Learning is a process of every human being. Starting from learning how to walk, ride a bike, how to study, pass exams, and prepare for the work. It’s an exercise we do everyday almost like a workout. However, it’s no longer enough to just learn, the modern world is all about optimizing time and being as productive as possible.
I love to learn new things and it became my hobby to find new ways for boosting the effectiveness and capabilities of the mind. It has helped me during all these years of being a League of Legends Player, Coach, Java Tester, Frontend Developer, Recruiter, and now, a Mentor.
I prepared 5 ways to learn more effectively, there is a chance you're using some of them already, but understanding why can always help you learn even faster than now.
Let's dive in.
1. Music for your brain
Neurons in our brains use electricity to communicate with each other. This in turn generates electrical activity and brain waves are created. Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and theta waves. Music on the right frequency also creates these waves. We don’t even realize how music can manipulate us, affect our focus, relaxing, creativity, and many other traits. It all comes down to stimulating the brain.
Before we start listening to new songs, it's worth getting quality headphones. I’m using AirPods Pro. They have great quality, are soundproof, and even waterproof (I checked it once, can confirm 😅).
Getting back to the waves, I mostly listen to songs with alpha waves, if I need an influx of creativity and a feeling of relaxation. Beta waves, in turn, help me when I spend time on concentrating, acquiring new knowledge, and also when I need to think logically or solve some algorithms.
I haven't tried songs with other waves yet, but gamma waves could be useful for multitasking and remembering associations. Delta waves are best suited for meditation and deep focus. Also, helpful if someone has trouble falling asleep. Theta waves strengthen memory.
Below is a list of songs I recommend when starting with this learning approach:
Classical music is probably one of the best if it comes to deep focus while learning. You can find some classical music songs on e.g. Spotify, searching by keywords such as study music, concentration music, alpha waves, beta waves, etc.
2. Mind mapping - use both hemispheres
While studying for the exam, I bet that many of you've used cheat sheets. It takes time, accuracy, and a lot of consideration to make a good cheat sheet. It's usually a summary of the most important information from the entire semester, book, or presentation. Unfortunately, after passing the exam, it is lost forever, and the knowledge most often evaporates with it. During the whole process, we only use the left hemisphere of the brain, responsible for numbers, words, and logical thinking.
When making notes, not necessarily cheat sheets, we can add symbols, colors, minimalistic drawings, connect everything with arrows, and in the center, e.g. on the card of paper, place the keywords, sentences, statements, or dates. And that's how we create a mind map which activates the right hemisphere. Then, both hemispheres work synergistically with each other, increasing our efficiency while learning.
Before I got to know this method, I kept writing the most important information in the form of traditional notes, often they were several pages long and it was difficult to get a hang of it. This way of learning quickly becomes boring and imitative. Using a mind map, we can stimulate our mind to"play", making it, but also us, enjoying the learning. A very crucial element of correct mind mapping is legibility, try to write neatly. Additionally, you will get a practice of handwriting.
Below is a list of some basic steps for creating a mind map:
- Take a piece of paper or scrapbook and try to write down all the keywords, dates, sentences, theses that you plan to learn. Try to give only the specifics, without too much fluff.
- Set a priority, from the most important to the least important information (maybe you know what questions will appear on the test, exam, etc.).
- Prepare an A4 sheet of paper, best to place it horizontally, and start by writing the map title, some keywords, in capital letters in its center.
- Add a symbol, a picture to stimulate the right hemisphere of the brain.
- Next, add new "branches" and words, theses, dates, try to connect them if it makes sense. (e.g. with arrows).
- Draw more symbols, use different colors, try to be creative.
- Get in shape and repeat the process several times.
Mind mapping is especially useful when I'm trying to explore a new topic and don't know where to start. A mind map allows me to get a clear structure and makes a plan of what I really need to learn. It’s also super helpful for creating and solving algorithms with concrete business logic to represent all steps, edge cases. In general, it feels good to brainstorm and draw something, just in a geek, IT style, on an old-school board. (When you become a master of mind mapping, it’s time to stop wasting paper and visualize everything in the mind, just like a D3 😃).
3. Stay hydrated and eat something
The human brain consists of 83% water. Poor hydration leads to attention disorders and concentration. Water cleanses the body and oxygenates the brain. I’ve heard different opinions on how much water we should drink during the day. There're opinions of 7-8 glasses, and sometimes it is mentioned to drink from 1.5 liters to 3 liters of liquids (including those from food). I believe that this is an individual matter and it’s best to consult it with a dietitian.
I personally drink about 2 liters of water a day, in small sips, quite often. I always have a bottle of water next to my desk, even now. I buy sparkling water for one week and still water for the second. Excess water can poison the body, and sparkling water flushes vitamins - I have heard such opinions, but since I started drinking sparkling and still water alternating weekly periods, I have the impression that my comfort has improved. I rarely drink other beverages, but I would try to avoid energy drinks. It’s definitely worth recharging yourself with vitamins from freshly squeezed fruit or vegetables. Drink a cup of tea, coffee, or your favorite herbs. Just don't overdo it.
„You are what you eat” – healthy eating is certainly an efficient method of effective learning. Foods rich in iron (memory improvement), lecithin (also better remembering), vitamin B12, C, A, and E (concentration), vitamin D (memory again) are almost essential while learning. First of all, when we are hungry, we cannot focus and we get nervous quickly. Snacks can help with that - let's keep them healthy. They will support the work of our brain, and not everything will go to the sides! I usually prepare a few pieces of dark chocolate, almonds, and e.g. peanuts in a small bowl. Usually this is enough for a few hours of study and fills the gap between main meals.
4. Take a break
We all work in front of the computer. The Polish health and safety at work state that I am entitled to a 5-minute break after each hour worked in front of the screen monitor. Sometimes it is difficult to break away from a task, chapter in a book, or from writing, for example, a guide you're reading now. I have a problem with it (I'm working on it 😀), usually, I try to finish something at all costs, skipping the hellishly important breaks in between. For some time now, I started using the 5-minute break rule and noticed a significant increase in productivity.
We remember best what we learn at the beginning and end of a given time period, in this case - an hour. Use these 5 minutes to stretch your bones, get out in the fresh air, or even exercise for a while, and oxygenate your brain. Sometimes I was lingering far too long in front of the computer, 3 or more hours without contact with reality, trying to solve a problem. Most often, when I was forced to take a break due to fatigue, I came up with a solution. Then, I realized 5 minutes could be more valuable than a few hours, and time is indeed relative.
5. Imagine you already know it
While browsing the internet to explore various methods of effective learning, I came across something which intrigued me. There is such a concept as Self-Motivation, and each of you will probably agree that feeling better helps us in everything. Nothing in life is more enjoyable than being appreciated and rewarded. "Well done", "You've done well" - such sentences, especially when spoken by loved ones, make us more valuable and motivate us to continue our actions.
There is also the possibility of cheating our brain.
We can imagine ourselves, e.g. standing somewhere in the room, and convincing our mind what we have to learn - we already learned. Let's agree that is the Placebo effect supposed to affect our psyche. Whenever I sit down at my desk to learn something new, my thoughts drift away to the world of dreams for a while and I tell myself, "What would it be like if I were already an expert in this field". After a while, I come back to reality and my confidence is on a completely different level. With a light spirit, I start learning in an ideal state of mind.
And that's it! I've shared with you my 5 methods of effective learning I developed over the past 12 years.
Big thanks for reading the article, you're awesome! 🙇♂️
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Thanks for all the support. ❤️