9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything Faster

Have you ever wished you could have a magic technique, like total recall, so you can quickly unlock the complete potential of your brain?

It would make acing exams and getting up to speed at work a piece of cake, right?

The thing is – you already are using all of your brain, but because you may not have the strategies on how to do this efficiently, you’re not experiencing the full benefits.

Thankfully, neuroscientists have discovered a lot about how the brain learns best.

And using strategies developed from this knowledge, you can learn anything faster!

Table of Contents

1. Break Your Learning into Manageable Portions

2. Review What You’re Learning Frequently

3. Use Mindmaps to Summarize Information

4. Take Notes by Hand

5. Minimize Distractions

6. Avoid Multitasking

7. Listen to Music When You’re Learning

8. Develop Faster Reading Strategies

9. Make Sure You’re Physically Active and Eat Super Healthy Brainfoods

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything Faster

1. Break Your Learning into Manageable Portions

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterWhen you’re eating a burger, or a slice of cake, you don’t shove the whole thing into your mouth like a cartoon character, right?

You take a bite, chew it, enjoy the flavor, and then swallow before the next bite.

If you eat in a rush, you probably don’t get to enjoy your food as much and might even end up choking and having to spit out what you’d eaten.

Learning effectively works the same way.

When you’re learning new information, you need to give your brain time to absorb information, digest it, store it, before it’s ready to learn more.

If you try to take in too much information in one go, your brain gets overwhelmed and you experience a learning shutdown – you just can’t take in or retain anything no matter how much you try.

This is because your working memory – the memory you’re using in the moment when you’re learning something new – has limited capacity.

As you input this new learning, your brain stores it in your hippocampus, one of the most important players in your learning and memory. Here, the information waits to connect with your existing knowledge.

Creating these sorts of connections or associations is how your brain learns, and how long-term memories form.

But because working memory has limited capacity, when you overuse it, you end up not being able to retain anything new as well as losing some of what you already learned.

This is why study sessions which are hours and hours long don’t work. For your brain to make the best use of your time and its learning abilities, chunk your studying down into shorter sessions.

Brain science shows that 20 to 25-minute study sessions are optimum for your working memory, and a short break of 5 minutes can help restore this memory back to full battery.

So, make sure you’re taking breaks in between your studying – this actually helps you learn faster and more efficiently!

2. Review What You’re Learning Frequently

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterYour brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons.

And what you learn, all the memories for everything from how to ride a bike to problem-solving in school or at work, occur in connections or pathways between these neurons.

When you learn something new, your neurons create a new connection for this knowledge.

However, if you never revisit this knowledge again, your brain deems this information unimportant, and simply discards it.

On the other hand, the more you come across the information you learned, the more the neural connections your brain keeps this information in are active.

And the more active they are, the stronger and longer lasting the memory associated with them!

It’s like building muscle – if you stopped going to the gym, you’d lose the muscle mass you built up over the time you used to go regularly.

On the other hand, the more frequently you go to the gym, the stronger your muscles and the greater the longevity of your muscle mass!

You might be thinking that having to constantly review everything you’re learning isn’t a “faster learning” strategy.

But imagine this – you’ve spent hours and hours studying new chapters for an exam.

Because of how your brain works, though, you’re only going to retain some of it – because of your limited working memory and because you’re not giving your brain enough time to absorb information and save it in your long-term memory.

Won’t it take you longer to go over all that information again, to patch up the gaps in your memory?

On the other hand, if you learn for your 20-25-minute study session, and then after your 5-minute break, quickly review what you learned, you’re reinforcing your memory as you proceed.

And because you’re strengthening your neural connections, by reviewing the information, or retrieving it, and keeping those brain cells active, you’re better able to remember information in the long run!

Faster learning isn’t just about how much time it takes to learn – it’s also about learning efficiently!

3. Use Mindmaps to Summarize Information

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterImagine for a second the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

Juliet stands in her balcony, sighing and dismayed, while Romeo admires her from the distance before approaching her.

A pretty clear image, right?

Now – what if instead I asked you to recite Juliet’s entire soliloquy regretting the fact that Romeo is from a rival family?

That’s much harder than just recalling the image of a sad Juliet in the balcony, right? It’s definitely going to take you longer than the second it took to think up of the image, that’s for sure.

This is because your brain is much, much better at processing and recalling images than it does text.

When you’re reading, your brain is decoding patterns and combinations of words, and extracting meaning from them.

