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How to Learn Everything - Avalanche Learning

The information comes down like an avalanche.The beauty of mother nature (avalanche) - Image

Innumerable podcasts, millions of books, blogs, wikis, articles, feeds, tumblr, twitter, facebook...The amount of information is overwhelming.

How do you absorb the massive amounts of information in a useful way? This article is the first in a five part series titled How to Learn Everything. In this article, I'll walk you through an overview of how to consume massive amounts of information in our information-saturated world.

In the next article, I'll discuss how to use technology to increase the information we consume in Plugging into Tech. After that we'll talk about how to capture inspiration with advanced note taking. In the third article of the series, we'll talk about memorizing as you listen with mnemonic notes. Finally, we offer an article on speed reading.

 

 

 

Knowledge to Accomplish Anything

I am a voracious learner.

I sift through hundreds of articles each week and read multiple books in a month.

I haven't found anyone who would disagree that learning is important. Rather, people just don't find time for it. Many people I talk to don't have a need to learn new information, so they don't. Honestly, I agree with them. Learning apart from doing is only storing useless information in your head. What good is trivia in the real world?

Learning must complement doing. Learning is one pillar of a lifestyle where you're constantly growing and developing yourself. Goals that you're excited about will force you to learn in order to achieve them. Goals that excite me have such a strong force behind them that enable me to tackle any necessary learning and enjoy it. In addition, when you use the information you learn in your life, then you'll remember it!

If you've had a hard time staying consistent at learning new things, perhaps you aren’t challenging yourself with meaningful goals. Start now. What is meaningful to you? What goal would motivate you to learn and grow? Learning enables the life adventurer to triumph.

Here's an example of a meaningful life goal that provokes me to learn:

Goal: I want to have thriving relationships by connecting with acquaintances, friends, and family.

This goal necessitates that I learn about relationships. What makes strong relationships? How can I connect with acquaintances? How can I nurture deep friendships? How can I grow my family bonds? These questions have meaning for me and provoke me to read books, articles, and listen to podcasts. To accomplish this goal, I’ve read numerous books on everything from How to Win Friends and Influence People, to books about modern psychology.

Try learning in support of meaningful goals to improve your learning consistency.

 

Quality and Quantity

As you set meaningful goals and take action, it’ll become obvious what subject you need to learn about.

Below I outlined a few hints to increase quality and quantity.

Look for high quality.

The internet is filled with so much worthwhile information, why waste time on bad material?

This may be obvious but start by looking at the highest rated material on sites like Amazon.com or GoodReads.com. A rating with only 1 or 2 people is as good as worthless, so look for 20+ people for a greater confidence in the rating. Lower ratings aren’t always bad. Some information appeals strongly to people with a certain taste. For example, a book written about politics might cause some people to hate it and other people to love it. Going into the ratings and reading what readers had to say will give you an even better idea of what books are high quality.

Look for classics in a subject. If people are still recommending a book that is 10+ years old then you my have stumbled across a classic. Generally only high quality books last decades.

High quality doesn’t mean you need to reduce your quantity. Rather, it frees up your time to read more broadly. Engage your interests and expand your goals. With all the variety in the infinite world wide web, you can find high quality content in any niche.

Listen to Audio Books.

All right, I admit it. I’m addicted to audio books. I remember driving through a Taco Bell window forgetting to turn off my audio book (I was reading Think, Fast, and Slow). The cute blonde in the drive-thru window heard the voice in the car rambling on about heuristics. Her eyes told me all I needed to know. I’m a nerd. But I don't care.

An ancient medieval monk used to have a servant follow him around reading so that he never had to put down his book. Today, anyone can have that same opportunity to learn EVERYTHING! No servant required.

My IPod reads me books while I drive, do chores, run, eat …etc. I get around 8 hours of extra reading each week from listening to audio books. Using the technique of mental notes (discussed here) I can memorize while listening. This helps maximize the amount of information I can convert into long-term knowledge.

Here are some additional tips to increase the amount of information you consume:

  • Try using an Audible.com membership. You can sign up for a membership, purchase a book with your credit, then cancel your membership. This saves me a lot of money on the books I read.  :)
  • Podcasts and Free Open-Source Learning Online offer free alternatives to audio books. ITunes University offers a number of free courses (or Google Open-source lessons).

I do audio books more than podcasts, but everything I said about audio books applies equally to podcasts. Download them and play them while you run, drive, or do chores. Who doesn’t like multi-taking in today’s fast-paced world?

