How to learn faster

How to learn faster

Learning new things is one of the best ways to upgrade your life, career and confidence….

It’s also a fantastic investment – but don’t just take my word for it… 

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.

Benjamin Franklin

Learning something new may be difficult at first, but it’s rewarding, useful and (according to research) can even make you happier!

In this article I’m going to combine a list of scientifically proven techniques you can start using immediately.

From the methods used by the world’s #1 brain coach and author of Limitless, Jim Qwik

Limitless, Jim Qwik.

….to cognitive enhancing supplements such as traditional nootropics taken by our ancestors and the latest smart drugs astronauts use for space missions.

By using the following tricks and techniques, you will be able to learn faster, get more done and remember for longer.

Tips to learn faster

Tip #1 – Double / triple your reading speed
The first technique on the list is being able to read TWICE as fast as you are reading right now. Good news is, you can achieve this in less than 10 minutes by watching the Tim Ferris video below…

Tim Ferriss | Improve your reading instantly by 200%

Tip #2 – Brain breaks

According to Louisiana State University experts, the key is to spend between 30-50 minutes per learning session. 

Anything less than 30 minutes isn’t enough, yet anything over 50 minutes is too much in a single setting, as your brain will start to switch off and forget things. 

The brain consolidates and solidifies memories during rest periods, so study/ practice for 45-minute intervals, take a 10-15 minute break and repeat.

Tip: Bonus points for meditating and hydrating between sessions.

Brief, frequent learning sessions are much better than longer, infrequent ones

Neil Starr – Western Governors University

Tip #3 – Study, sleep, repeat.

Research shows a strong connection between sleep and learning.

And having a nap between sessions greatly improves both short-term and longterm retention according to Psychological Science.

Our results suggest that interleaving sleep between practice sessions leads to a twofold advantage, reducing the time spent relearning and ensuring a much better long-term retention than practice alone

Stéphanie Mazza – University of Lyon

So instead of working late all night long to reach a deadline the next day, try having an early night and finish things off in the morning.

Your brain (and boss) will thank you for it.

Tip #4 – Mnemonic devices

If you’re looking to learn large amounts of info quickly, try using the different types of mnemonic devices available – as these can be a really powerful way of remembering things.
For example: 

“I before E, accepts after C” 

John Stuart Colquhoun – 1871

…or if you’re trying to remember the order of the planets in the solar system…

Solar Planets and Mnemonics
Solar Planets and Mnemonics

Admittedly, this may seem a bit childish but there’s a reason we can all remember things like the ABC song – and it’s because Mnemonics are super powerful.

TedTalk |Use Mnemonics to remember all the US Presidents in order.

Tip #5 – Prepare to teach the topic

By expecting to teach somebody else the material / subject – you’ll speed up the learning process and remember more than if you were just studying for exams.

When teachers prepare to teach, they tend to seek out key points and organise information into a coherent structure.

John Nestojko – Washington University.

The study suggests it’s to do with mindset and the way you will organise the knowledge, when preparing to teach it.

I personally love this approach and often use it when writing articles for LadsGuide.

Tip #6 – Take proper handwritten notes

Typing notes may be quicker, but if you’re looking to retain the information for longer, researchers at Princeton University and UCLA confirmed that handwriting notes in your own words is far more effective than tapping at the keyboard.

Take notes properly

Good notes will help you remember concepts, gain a deeper understanding of the topic and develop meaningful learning skills.

  • Listen carefully, and take notes in your own words.
  • Leave spaces and lines between main ideas so you can add to them.
  • Develop a consistent system of abbreviations and symbols.
  • Write in phrases, not complete sentences.
  • Learn to pull out important information and ignore trivial bits.

The better your notes are, the faster you’ll learn. 

Tip #7 – Meditation and Mental Spacing

Being able to think clearly and reflect is crucial for when trying to learn something fast and effectively. 

One of the best ways to clear the mind and create mental space is by meditating. No, this isn’t some coocoo voodoo sh*t, meditation is scientifically proven.

Other examples can include going for nature walks or digital detoxes.

