Believe in yourself.
How Can I Keep Focusing When I Am Feeling Sleepy?
Try these Study Tips to keep you awake while studying:
- Eat healthy food like apples, oranges. Avoid eating fattening foods because it will make you feel slow and sluggish.
- Drink water.
- Chew gum.
- Take naps.
- Get up and Move.
- Get enough sleep.
How Long Should I Nap To Wake Up Refreshed?
The National Sleep Foundation says that 20 minutes is an ideal nap length.
It will allow you to gain benefits like improved alertness, enhanced performance and being in a better mood.
The 23 Study Tips for An Effective Learning
10 Brain Learning Hacks:
- Take A Look At It Before
- Avoid Distraction
- Understand Understand Understand
- Use Analogy
- Intuition Is A Fruit Of The Sequential Reasoning
- Practice And Recall
- Be Careful With Highlighting And Underlining
- Test Yourself
- Be Careful With The Illusion Of Competence!
6 Different Ways to Fight Procrastination:
- Focus On The Process Not The Product
- Pomodoro Technique
- Keep A Planner Journal
- Have Backup Plans
- Avoid Cramming
- Build Habits
7 Methods to Improve Memory:
- Use Your Visual Memory
- Spaced Repetition Technique
- Memory Palace Technique
- Memorable Events
- First Letters Abbreviation
- Funny Weird Sentences
- Sleep To Remember And Remember To Sleep!
To wrap up, I hope that this article gave you some insights on learning how to learn.
Now that you have these 23 study tips, implement them in your learning ritual, and you’ll do great.
By the way, I would love to know which one do you like the most. And whether you have any additional methods to share with me.
Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.