Put your blogs into an RSS feed!

Did you want to know how I can read hundreds of articles each week?

It's simple! Combine a bit of speed reading and a friendly RSS reader (I use Feedly). To start off, look online to find lists of the best blogs in the subject you want to learn about. Subscribe to all of them and tag them with the right subject (organization will help as your subject lists grow). Each day, skim the titles that come up. In a few minutes you can eliminate what you don’t care about and book mark what you do care about. For articles that seem interesting, start with a quick skim to see if it’s worth reading in-depth. Remember, don’t waste your time on low quality or bad info. Speed reading is a useful skill to practice to mass-read articles.

Later in this article series I'll discuss more ways to Plug into Technology.

Organize and Memorize

We’ve turned on the spigot, but how do you keep from losing everything that you learn? You forget 90% of what happened to you in 24 hours, and then 90% again after 1 week. That means without good notes and organized thinking all this knowledge will be lost in a week. Here are some tips:

Keep a Learning Journal

Write down concepts when they make sense to you; store powerful ideas, interesting quotes, and important facts. Have one place to keep track of them. I have an excel journal where I write down all of my ideas and insights.

When you can, take notes. Organize your notes so that you won’t lose them. You learn faster than you can incorporate that learning into your life. So organize wisely. Gather similar information together in the same place. Then, when you’re ready to apply that information it’ll be there waiting for you to review. Excel allows you to filter by categories which helps to sort the information when I need it (Google “Excel Filter” to effectively use filters with your categories).

Here  are some additional tips that I find helpful:

  • I text myself notes and ideas when it’s inconvenient to get on my computer or get to my journal. Try entering your email straight into a text message. Most phones will allow you to text into your email. By gathering all my notes in one place, it allows me to offload them to my journal. You can also use Evernote to collect all your ideas. Categorize them with tags. I enjoy the Excel filter ability, but I sometimes use Evernote in place of my email as the intermediary step. So store it, forget it, and add it to your journal later (see advanced note taking).
  • I also love to take notes using mind maps. This is a creative way to take notes that allows you to draw ideas and connect them together. You remember your ideas better because your mind changes abstract ideas into pictures and connects them in a way that makes sense to you.
  • Remember that whatever avenue you choose to get the ideas out, you should still gather all of the best ideas into one place. I’ve been through the hassle of trying to track down my scribbled notes on notecards, business notebooks, and every other scrap of paper lying around… it doesn’t work. Make one simple system that you can feed all your information into.

Here are some note taking resources:

Use Mnemonic Notes

Since college I’ve had a secret pleasure.

I use memory mnemonics to memorize while I learn. In college, I’d use them to memorize lectures as I sat in class. I was very bad at paying attention during my engineering lectures (they were VERY boring), so I began using memory mnemonics to take notes real-time. With a little practice, I improved to the point that I could memorize an entire semester of notes while sitting in class.

I carried over this skill into learning after college. Today, I use memory mnemonics to take notes on books as I read them. I can memorize books while I do chores, run, or drive… it’s become second-nature. I’ve found the skill very useful, and I highly suggest it to any serious learner. If you want to learn more about my technique click here. This was the holy grail to me at one point and has now become a daily habit.

 

After all is learned… review!

The powerful concept of review intervals was a diamond in the rough.

I stumbled over the idea one day when I should have been studying for a test. It transformed how I saw learning. Memory works on an exponential curve. That means if you can review the information at the right review periods you can memorize HUGE amounts of information. Here’s the trick: 1 day, 1 week, 2 weeks, and double after that (1 month, 2 months, 4 months….etc).

A simple way to apply this principle is to write your review dates on the side of a notecard that you want to memorize. Keep track of your dates, and write the next date the information needs to be reviewed. Then keep your stack of notecards in order of their next review date. Finally, review the notecards when they come due.

I was so excited about this idea that I spent a good year programming a notecard flash app that kept track of my notecards and review periods. I offer it for free in our Peak Learning Gym (it's free!). No matter how you choose to review, just do it. I hope you enjoyed this article! Email me, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with any questions, comments, or ideas.

The next article in this series will discuss how to use technology to rapidly consume information.

Next Article

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Article Series: "How to Learn Everything"

image from jokeroo.com

 

Author Bio - Joseph Turn

I am a blogger and web developer at memnem.com. Our blog discusses how to grow to your maximum potential and spark genius in everyday life.  Try out our free Peak Learning Course and email me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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