How to Learn Anything Fast

Brian Tracy, a famous self-development author, once said that the most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind, and what you put into it. As a clinical psychology graduate, I wholeheartedly stand by this statement for a number of reasons that I would like to share with you today. Starting with the role that continuous learning plays in neuronal loss.

Did you know that “enriched learning environments can help reduce cognitive decline due to aging, as well as helping older adults deal with depression and poor self-image?” As we age, the brain suffers from loss of brain weigh through neuronal loss. The hippocampus, that part of your brain that is essential for learning and memory is particularly vulnerable to this. Continuous learning can reduce the negative effects of aging on the brain by keeping your mind sharp.

Becoming a lifelong learner gets that much easier when you know how to learn anything fast. Let’s take a look at a few science-based techniques that have proven to help students of all ages learn new skills quickly and efficiently.

1. Mirror Neurons & Priming

When wanting to learn something fast, watch videos of experts performing the actions you will need to execute yourself.

Mirror neurons are a group of neurons that get activated when you perform or see someone else perform a given task.

The mirror neuron system (MNS) contains a class of neurons that respond to both observed and self-produced actions (Di Pellegrino et al., 1992Rizzolatti and Arbib, 1998). Mirror neurons are thought to support observational learning and promote imitation (Cross et al., 2009).

The Role of the Human Mirror Neuron System in Supporting Communication in a Digital World

By watching an expert doing an act we want to master, our brain responds as if we ourselves are doing the work. So this means that your brain is primed to do the desired behavior because you activated that group of neurons responsible to perform that action. To put it simply, videos of people doing what you want to learn like painting or editing a picture can help you learn faster due to the MNS.

2. Learning through Imitation

As you watch someone perform an action, doing the steps yourself in parallel is more effective than just taking down notes or via passive observation.  

Imitation and practical application are key in the learning process and if you’ve been following my channel for a while, you know that I always encourage students to take an active approach to studying. It is much easier and faster to learn by copying an expert, step-by-step as they go instead of passively reading about the topic or taking notes.

3. Facilitated Consistency

Integrate self-learning into your relaxation/de-stressing routine.

If you’ve ever taken online classes or tried to learn something on your own, you already know what I’m about to say. Being consistent when you have no teacher, no deadlines and no exams can be quite challenging. What can help you keep at this new productive behavior is to integrate it in your relaxation/reward routine. After a long day, get into your comfy bathrobe and watch a YouTube video on cell division. When you treat self-learning as a rewarding habit – you will be more likely to be consistent and therefore learn faster.

4. Symbolic Incentive

A small incentive will ensure you are committed & held accountable from day one, as it is perceived as something you could lose. 

How many times have you told yourself – This is it, I want to learn a new language or how to be a better cook, but that idea faded quickly as you never really “had the time” to follow through with your dreams? Why is learning so slow and difficult when it comes to being consistent and keeping up with your plan? Well, what have you got to lose? If let’s say you’re watching YouTube videos to learn Japanese – if you one day stop watching the lessons – what do you lose? Absolutely nothing.

To commit to your decision and to hold yourself accountable, I would highly recommend you try symbolic incentives. These are small investments in your idea from the second you think about it to help you be motivated and committed. This can mean one dollar going in that Chanel handbag piggy bank for every productive week, a sticker in your planner for an assignment completed, and the list goes on.

5. Project-Oriented Learning

Don’t just learn for the sake of learning, use your newly acquired knowledge and start a personal project!

Lack of motivation is also a roadblock one can face when trying to learn fast, but you will not be having that problem. A strong driving force for learning is taking on a new challenge with a project in mind. If you are trying to learn how to use WordPress, give yourself a mini project to start a blog. If you are learning a new language, let’s say German – a project can be to travel to Berlin for a week next summer. Projects can be big or small, but they give you a finish line – something to work towards or to work for. I personally learn much better and quicker when what I am trying to understand will contribute to or actually achieve something personal.