how to learn fast: 10 Proven Strategies for Maximizing Your Ability to Learn Quickly and Efficiently

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Learning quickly and efficiently is a necessity in the digital world. Whether you’re a startup aiming for rapid growth, an entrepreneur keeping up with the latest industry trends, or a lifelong business learner, rethinking our learning approach is essential. 

The New York Times highlighted that high test scores don’t equate to true understanding. Instead, it’s about studying smarter, not harder. 

Benedict Carey, a New York Times reporter, suggests leveraging our understanding of brain science, memory tests, and learning studies to enhance our learning process. For instance, changing our study environment can create new associations in our brains, making it easier to recall information later. 

This article presents ten proven strategies to enhance learning ability so you can use knowledge for your business’s benefit.

Fast and Effective Learning Strategies 

Fast and effective learning strategies are two techniques you can use to enhance your entrepreneurial process.

When applied correctly, they transform how startups approach their growth, leading to more efficient and effective business development.

Spaced Repetition

Spaced repetition happens when business strategies and concepts are reviewed at increasing intervals. It has been shown to improve long-term retention significantly. This technique leverages the psychological spacing effect, suggesting that learning is more effective when review sessions are spaced over time. 

This strategy can also be applied academically to enhance memory retention.

Interleaving

Interleaving involves mixing different business topics or areas during brainstorming sessions and enhances strategic planning. 

This strategy helps founders differentiate between concepts and processes, leading to a deeper understanding and better problem-solving abilities. 

Similarly, students can use interleaving to improve their knowledge of different subjects.

According to a Forbes study, we tend to forget a portion of what we learn if we don’t apply the new information. This phenomenon, known as “The Forgetting Curve,” was discovered by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus. His research found that if new information isn’t applied, we’ll forget about 75% after six days. 

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Source: Forbes

Active and Participatory Learning

Active and participatory learning is a strategy that involves direct participation in the learning process. 

Instead of simply listening to or passively reading the information, those who practice active learning interact with the material, which includes activities like:

  • Discussing concepts.
  • Solving problems.
  • Applying the knowledge to real-world situations.

Startups and entrepreneurship founders often struggle to learn new concepts and retain information. However, adopting this methodology encourages them to engage with the business environment, ask questions, and think critically, thereby enhancing their understanding.

Active learning takes many forms, but some common strategies include:

  • Team Discussions: Discussions allow startup team members to explore different perspectives and deepen their understanding of business concepts. This also helps students explore academic concepts in depth in a classroom.
  • Project-Based Learning: Projects allow team members to apply what they have learned to real-world business situations, solidifying their understanding. Similarly, students use project-based learning to apply academic concepts to real-world scenarios.
  • Problem-Based Learning: This approach involves presenting team members with a business problem and guiding them through finding a solution. In an academic setting, students can be given an issue related to their course material to enhance their problem-solving skills.

Active learning improves understanding and retention in business and develops critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Building Skills with Mind Maps 

Mind mapping is a powerful technique that revolutionizes how entrepreneurs brainstorm, boost their memory, and prioritize vital information for projects and business strategies. It provides an alternative method for those whose minds don’t respond positively to traditional linear note-taking. This is particularly beneficial in startups where diverse thinking experiences are encouraged.

Mind mapping changes the brainstorming experience for many entrepreneurs. They find it more enjoyable using this creative thinking technique than making notes. 

They use keywords and short phrases instead of large walls of text, images, and colors, making them visually stimulating. This method is especially effective in a startup where complex business information needs to be understood quickly.

It provides a visual representation of ideas from a central theme. Individual opinions are displayed on branches that radiate out from the main bubble. 

To use mind mapping:

  • Take the central subject.
  • Organize your notes around this point. 

Online mind mapping improves your brainstorming techniques and can be especially beneficial, making the process even quicker and easier. This tool is a great way to teach complex business concepts in a more digestible format.

