This is Part 4 of the article 9 Proven Ways to Learn Anything Faster. See Part 1 here. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.
8. Use Ebbinghaus’ Primacy and Recency Curve
Okay, remember what you learned about chunking and working memory?
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist, developed a mathematical formula to demonstrate what happens the longer you spend learning without breaks.
This curve of forgetting shows that the longer the gap between the beginning and end of a learning session, the steeper the rate of forgetting.
In other words, the longer you spend trying to learn something, the more you’re likely to forget.
The curve also illustrates how you’re more likely to remember the beginning (primacy) and end (recency) of a learning session. You’re more likely to forget the middle.
Thankfully, there’s an easy fix to the problem – have shorter study sessions and take more breaks!
By narrowing the gap between the beginning and end of a learning session, you retain more of the middle.
And a break as short as 5 minutes can restore your working memory to full capacity!
In fact, you might not know this, but breaks are essential for your learning!
They give your brain a chance to wander, without needing to harness all its resources on focusing on one thing.
As a result, it can create those associations you learned about. It makes sense of what you’re learning through what you know. You view this new information through the context of past learning and forecast future events.
Your brain gets to connect the dots within what you know in a non-linear way. This helps you find solutions to answers and produce new ideas!
Have you ever had a lightbulb moment doing something mundane, like brushing your teeth?
This is why – letting your mind wander is as important as focusing for learning!
So, do this. Chunk your learning down to 20-25 minutes. Take 5-minute breaks in between to restore your working memory. And then before jumping into the next session review and practice what you learned.
These are scientifically backed ways of helping you learn anything faster!
9. Draw Picture Summaries of What You Learned
Remember how you learned visualization is the secret sauce to on-demand memory?
Picture Perfect Summaries are the most effective tool to remember what you read for this reason!
Have you ever written notebooks full of notes and realized you only remember some of that information?
Tony Buzan, a psychologist and educational consultant, realized that linear notes aren’t effective in helping you retain information.
Chances are, you end up with blocks of text and chunks of yellow highlighting, which don’t communicate much meaning.
However, picture perfect summaries let you condense what you learned in a meaningful, visual way you can take in at one glance.
First, you place the chapter name or main topic in the center, inside a circle.
Then, you draw spokes out from this main circle to smaller circles, for each of your subtopics.
If each of your subtopics break down into further subpoints, you draw out more spokes for these smaller circles.
Use different colored pens to help distinguish each of these branches and make them stand out!
In this way, you get a bird’s eye view of the all the important information, and how they connect to each other.
Your picture perfect summaries don’t have to be perfect works of art. As long as you visually represent what you learned, you can recall this image much faster than you could lines of highlighted text!
These mind maps communicate meaning much more intuitively than having to remember strings of words in the specific sequence you memorized them!
For more memory systems and tips on visualization, like how to access different types of memory on-demand to learn anything faster, check out the course Total Recall Learning!
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com, HowtoLearn.Teachable.com, best selling author and an internationally noted brain and learning 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, including Total Recall Learning™.
She is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!
Contact Pat to find out more about the Brain Advantage 2.0 Learning and Career Assessment and customized coaching for professionals and students.
Related: Part 1 of 9 Proven Ways to Learn Anything Faster
Part 2 of 9 Proven Ways to Learn Anything Faster
Part 3 of 9 Proven Ways to Learn Anything Faster