Everyone thinks you need to ‘practice, practice, practice’ when learning something new. Instead, we found that resting, early and often, may be just as critical to learning as practice

NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders

Learn to switch off from time to time, and give your brain a chance to reset.
Sam Harris has a fantastic app for this.

And here’s some more examples of mental spacing from Inc magazine.

While stepping away from your materials may sound counterintuitive, author Benedict Carey explains it pretty well using an analogy in his book, How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens…

“You can water a lawn once a week for 90 minutes or three times a week for 30 minutes… Spacing out the watering during the week will keep the lawn greener over time.”

Benedict Carey
  • Part #1 – Things you can do
    Scientifically proven ways to improve learning
  • Part #2 – Things you can take
    Cover the basics of supplements and nootropics.
  • Part #3 – Apps / Tools you can use
    Some handy tech innovations I’ve found really helpful.

Synthetic smart drugs

Focus, motivation, clarity, memory

Nootropics (aka “smart drugs”) refer to substances that enhance cognitive functions such as: focus, alertness, energy and attention.

Prescription only smart drugs, such as Adderall, Ritalin and Modafinil are the most powerful nootropics and create a power stimulant-type effects.

Drug #1 – Modafinil

Also known as Provigil, Alertec, Vigicer or Modalert… Modafinil is a stimulant-like drug specifically designed to reduce fatigue and sleepiness.

It was approved for treatment of narcolepsy in 1998, and although the exact mechanism behind its effects is not fully understood, most research indicates that Modafinil also works by inhibiting reuptake of dopamine, which produces effects similar to those of methylphenidate (Ritalin).

I LOVE Modafinil, and so does Bullet Proof Coffee founder, Dave Asprey.
Bulletproof Coffee Founder, Dave Asprey on Modafinil, Smart Drug

Here’s some takeaways…

Limitless | Movie Trailer (Staring Bradley Cooper)

Drug #2 – Adderall (amphetamine)

Adderall is smart-drug of choice for American students, and become even more popular after being the star of the Netflix show, Take Your Pills.

It’s the most addictive of the top 3 smart drugs, and has worst of the typical side-effects (poor sleep, dependency, aggressive behaviour, psychosis etc).

Amphetamines are synthetic stimulants that were first created in 1887. These are among the most powerful stimulant-based smart drugs in use and work primarily by targeting dopamine, serotonin and noradrenaline/norepinephrine.

  • Used to treat ADHD and sleep apnea.
  • Greatly enhances reaction times.
  • 24% of Uni students take Adderall.
Take Your Pills | Netflix Trailer

Drug #3 – Ritalin

Methylphenidate was accepted into medical practice in 1960 as a way to treat narcolepsy and ADHD. It works by inhibiting the reuptake of dopamine and norepinephrine into the nervous system, causing a flooding of dopamine and norepinephrine in the synapse between the nerves, which in turn leads to amplified signaling between neurons. It’s been said that these effects are basically the same as those of amphetamines (see more details below), which are synthetic, addictive, mood-altering drugs, used illegally in sports as a stimulant and also legally as a prescription drug – like Ritalin – to treat children with ADD and adults with narcolepsy.

Side effects include insomnia, stomach ache, headache and anorexia. Overdoses (which may occur easily as it can be difficult to estimate and regulate dosage) can lead to agitation, hallucinations, psychosis, lethargy, seizures, tachycardia (rapid heart rate), dysrhythmia (irregular heart rhythms), hypertension and hyperthermia. 

Ritalin and cocaine share virtually the same properties.

USA Drug Enforcement Agency
  • Substantially more powerful than caffeine.
  • Neither as powerful or addictive as Adderall.

Natural Nootropics

If risky synthetic smart drugs aren’t your thing, but you’d still like a brain boost, here’s a list of a natural blends, traditional herbs and ancient extracts to try…

  • #1 – Caffeine
    Great for focus, alertness.
  • #2 -Choline
    Plays a key role in problem-solving and mental processing.
  • #3 – L-Theanine
    Calm alertness, enhanced reaction times, mental endurance and stress relieving.
  • #4 – Mucuna Pruriens
    Boosts dopamine which increases focus and alertness.
  • #5 -Yohimbine
    Increased focus, heightened senses, increased libido