e-Careers

How to: become a more effective learner

Learning can be tough, stressful and draining (see the guy in the header image). But done in the right way, learning can also be fun, rewarding and extremely beneficial.

A lot of people think learning finishes when you finish school and get your shirt signed by your classmates. Learning should be an ongoing experience that stays with us until the day we leave this mortal plane. As humans, we are learning at every stage of our lives; we learn our times tables, we learn how to drive, we learn how to love.

But does the way we learn change as we move through life? If we change as people, we should adapt the way we learn to maximise the amount of information we withhold. As a child, the most effective way to learn might be sitting with your parents going through your homework, or reading Biff, Chip & Kipper. But learning as a teenager or an adult can be an entirely different experience.

For me personally, I remember having two weeks until my dissertation deadline at university, and I hadn’t written anything. Apart from a few pages of scribbled notes (my handwriting hasn’t evolved since the age of about 10), I had nothing. It was then that I decided to shut myself in a room for the best part of twelve hours a day for two weeks and bash out 8,000 words on how emotion has been added into advertising over time, using the work Edward Bernays and Ford as examples.  I had the company of Kanye West via Spotify to keep me motivated, and copious amounts of energy drinks to keep me functioning.

I’m not saying this method works for everyone, because everyone has their own ways of getting the most out of themselves.

Find a good learning environment you can focus in

For most school-age learners, going to school is their only major time commitment, so they can give more time and focus onto it. For most adult learners however, learning is often put on the back burner, especially once work, school run and making dinner come into the equation.

This means if you are looking to advance your career prospects and get back into learning, you need to make sure you have a stress-free environment to learn in. You almost need to take your mind back to that place where you were learning as a child.

If you’re trying to learn a new language or learn a new skill – take the time to make sure you learn properly. Dipping in and out for five minutes here and here won’t benefit you much but setting aside a few hours every Sunday evening for example will help massively.

I’m going to give you three guesses as to what the most common distraction for people is these days?

You guessed it: the mobile phone.

There’s a 50/50 chance you’re reading this on a mobile phone, and if you are, are you procrastinating from doing the thing you’re supposed to be doing? (If you are, finish reading this article first, then crack on).

This TED-Ed video explains how our brains can’t multitask in the way we assume they can. In fact, our brains are unable to capacity or energy to hold two or more thoughts in unison. Turning your phone off while learning is a quick and instant way to increase productivity.

Learn in a way that works for you

There are many new approaches to learning, each one with benefits over the others, but one of the more popular emerging learning styles is kinaesthetic learning, or tactile learning. Kinaesthetic learning involves linking physical activity to the process of learning new information. It sits within Neil Fleming’s VARK model which breaks learning down into 4 techniques:

  • Visual Learning
  • Auditory Learning
  • Physical Learning
  • Social Learning

This model dictates that there are 4 main ways people learn, so chances are, you fit into once of these 4 strategies!

This article from the Learning Scientists delves even deeper and looks at Six Strategies for Effective Learning, a highly recommended follow-up read after this article.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and learn something new, whether it’s something as small as learning a new word each day or learning a new skill that could allow you to change career, find something that works for you!