Major Mind Map Benefits

There are two major benefits of using mind maps:

  • Easy Learning: Mind maps break down complex business information into manageable chunks, making it easier for entrepreneurs to understand and remember the material. This is particularly useful for startup founders just starting to learn how to strategize effectively.
  • Creative Thinking Stimulation: Mind maps boost your creative thinking. Building your mind map will escalate your ability to generate new business ideas. This is because they accelerate your brain’s ability to make links between ideas, add connections, and put thoughts to create further innovative solutions.

The brain responds to mind mapping as it replicates our natural thinking processes, so you will find your business ideas simply flowing onto the page.

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Digital Learning Tools 

Digital tools are an effective way to enhance your business knowledge and skills. They include business apps, online course platforms, and project management software.

They offer a variety of benefits, such as:

  • Flexibility: Digital tools allow entrepreneurs and startups to learn at their own pace and on their schedule.
  • Personalization: Many offer personalized content based on your business needs and goals. 
  • Accessibility: You can access platforms from anywhere with an internet connection, allowing you to learn in the place that’s most comfortable for you, be it your office, home, or on the go.
  • Tutorials: Some project management softwares include tutorials and glossaries that teach you the basic about how to use them and improve your management skills.  
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Source: Digitallschools 

Memory Techniques for Fast Learning

Memory is a skill that is trained and developed. It’s not exclusive to an elite group with innate abilities.

Competitive memorizers claim that practicing visualization techniques and memory tricks enables them to remember large chunks of information quickly. They expand working memory and access long-term memory, allowing some concepts to be recognized for years.

A quick and practical instruction to improve memory is understanding the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize.

Another trick is to link the information you are trying to memorize with something you already know (Elaborative Rehearsal). Isolated material is harder to remember than material connected to other concepts.

For example, if you’re an entrepreneur trying to remember that the breakeven point in a business is when total cost and total revenue are equal, you could link this to the concept of a seesaw balancing perfectly. 

Imagine your costs on one side and your revenues on the other. The seesaw is perfectly balanced when they are equal. This visual link, though simple, helps you understand this crucial business concept in your mind.

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Source: Collegemarker

Distributed practice and self-testing are other potent techniques for memory training. 

Here’s the difference:

  • Self-testing allows you to identify areas of struggle, and then you operate one of the memory tricks to assist in memorization. 
  • Distributed practice involves spacing out your study and repetition over several days, gradually increasing the time between sessions. This allows knowledge mastery and locks concepts into place.

For startups and entrepreneurs, this approach leads to more effective learning and better decision-making in the fast-paced startup environment.

Sleep And Information Retention

Sleep is a significant factor in the process of memory consolidation. According to a Chronobiology and Sleep Institute study, sleep is not just about restoring energy. It plays a learning and memory role. 

The research indicates that sleep helps memorize, retain, recall, and apply new knowledge effectively. It was found that sleep improves memory retention and recall by between 20 and 40 percent. 

This highlights the importance of adequate sleep in enhancing the learning process, especially for entrepreneurs who need to absorb new information quickly and effectively.

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Mnemonic Techniques

Mnemonic techniques are powerful tools that enhance memory and learning capabilities. They create patterns that make information easier to remember and recall. 

They can take various forms, including songs, poems, rhymes, and outlines, and are often used to memorize phrases or ideas.

Mnemonic techniques tap into how the brain naturally stores data. For instance, devices like acronyms, chunking, and rhymes structure information in a way that’s more easily processed by our memory.

Vanderbilt University’s IRIS Center discusses the benefits of mnemonic devices when they say that “mnemonics are tools that aid memory, often by associating new information with existing knowledge in a structured way.” 

The institution highlights several advantages of using mnemonics:

  • Improved recall: Mnemonics can help individuals remember information more effectively. They create strong associations between the data and the mnemonic, making it easier to retrieve the information later.
  • Increased interest: They often involve creating imaginative, vivid images or stories, making learning more engaging and enjoyable.
  • Enhanced organization: Mnemonics help structure information meaningfully, making it easier to understand and remember.
  • Greater efficiency: They reduce the time needed to memorize information.
  • Accessibility: Mnemonics can be used by anyone and do not require any special equipment or resources.
  • Versatility: Mnemonics can be applied to a wide range of subjects and types of information.
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Source: Grammarmonster 

Critical Thinking Skills 

Critical thinking skills are essential for effective learning. These skills allow you to analyze and evaluate information.

