Study becomes valuable when you remember what you have learned and can apply it where you most likely need it. We’ve been trained on rote learning, where we repeat the material repeatedly until we remember it so that we can correctly answer the next exams.
Many of us probably stood out during these tests, but if you try to answer those questions again, you’ve probably forgotten them.
Your brain has failed to create the necessary connections in order to remember the information.
The brain is comparable to a bookshelf. Imagine walking into a library filled with thousands of books. You are about to borrow a book and the genres are mixed. There are no labels and catalogs to indicate where they are. I bet you would be wasting your time searching and you would end up frustrated, which would lead you to … “abort the mission”.
It is very frustrating when you want to remember something that you studied and could not do in the moments of use.
If you have an efficient system for learning information, you will probably remember it more. You can store this information correctly and use it when necessary.
To create an efficient system, it is important that you know how the brain works. When you know how to explore your potential, you will produce quality work. And quality work will translate into another aspect of your life.
The Essentials of a Great Study System
Rote learning is not a very effective way of remembering information for later use, because it does not take advantage of what the brain favors. We were all victims of rote learning.
We were conditioned to have the best possible performance when we can memorize all the information. It is not surprising that our study system focuses on memorizing objective information.
But studying and learning are much more than memorizing facts. Many of us cannot remember important concepts because they are not based on the brain’s natural way of preserving information.
In this article, I will share five things to keep in mind when creating your system so you can study smarter and remember essential information.
Speak the Language of the Brain
The brain likes to speak in pictures. It is highly visual and retains more when presented with sharp, vivid images. In fact, the more exaggerated or illogical the images, the better the performance.
Memory Grandmaster Kevin Horsley has said:
“The more skilled you become in using your imagination the more you can know, comprehend and create. In this way, you become the director of your mind.”
If you can associate a vivid image with what you are studying, more will remain in your memory. So it is easy to remember that My Very Excellent Mother Served us Nachos, instead of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.
Okay, planets are easy to memorize. But try to remember the Central American countries: Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama. You can probably easily memorize them, but can you easily remember them tomorrow?
Since the brain is very visual, you can use strategies like mnemonics. Mnemonics speak the language of the brain. You can create silly, colorful and fun images that the brain favors. When you know how to associate names with a specific image, your chances of remembering them increase.
So, next time you want to remind Central American countries, don’t forget about Big Elephant Green Have Nice Clean pajamas. Now, see for yourself if it works.
Create On-going Performances in Your Brain
Your brain is like a mini theater. It favors information that shows actions. Because it is very visual, it involves more when there are movements that connect the things you are learning.
I don’t know about you, but when I imagine that my big green elephant has nice clean pajamas, I see a huge green elephant dancing in front of me. It’s crazy, but my brain likes it.
The brain likes these actions and you retain more when the information is alive and moving. That is why we remember stories that we vividly imagine or that we see as moving images. The power of imagination is undoubtedly strong.
In the words of Albert Einstein:
“Imagination is more important that knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.“
If You Can Connect It, You Can Remember It
Any memory master would say that the key to great memory is being able to associate new information with what you already know. It’s like letting your neurons find your friends, and when they do, they click instantly and you easily remember them.
Look at the concept you are studying and think of another object that you can associate with it.
What shape, fruit, thing, person, or anything you can connect to remind yourself of later?
What other concepts or materials can you relate to?
Studying is important not only at school but also when you want to learn something new. If you don’t use the right strategies to remember them, your efforts will be wasted.
As the American neurologist Richard Restak said:
“Learning new information isn’t helpful unless it can be recalled later. Anything that increases one’s memory power increases access to everything learned.”
Here are some ways to help you remember more:
Start with the smart reading plan
When you are studying, you are going to read something. If you can’t create a good reading system, it will be twice as difficult to remember.
Identify exactly what you want to learn
Before reading, make sure you are clear on exactly what you are looking for. Your brain tends to be more alert when it has something to focus on. It’s not like walking into a room and asking yourself, “Wait, why am I here?”
When you know your reading purpose, you can develop a strategy that best suits that goal.
For example, my reading strategy varies depending on my goal. I do a quick read when I want general information or feel like the book overlaps with other material I’ve read. I read at my usual pace when I read my devotional materials, important things that require in-depth processing, or anything I just want to try and enjoy.
- Why did I choose this book or material?
- What am I trying to learn and remember from here?
- What do I want to get out of this?
- What is the best strategy that will correspond to this material?
When you have a clear goal, you will have a clear roadmap on how to get there. If you are studying without clear objectives, it is like a boat without a rudder, without direction, and without mooring.
Like what Bill Copeland said:
“The problem with not having a goal is that you can spend your life going back and forth across the field and never score points.”
Interact With Your Material and Your Buddies
The brain has a tendency to get bored. Have you tried reading something and managed to get to the last paragraph, but don’t know what you have read?
Your mind wanders somewhere because it got boring. One way to avoid this is to have continuous interaction with the material while you study. You are probably already doing this, but improving it will improve your system.
Highlight the important information you get, but without highlighting it too much, leaving no room for the most important information to stand out. Writing an outcast section in the material also helps. Write notes next to your material related to everything you are learning.
One of the most effective ways is to take notes and give your own opinion. Reformulate the material yourself, without losing the main essence of what you have studied.
Honestly, this is the best thing that works for me. Immediately after reading a chapter, I extract all the main points that caught my attention and write them on my own. I write in a separate notebook and try to remember other things that I relate to.
That’s been serving me well since high school. When I go home, I go back to review the things discussed and explain on my own. During exams, my colleagues asked me why I am not doing a last-minute review. I don’t press my brain through procrastination. I think it is more useful to study in advance and share what I know.
It is helpful to find someone to study the material with you. By sharing information, you will probably remember it. The more you teach something, the better the student becomes. The more you participate, the better the learning.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin:
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
Fully Unplug When You’re In the Zone
Identify a time of day for your study time. Most people don’t allocate time and make lots at the last minute. The number one enemy of brain productivity is procrastination. your neurons are confused due to different physiological reactions that trigger it.
Cal Newport suggests that you engage in “deep work” when you really want to learn something. Total focus is your main ally in studies.
Science journalist Daniel Goleman said:
“We learn best with focused attention. As we focus on what we are learning, the brain maps that information on what we already know, making new neural connections.”
Make Sugar Work For You
The brain regions require more glucose when they acquire a new ability. Your brain uses a lot of glucose when it is learning something new. Glucose is the main source of energy for each cell.
Without enough glucose, chemical messengers in your brain are not produced. This leads to the failure of communication between neurons. Much of this is also not good. You can’t drown in soda or donuts to force your neurons to work. In fact, high glucose levels can slowly kill nerve cells.
Michael Green, from Aston University, England, suggests more frequent but smaller meals. He said:
“The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the bloodstream — about the amount found in a banana.”
For a steady supply of glucose, eat healthy sugars, such as those obtained from fruits, vegetables, and grains.
Create An Assembly Line In Your Brain
Like any other task, it would be extremely challenging at first.
Once you develop a system that works for you, it will be easier to study and retain valuable information. It is literally as if you have an assembly line working on your brain.
Each information has its own file ready to be delivered when you need it.
When your system becomes smooth and efficient, you will see higher quality with every output produced. Overwhelming information doesn’t bog you down. Use your knowledge to advance innovation across domains.
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