You may not realise it, but you never stop learning – even long after you leave school, everything you read or watch teaches you something you didn’t know up until that point, and every mistake you make leads to modified behaviour.
If you’re looking to learn new skills, or formally educate yourself in some way, there’s never been a greater number of opportunities open to you – either via evening and weekend schools, distance learning, online courses, or simple internet browsing.
But before you get going, it’s worse checking out these tips to help make you a smarter learner, no matter what stage of your education journey you’re on.
- Use whatever learning style works for you
We all learn in different ways – while some of us can learn by simply listening and reading, others learn by doing or using visual aids. Finding out which works for you is your first step on the road to more effective learning. And once you’ve found a system that works, stick with it.
- Set aside set times for learning
If you’re serious about learning, you need to schedule in set times to during which to learn – grabbing five minutes in your lunch break, or half an hour before bed time just won’t cut it. So, put together a learning schedule and stick to it, remembering that the more time you put aside to learn or practice, the better you will become.
If you’re struggling to stick to a schedule, it might be worth undertaking some more formal learning by hiring a tutor, enrolling in a local night school, or younger students can check out the rage of Oxford Summer Courses and enrol for additional out-of-term learning.
- Make sure you’re in the right mindset
While setting a learning schedule is vital, you also need to bear in mind there will be times when your head really isn’t right for learning. Try to push through this, but if you simply can’t, reschedule your session.
And it helps to get yourself into a good mindset for studying by staying positive, avoiding thinking you’ll never be able to master something, and never comparing yourself to others.
- Set yourself regular challenges
The more you learn, the more you need to challenge yourself. If, for instance, you learn three chords on the guitar, you won’t want to leave it at that and will challenge yourself to learn more chords so you can play more songs. Or, if you’re happy with the three chords, you’ll want to play more advanced combinations to keep improving your playing.
So, regularly take yourself out of your comfort zone and take risks to enhance your ability and keep your interest levels high – if not, your learning will plateau and you’ll begin to lose interest.
- Reflect on what you’ve learned and where you’ve gone wrong
Failing is key to effective learning. As the old saying goes: ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’
So always take time to reflect on what you’ve learned, acknowledging those things that come easy to you and, more importantly, reflecting on those things you never quite got right – reflecting on these failures means you can put things right next time, and your knowledge, learning abilities and your skills, will be advanced.
- Sleep well
Although it can be tempting to study through every waking hour, and long into the night, especially when exams are coming up, you need to make sure you get enough sleep in between studying – your brain needs time to process information, and tired minds make more mistakes.
So, stick to your learning plan and make sure you schedule in sufficient sleep.