How to Boost Learning Capacity in Less Time

How often have you decided you’d like to learn something new, but then become discouraged because that thing is taking too long to learn? Most of us experience this feeling as children, when we decide we’re going to learn to play the guitar or drums, ride a skateboard or something similar, in order to emulate our idols. We usually learn pretty quickly that there’s a reason our idols are famous for that particular task – if it was easy to learn and everybody was good at it, they wouldn’t be famous at all!

Unfortunately, no matter which method of learning you use to learn, you’ll still need to put in a decent amount of time in order to learn it. It’s how you use those hours though, that determines whether you are getting the best out of your efforts. The traditional methods of learning – such as reading, listening to lectures, watching videos and similar – often result in remembering only a small part of what you learn. This is because we don’t absorb a large amount of information when we learn passively. In fact, science has suggested we learn:

  • 5% of what we hear (e.g. during a lecture)
  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we see (e.g. apps, videos)
  • 30% of what we are shown (e.g. in a demonstration)
  • 50% of what we learn in a group discussion
  • 75% of what we practice
  • 90% of what we teach to others!

As you can see, it’s the methods that involve participation that help us retain the most knowledge. The time we spend learning is often considered as precious or limited time; after all, there’s only so many hours each day that we can actively participate in learning. Because of this, it’s important to ensure we’re utilizing that time to the best of our abilities.

So, we can either take three hours of study time to read a book, for example, or we can spend only one hour applying the thing we want to learn to real life and learn the same amount (if not more). For example, if you needed to learn how to drive a car, you could read as many books as you like on the topic, but nothing is going to teach you how to drive better than getting behind the wheel yourself! Similarly, participating in our learning increases motivation. Think of the difference between working out by following a chart, or working out with a personal trainer. The latter will not only help you reach your goals more quickly, but it will also cause you to feel a level of accountability that will keep you moving forward.

Participatory learning can also help you learn valuable aspects of the topic that you’d miss out on if you merely read a book or similar. As an example, if you wanted to learn a new language, you could watch a series of YouTube videos that repeat the words to you one at a time and you’d eventually learn, but you’d be missing out on that valuable feedback you’d get if you were learning from somebody else. A YouTube video can’t tell you if you’ve pronounced something wrong or muddled your words up. It stands to reason then that conversing with a person who speaks the language you want to learn will help you learn not only quicker, but more efficiently.
While we can’t tell you exactly how many hours you could save by using participatory study, we can tell you that this definitely works. Regardless of what you’re trying to learn, you’ll benefit by finding a way to participate in your own learning experience.

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