Learning new things is one of the most important things you need to do to keep your brain in tiptop shape. Many scientists believe there is a beneficial relationship between lifelong learning with not just mental well-being but also happiness later in life. Our minds thrive when we find new things to do. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill or language or finding new ways to continue using existing skills, longevity and happiness are built upon patterns of lifelong learning.
It is obvious that continuously educating ourselves is essential if we want to keep pace with our ever-changing world. But as busy adults, how can we find time for learning? Here are 4 science-backed strategies for effective learning.
1. Make learning fun.
The best way for adults to learn is to approach new learning experiences in an open, playful way, just like how we did it as children. Too often, we become too serious in the process and are focused on achieving as much as we can in the shortest period. Instead, try to make learning fun instead of a chore.
Follow things that naturally interest you. Your learning goals don’t have to be focused on career development all the time. Learning things that are out of the norm will challenge your brain to think more creatively and critically and this will boost your overall knowledge and mental performance.
2. Set goals and track your progress.
I have talked about the importance of writing down your goals so many times because I truly believe that it is an essential first step to achieving anything. Knowing your end goal gives you direction, keeps you accountable and informs your day-to-day decisions.
I usually set daily, weekly, and monthly goals when beginning something new as it is easier to track short-term goals when you’re just starting. Keeping a journal to track your progress and ensure you’re on the right track is also a good habit to develop. After a learning session, write down your realizations, practice notes or evaluate your performance so you know where you should focus on improving next.
3. Have a dedicated space for learning.
Ensure that your space is suitable for learning by setting up the tools you need for your learning session in easily accessible areas. A clean space with good natural light, comfortable seats and a good atmosphere will allow you to focus more deeply during your session. Our brain performance can be improved by creating a positive, mind-enhancing surrounding so set up an environment for success and make your learning session count.
4. Experiencing a setback? Practice for just 5 minutes!
Oftentimes, rigid schedules make us not want to do something, especially when we’re learning a creative skill. It might seem boring to set a schedule for writing or piano practice or drawing every day at 7 AM. So instead, I encourage you to not make learning a new skill something daunting. Tell yourself “I’ll just do this for five minutes” and then just do it. Starting something is often the most difficult part of any activity. After 5 minutes, allow yourself to stop if you’re really not feeling like it, but you’ll most probably be lost in the flow by that time.
Let go of hesitation and just get started on your learning journey. Many people choose to focus on those areas in which they have natural talent and avoid topics that caused them discomfort in the past. Negative experiences, even in childhood days, sometimes condition us to avoid the new and unfamiliar.
If you’re reading this now, I urge you to challenge yourself and break away from your comfort zone. Stop giving excuses and start working on improving your knowledge right away. As the idiom goes, the best time to start anything is right now.