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Strategies to Help You Learn More Effectively

Chelsea Iversen Apr. 7, 2020

Learning something new is certainly an act of self-care, and it has loads of benefits for your personal and professional life. And yet in these unprecedented times, when many of us find ourselves struggling to focus, learning is more of a self-investment than ever before. If you want to learn something new, but you’re worried about attention and retention, here are some ways to enhance the benefits of learning:

Strategies to help you learn more effectively:

Take notes

Taking notes while you read and watch educational videos enhances your learning retention. Bonus points for hand writing those notes since pen-and-paper writing activates the memory more effectively than typing.

Switch up the time and place you learn

Studies show that changing your location will make your mind more likely to synthesize what you learn, since it won't be tied to one place or situation. Same goes for the time of day you allot to learning. Shift your routine from day to day, and you will retain the information better. For now, if that means moving from the kitchen table to the backyard, so be it.

Join a community

Learning communities can be motivating in their own right, since having a group of people to not just hold each other accountable, but to engage with the material keeps you more interested in the topics. Talking things through with someone else maximizes your learning as well, and discussions help you understand whether you truly grasp the concepts while also giving your long-term memory retention a boost.

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Learn for purpose

During times like these when upskilling is essential to help you stand out from the rest, it’s important to take stock of where your interests lie. Use this time to choose what you want to learn based on your curiosity and begin to build yourself a sense of purpose instead of learning what someone else wants you to learn. Autonomous or agentic learning has been highly lauded for its ability to help students learn and master skills “on their own terms.” Deciding what you want to learn offers a sense of purpose to your learning, and a sense of purpose can reduce stress, curb depression, and even help you live longer.


According to Thrive Global, a skill is “the ability to do something well,” but it’s also really just a “series of connections in your brain.” The more you practice something, the more your brain makes these connections. When you’re focused on practicing doing something correctly and actively learning something new, you’re helping your brain learn better. In short, practicing learning makes you a better learner.

Sleep more

Remember when you were in school and cramming for exams was the order of the day? Remember your first all-nighter? Well, the research shows that these tactics — though they may have seemed to work at the time because you were able to remember enough for the test the next day — aren’t actually conducive to learning. The lack of sleep messes with your memory and actually makes it harder to remember things you learn. However, during your slow-wave sleep phases (not during REM), your brain actively creates and retains memories. This time is imperative to fully absorbing and remembering what you learn in your online courses.

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