On the other hand, a picture – like a regretful Juliet alone on her balcony after meeting Romeo for the first time – communicates a lot of information without you having to read her entire soliloquy.

It helps you instantly recall the scene, the mood and themes of it, the events that happen before and after it.

Let me give you an idea at how much faster it is for your brain to recall images compared to text – visual processing involves 80% of your brain!

And your brain can process and retrieve images a whopping 60,000 times faster than it can text!

So, the best way to remember information quickly is by turning it into images – and mindmaps are an excellent tool to help you do this.

Instead of coloring your entire textbook with your yellow highlighters, using a mindmap helps you summarize the relevant points of the text on to a single page.

The main topic or chapter name goes in the middle, with a circle around it. Draw spokes out of this circle for smaller circles, where your subtopics and points go.

Doodle in images that’ll help jog your memory of specific points – use different colors, too, to make the image vibrant and memorable.

When you try to recall the overview of everything you learned, you can conjure up your mindmap much, much faster than you can paragraphs upon paragraphs of reading material!

And because mindmaps illustrate how information connects to each other, you can instantly grasp the associations and make sense of information faster, compared to text!

4. Take Notes by Hand

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterDo you type up your notes? It’s faster than writing them by hand, right?

Despite the speed advantage typing gives you, however, it isn’t a science-backed method of learning faster.

In fact, here, the speed is a disadvantage.

When you are writing notes by hand, because you have to go more slowly, your brain engages with the content more intensively.

You listen or read whatever you’re making notes on, and your brain tries to summarize the content so you can jot it down quickly.

This is especially the case when you’re in class, trying to keep up with the teacher or instructor covering the topic of the day.

As a result, because your brain is working more actively to make sense of the content, you’re more likely to recall this information later.

Because typing is faster, however, your brain spends less time actually engaging with the content. You’re listening or reading and copying down the content almost word for word.

Studies show that people who take notes by hand show better recall during exams than those who type their notes, for this reason.

So – take notes by hand! Although it’s slower than typing, it’s faster for learning!

5. Minimize Distractions

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterYou might think it’s harmless to glance at your phone once in a while to check your messages or social media for anything interesting going on.

But guess what? A University of California Irvine study finds that if you lose focus in the middle of working on something, it can take your brain up to 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task.

That’s basically one entire learning session lost! And if you keep getting distracted, you can lose hours and hours of progress.

If you’re finding getting through the things you have to learn slow going, consider the things in your environment that might be distracting you.

Are you using a device to learn? Do you have other tabs open, perhaps running YouTube or NetFlix, or your social media?

Are you sharing the room with someone else, and are their activities distracting you?

Are you in a room that’s just not suited for work, filled with distractions like the TV or your gaming console, or your pets wandering about asking to play?

To make sure you make the most of your time and don’t end up losing hours distracted because you keep losing focus, create a learning-friendly environment.

Keep an organized, clutter-free desk, facing away from windows, in a well-lit space.

Make sure it’s set away from hubs of activity. If you’re in school, opt for a quiet corner of the library or an empty classroom. At work, try out noise-cancelling earphones (which might come in handy for another point I’ll cover later) or just let your co-workers know politely to keep the noise levels down.

If you find yourself repeatedly reaching for your phone or checking social media, turn your notifications off during your work hours or study sessions.

On desktop, you can use blocking services like Freedom to keep you out of websites that might potentially distract you.

6. Avoid Multitasking

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterMultitasking might seem like a good thing – after all, if you’re able to do several things at once, aren’t you getting more done?

In actuality, multitasking is pretty bad for your brain, and rather than getting more done, it can slow you down considerably.

Imagine you’ve been asked to run an errand and you have to drive to a specific location. Your GPS has tracked your destination, and you’re making your way there, when suddenly, you’re asked to go somewhere else.

Now, you have to find out where this next destination is and figure out how to get there from where you are.

You have to turn your car around and head over there, and the more often you’re asked to change your destination, the more time you end up losing, than if you had a systematic plan for getting to all the places you needed to go.

Multitasking is a bit like this.

You’ve already learned a bit about what happens when you’re learning.

As you focus on something, your brain uses its working memory to input this information, and when you take breaks, your brain has the chance to connect this information with what you already know.

When you review and retrieve from your memory what you learned, this memory grows stronger.

And when you lose focus, it can take you nearly half an hour to refocus.

Considering all this, you can understand why multitasking can harm your productivity.

Rather than allowing your brain to steadily focus and build up its knowledge and learning on one topic, you’re constantly breaking your concentration and having to refocus on many different things.

