People who are good at learning don’t just have a good genes and a keen interest, they have mastered the ability to understand how learning works.
Most of the education systems around the world don’t teach children how to learn: they simply teach them how to rote learn and then once the test is finished, the student usually forgets everything.
If you want to actually remember what you learn, here are five strategies you can use so that you never forget things again.
1) Get in the Habit of Recalling Information
Remember when you learn algebra in school and thought to yourself, “I’m never going to use this”, so you let it go from your memory?
What if you got in the habit of trying to remember things just for the sake of remembering them? Imagine what you could remember if you put some effort into wanting to know more about things you have learned.
By constantly testing yourself, you’ll train your brain to stop forgetting. Psychologists call it the “testing effect“.
Therefore, a great strategy to recall information is to space out your attempts at recalling the information, instead of cramming them all into the span of a few minutes. That way, you allow some forgetting to happen between tests, meaning that remembering takes more cognitive effort and the memory gets stronger.
2) Don’t Let Up on Yourself
If you remember something once, don’t accept that as good enough. Keep on yourself and test yourself from time to time on information you need to know for work, life and in general. If you accept the status quo where your memory is concerned, you won’t ever expand your ability to learn and remember new things.
A good strategy is to mix up the type of problems you solve. Studies have shown that mixing up the way you learn can help cement information in your brain.
3) Don’t Accept Things as You See Them
When it comes to remembering information, we tend to rely heavily on our devices and planners to help us stay organized and remember important dates and events.
When something is easy, science says you’re experiencing something called “fluency” and you’ll likely forget important information.
But when you constantly test your mind in different ways, we can remember important things easier later.
For example, when you walk into the supermarket to buy milk, eggs, and bread without a list, you will tend to walk out of the supermarket with everything but the milk, eggs, and bread.
Instead, you can remind yourself in your head to get the milk, eggs, and bread by repeating the words. And ask yourself “what did I need at the supermarket?” so you can practice recalling that information on demand.
4) Connect New and Old Information
One of the most popular ways to make new information stick is to connect it with things you already know. This is why textbooks and lesson plans are gradual and build on concepts from basic to hard over time.
“The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to prior knowledge,” the “Make It Stick” authors write, “the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.”
If you want to employ this tactic in real life, always look for ways to remember things by connecting them with stuff you already know
For example, if you want to remember a recipe for blueberry muffins, you might recall a chocolate chip recipe but simply switch out the chocolate chips for blueberries to make the new recipe. You already know the chocolate chip recipe, so it becomes easier to remember the new one.
5) Reflect for Learning
When you learn something new it’s important to spend some time thinking about how you learned it, why you learned it, how it will be important in your life, and how you can connect it to things you already know.
A Harvard Business School study found that performance was much higher for employees who spent 15 minutes reflecting on their work at the end of the day.
Reflection is a powerful tool that isn’t taught in schools. You just sit down and think about a situation and ask yourself some questions such as “what did I learn?”, “how do I know I learned it?”, “how can I use this information in real life?” and keep asking questions until you feel satisfied with your learning experience.