Here are some strategies to develop critical thinking skills, especially for startups and entrepreneurs:

  • Use “Wasted” Time: Reflect on your day and evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. This can help you identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to address them.
  • A Problem a Day: Choose a problem to work on each day. This helps you develop problem-solving skills and learn how to apply critical thinking to real-world situations.
  • Internalize Intellectual Standards: Develop a heightened intellectual awareness such as clarity, precision, accuracy, relevance, depth, breadth, logicalness, and significance.
  • Keep An Intellectual Journal: Write journal entries to reflect on your experiences and thoughts. This can help you understand your thinking processes and identify patterns.
  • Reshape Your Character: Choose an intellectual trait to strive for each month, such as intellectual perseverance, autonomy, empathy, courage, or humility.
  • Deal with Your Ego: Recognize and address your egocentric thinking. This can help you become more objective and open-minded.
  • Redefine the Way You See Things: Try redefining situations positively or constructively. This can help you develop a more positive mindset and approach to problem-solving.
  • Get in Touch With Your Emotions: Understand the thinking leading to your emotions. You manage your emotions more effectively and make more rational decisions.
  • Analyze Group Influences on Your Life: Understand the influence of group dynamics on your thinking and behavior. You become more independent and autonomous in your review.

Developing your critical thinking skills takes time and practice but can be a valuable investment in your learning ability.

Self-Directed Learning 

Self-directed learning involves taking the initiative in your education. This includes:

  • Setting your learning goals.
  • Seeking out resources.
  • Evaluating your progress.

It allows you to learn at your own pace and according to your interests and needs. However, it can also be challenging, requiring motivation and self-discipline.

Here are some strategies to help you succeed in self-directed learning:

  • Set Clear Goals: Having a clear goal idea can help you maintain motivation and direct your learning efforts.
  • Seek Out Learning Resources: Almost infinite learning resources are available online, from books and online courses to podcasts and videos. Try to find resources that fit your needs and learning style.
  • Evaluate Your Progress: Monitor your progress toward your learning goals regularly. This can help you identify improvement areas and adjust your learning strategies.

In startups and entrepreneurship, self-directed learning can be precious. Entrepreneurs must learn various skills and knowledge, from marketing to product development and customer service.

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Source: Helpfulprofessor 

Pacing for Fast and Effective Learning [Helps Startups and Entrepreneurship]

Pacing yourself in learning is not about racing through the material but understanding and retaining it effectively. It’s about setting realistic goals, taking time, and allowing your brain the necessary breaks. 

This approach to learning improves your ability to absorb and recall information. 

Here are some strategies to help you learn fast and effectively:

  • Understand Pacing Importance: Find a rhythm to understand and absorb information effectively.
  • Avoid Binge Learning: While it might be tempting to power through learning modules, “binge learning” can lead to burnout and is not the best method for quick learning. Forbes mentions that binge learning doesn’t allow the brain to encode the information for recall properly.  Instead of taking bite-sized learning portions, use just 20 to 90 minutes to learn. This will enable you to digest the information and consider the best use.
  • Set Realistic Goals: One of the most common mistakes of most entrepreneurs is they expect to master a target language or subject at breakneck speed. The process of learning reminds one of a marathon rather than a sprint. So be persistent, critically examine what you want to achieve, and compare it to how fast you can do it. Train every day by taking little steps closer to your goal.
  • Take Breaks: Successful entrepreneurs have daily study sessions and constantly review their lessons. But they also give themselves breaks to give their brains time to process new information, relax and breathe a little before plunging headlong into the next tranche of material.
  • Use the Flexibility of E-Learning: One of the biggest benefits of e-learning is its flexibility for independent study. You don’t have to wait for classes to begin and end. If you are ambitious and motivated, you can keep working on exercises and modules for as long as you want. But after a while, you might see diminishing returns. A better strategy is to find ways to do exercises and practice several times a day for brief periods, reinforcing what you’ve learned and gradually applying it to new scenarios.