Studies find that those who multitask end up losing more time than those who focus on a single task.

So, make sure you’re allotting enough time to cover one thing at a time, instead of trying to cover several things at once.

You are creating a sounder base for your knowledge that will serve you well in the long run, and it’s a better and more efficient use of your time!

7. Listen to Music When You’re Learning

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything FasterRemember the tip about using noise-cancelling headphones I mentioned earlier?

Choosing the right soundtrack to your learning can boost your ability to learn faster!

Think about how you feel when you listen to certain types of music.

Why do you feel pumped up when listening to Eye of the Tiger, and emotional listening to What a Wonderful World?

Why do certain soundtracks from movies make you feel a certain way? If you listen to the Imperial March, why do you feel different than if you listen to Princess Leia’s theme, even though they’re both pieces of music from Star Wars?

Music is almost magical in the ways it affects the brain. Listening to specific types of music activates many of your brain’s memory and learning centers.

This is why music can transport you to a different world. You might clearly remember what was happening in the movie when this song played, how you were feeling then, what the room looked like, who you were sitting beside and so on.

And when you listen to a specific type of music – melodic, lyric-free music at 60 beats per minute – it instantly puts you in the ideal state of learning!

Your brain enters one of the four main brain wave states – the alpha brain wave state.

In this state, you’re alert but calm, ready to concentrate, your brain receptive of new information and better able to process it, create connections with existing knowledge, and form new ideas.

It’s a good idea to make yourself a playlist of 60 bpm music to help you get into the zone for faster learning – you can find many great pieces on YouTube or Spotify!

8. Develop Faster Reading Strategies

9 Science Backed Ways to Learn Anything Faster

What if one of the things slowing you down is your reading?

You might not realize it, but you might have habits which reduce your reading speed and make it harder for you to retain what you’re learning.

For example, do you sometimes mouth the words as you read? This slows you down, because you speak a lot slower than you read!

Do you skip words when you’re reading (saccades), or keep having to go back to reread lines you’ve already covered (regression)?

You might not realize how much habits like these can set your reading back, but in Total Recall Learning, I help you not only identify these negative reading habits, but I also give you strategies to fix them.

In fact, along with traditional reading strategies, like using a pen to trace underneath lines as you read to keep you on track, I offer you a hi-tech speed-reading method that can double your reading speed!

And the faster you can read, the faster you can learn and remember!

9. Make Sure You’re Physically Active and Eat Super Healthy Brainfoods

What if you could make your brain work faster, like you’re hitting the accelerator of your car?

You’re doing the same thing you were doing before, but you’re moving much faster.

One excellent way of doing this is getting some exercise.

Aerobic exercise or cardio not only speeds up your brain’s functioning, but can also help you grow new brain cells, in a process called neurogenesis.

When you’re physically active – which can be anything from taking a brisk walk to spending some time at the gym, or dancing and doing jumping jacks – your blood circulation increases.

You’re breathing harder and deeper, taking in more oxygen, and more of this oxygen-rich blood is reaching your brain, helping all those neurons work faster and creating connections more quickly.

It also helps your hippocampus (remember how it’s a key player in learning and memory) grow through neurogenesis.

Along with literally enhancing your brain’s performance for faster learning and memory, exercise also releases a bunch of chemical messengers, like dopamine and endorphins, that enhance your focus and motivation.

As a result, not only are you learning faster and more efficiently, you’re motivated and in a great mood as you do!

Another way of enhancing your brain’s function is by eating the right brainfoods.

Fatty fish like salmon and mackerel contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which makes up much of the gray matter your brain is made of – incorporating enough Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is shown to enhance your learning and memory performance!

Proteins, like chicken and turkey meats, milk, cheese, nuts, etc. contain the amino acid l-tyrosine, which helps boost your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that regulates your motivation and helps you focus and learn!

Blueberries are an excellent option to snack on too. You might be experiencing fatigue, brain fog, headaches and difficulties focusing because of your brain’s oxidative stress. Blueberries have remarkable antioxidant properties to combat this.

They fight the free radicals that could damage your cells and enhance your brain’s functioning!

Knowing what to eat and what not to eat can go a long way in helping you learn anything faster!

With these 9 science backed ways to learn anything faster, you don’t need magic to unlock your brain’s full potential – all you need are brain-based strategies!

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™. Use coupon code LEARNMUCHFASTER to make the course $27 today! Save $70!

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

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