How To Be A Quick Learner

What learning strategies do "quick learners" follow? originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question.

Answer by Alessio Bresciani, Digital Leader, Marketing and Blogger, on Quora.

Your question is a great one. And it forced me to reflect about the things I have learnt across my interests in business, personal development and martial arts.

In your question you say you are a 'slow learner'. Let me tell you, I've seen many slow learners understand subjects to far greater detail than people who can learn at a fast pace. In fact, slow learners can bring a deliberateness that sometimes is lacking in fast learners. So this can certainly be an advantage for you also.

Having said that, these are principles I've applied in my own learning which I feel are universal.

#1 Repetition

I firmly believe that repitition leads to mastery. If it is learning a new skill, practice that skill often. If it is learning a new theory, apply it wherever one can.

As Bruce Lee said "I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times".

Any skill refined through continuous practice over time will become formidable.

#2 Focus

With so many distractions today (social media, multitasking, open plan offices) we're receiving constant stimulus.

We've lost the ability to focus. Yet focus is what is required to truly understand and absorb any subject.

To learn a new skill, I find time to focus on it, in an environment free from distraction. If it's reading, I'll listen to music without lyrics, so the music does not distract me from the content of what I'm reading.

Steve Jobs said "people think focus means saying yes to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully."

#3 Context & Detail

To understand a specific subject, I find it useful to look at the big picture first. I like to understand the context of things.

So in a book I'll read the table of contents before I look at the pages. This way I get a sense for where the overall context is headed. And when I read the detail, I'll understand how one theme relates to another. Detail is important, but at the right time.

Start too early on the detail and you'll miss the context of the whole. Miss detail altogether, and understanding only stays superficial.

So I switch between context and detail so I learn the surface and the depth.

#4 Relationship

Learning by understanding context and detail (the prior point) gives me a sense of the 'relationship' between information. And this is very important for retained learning.

This is one of the reasons why to recall a full deck of cards, many people tell themselves a story involving all the characters in the cards. The story gives the relationship of the cards to one another.

Building a meaningful relationship across the themes we're studying is one of the best ways to accelerate and retain learning.

#5 Pace

Pace is an excellent variable to play with.

For example, if you're listening to a lecture, you could speed up the pace of the lecture x2.

Pace also serves another important function. It puts us under different types of pressure and because of this, we adjust our learning method.

Putting ourselves through this variability builds our capacity, much in the same way that a long distance runner may do hill sprints to work on their overall fitness.

In my own case, if I'm working on a presentation, I'll try to say it at twice the speed on the final practices, to ensure that I can recall all the information I need under pressure.

If I can recall it at double the speed, I know it will be available to me at normal speed without stress.

This isn't just about recall, it is about changing the dynamics of how we learn, to build flexibility into our learning method.

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