Responses to Frequently Asked Questions

What Resources Are Available to Help Me Learn Faster?

There are different resources available to help you learn faster:

  • Online platforms like Coursera, Khan Academy, Udemy, and Codecademy offer courses that accelerate your startup’s learning curve. 
  • Digital libraries like Google Books and Kindle provide a wealth of knowledge.
  • Engaging with other entrepreneurs also enhances your understanding. 
  • Participating in online forums, local meetups, or entrepreneurship groups leads to insightful discussions, helping to clarify doubts and deepen your understanding of various topics.
  • Audio and video podcasts are a great way to learn on the go. They offer different viewpoints on a topic, which can help you remember and apply concepts.
  • Seeking advice from seasoned entrepreneurs or participating in mentorship programs speeds up your learning process, making staying updated with critical new concepts easier.

Are There Any Ways I Can Improve My Concentration And Focus on Learning Faster?

Yes, enhancing your concentration and focus significantly speeds up learning. 

Here are some strategies:

  • Get Enough Sleep: Lack of sleep hinders your ability to concentrate and focus. Ensure that you and your team are getting enough rest.
  • Exercise Regularly: Regular workouts can boost brain function and increase the production of brain chemicals linked to focus and concentration.
  • Cut Out Distractions: Distractions like social media notifications or background noise can kill productivity. Ensure that your workspace is quiet and free from distractions.
  • Take Breaks: Short breaks during work sessions can help clear the mind and maintain focus.
  • Brain Training: Activities like memory games, puzzles, and crosswords can help keep the brain sharp and focused.
  • Stop Multitasking: Research suggests that multitasking can impair attention and reduce comprehension. Try to focus on one task at a time.

What Strategies And Techniques Can I Use to Learn New Information Quickly?

Acquiring new information fast is a skill that can be honed with the right strategies and techniques. It’s not merely about stuffing information into your brain but about understanding how the brain operates and leveraging that knowledge.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Distributed Practice: One of the most potent ways to learn swiftly is through distributed practice. This method involves dividing your learning sessions into smaller segments spread over time instead of trying to assimilate all the information at once. This approach allows for more robust learning as it involves forgetting and relearning, fortifying memory. It’s about optimizing your cognitive resources and sidestepping cognitive overload.
  • Retrieval Practice: It requires actively recalling information without using materials to help you remember. This method compels us to extract data from our memory, bolstering our learning and material comprehension.
  • Elaboration: This is another strategy for learning new information swiftly. This involves going beyond mere recall and making connections within the content. Asking open-ended questions about the material and answering in as much detail as possible can deepen understanding and foster long-term memory.
  • Proper Hydration: Staying hydrated is not just essential for our physical health but also for our cognitive abilities. According to a study cited by News Medical, even mild dehydration leads to reduced cognitive function, characterized by increased fatigue, sleepiness, worse mood, and attention.

Moreover, modifying your practice can also be beneficial. Making slight changes during repeated practice sessions helps you master a skill faster than doing it the same way every time. 

Wrapping Up

In startups and entrepreneurship, learning quickly and effectively is a game-changer. 

Learning faster is not about cramming information but developing effective strategies aligning with your unique learning style. It’s a journey that involves continuous improvement, and you’ll have to stay updated as new information comes. 

Everyone’s learning process is unique. Experiment with these strategies to see what works best for you. The key is to be consistent and patient with yourself. Learning is a marathon, not a sprint.

Your business project will depend on how well you apply strategies and visualize a future where you constantly innovate through knowledge and learning.

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About the author: Oran Yehiel

Oran Yehiel is the founder of Startup Geek, with an MBA specializing in financial management and a background in Deloitte. As a Certified Public Accountant and Digital Marketing Professional, he writes about venture capital, marketing, entrepreneurship, and more, bringing a wealth of experience to businesses seeking growth and success.

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