Scientists have been studying for many years how to accelerate the assimilation of new knowledge. Sean Kim, author of Entrepreneur, has provided some advice on this topic.
How great it would have been to know Spanish three years ago … How great it would have been to understand investing when I was only twenty years old …
Many of us would like to be able to do much more than our time allows. And since the online is full of information, we want to learn something new all the time. This means that the only variable that we are able to control is the time we spend on training.
Scientists have been studying for many years how to accelerate the assimilation of new knowledge. Here are the most fundamental of these rules to help you quickly learn anything from a new language to business skills or playing a musical instrument.
1. Don’t reinvent the wheel
When we have to learn something new, we often try to do it alone and underestimate how much time and effort can be saved by asking someone who has already learned the topic or skill for help. Remember how you yourself studied something. It was difficult at first, but after a few years or even months, you realize what you did wrong, and you can advise your friend to avoid such mistakes. Therefore, consult with leading experts in your area of interest and follow the path they have taken to success. And it is not necessary to consult personally – if you do not have suitable acquaintances, read books, blogs, watch videos on the net. “Good artists copy,” said Pablo Picasso. “Great artists steal.”
2. Dismember the skill
This is another learning hack. Divide the skill you need into the most fundamental parts. Choose from them the most important – what you need to learn first. As we recall from the Pareto principle, 80 percent of the results are achieved through 20 percent of the effort. And this can be applied in any area – in business, in personnel assessment, in assessing the happiness or quality of travel.
This approach allows us to understand that success in any area of life – including learning – actually depends on a few specific things. Accordingly, our task is to highlight those 20% that will give us 80% of the result. Speed learning experts have already adopted this technique. For example, Josh Kaufman said in his TED talk that you don’t have to study 10,000 hours to master a skill. Better to focus on the first 20 hours and learn the most important basics of the right craft that will allow you to meet such a time. Research in motor and cognitive skills shows that the first few hours of training are always the most radical gains.
3. Stop multitasking
We check our inbox every ten minutes, check our Instagram feed all the time, or take frequent breaks to chat with coworkers. This is one of the main obstacles to fast learning.
Think about your computer. When you have 20-30 different tabs open in your browser, it starts to slow down, and new actions take more and more time. Research has shown that when we are distracted, it takes an average of 25 minutes to focus on the task again. And yet, as one study from the University of California shows, the average worker puts in only 11 minutes of effort – and then begins to get distracted.
This also applies to long-term concentration. Many of us are unable to spend 6-12 (or even more) months mastering a new skill due to the constantly emerging new projects, ideas or hobbies. And when we decide to switch to something else, it is much more difficult to find the same interest and motivation in ourselves to return to the previous skill.
Therefore, once you have “identified” the basic elements of a skill that will give you maximum results, focus only on improving them and do not take on mastering any other new subjects until you master them.
4. Repeat, repeat, repeat
This is the most difficult thing for most people. Many of us don’t want to hear that learning quickly takes practice. It requires regularity and persistence in rehearsing the same skill over and over, to the point where you subconsciously start doing it without thinking. Leading experts in many fields do this, but they don’t talk much about it, because the emphasis on repetition is somehow not fun. But it is this practice that provides mastery of skills, and not at all some innate talents.
5. Seek Feedback – And Immediately
In 1960, when the Beatles were still an unknown school band, they went to Hamburg and played in local clubs there. They paid little there. The sound was terrible. The audience didn’t care about them. So what did the Beatles get from Hamburg? Hours of non-stop concerts, practice and immediate feedback that kept them getting better and better. This is one of the key ingredients to the success of the Beatles, wrote Malcolm Gladwell in his book Geniuses and Outsiders. They didn’t practice just for the sake of practice – they aimed to play in front of an audience that would immediately give them their criticisms and opinions. And the better they played, the more opportunities they got for this kind of feedback.
In 1962, they played eight hours a night, seven days a week. By 1964, when they became international stars, the Beatles had played more than 1200 concerts together. Most bands today don’t play 1200 times in their entire lives.
6. Expect Long Distance
Unfortunately, most of us give up new projects during what Seth Godin calls “recession,” or even before that. Godin says that while it’s important in some cases to finish a project on time, many potential winners don’t succeed simply because they quit too early. This is how it works:
– you are running out of time (and you quit);
– you run out of money (and you quit);
– you get scared (and you quit);
– you don’t take it seriously (and you quit);
– you lose interest (and quit).
Psychologists also describe the “transition cycle”: this is the cycle that we go through during changes or some new events. At first, we are euphoric with novelty. This is why we are so addicted to social media notifications, because every time there is a dopamine release. But as soon as this phase of the “honeymoon” ends, we run into a “recession”, our progress begins to slow down. That’s when most of us quit a new business. This is very important: if you can anticipate this decline in advance when you learn something new, it is much easier to deal with it. More importantly, those who are tough enough to get past the recession are able to ride the new wave that lies on the other side.
So, the main rules:
– Follow the experts, don’t reinvent the wheel.
– Highlight the elements of the skill that bring 80% success.
– Forget about multitasking.
– Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And look for feedback.
– Play long and remember the recession.