No matter what your age, throughout your life you will be learning. Your formal education ends with high school, but for many the learning never ends. You may attend a university, trade school, night school, community college or adult school. You may enhance your knowledge via business seminars, lectures, books, e-courses, and whatever else shows up in our information society. So wouldn’t it be helpful to have some good study habits and some tools to increase your ability to learn?
Although you may not be studying information to get good grades, retention of what you are learning can help your career, your parenting skills, your business, your relationships, your hobbies, and so much more. So it makes sense to acquire good learning skills sooner than later. Skills such as speed reading and good comprehension are useful for all the great information you want to take in.
Here are some more secrets for improving your ability to learn. Most apply to classes, but you can adapt them to any learning situation.
1. Be Prepared. If you’re taking a class online or at a school, study the curriculum in advance so you know what to expect. Engage in necessary prep work like downloading software, getting a workbook, or setting aside the dates for the course.
2. Get and Stay Organized. If you’re a computer note taker, make sure you set up a file folder system that will enable you to find what you need when you need it. Learning good computer organizational skills will save you a lot of time and headaches. If you take notes by hand, keep them in a labeled binder so you can review them later. Keep any other course papers in the binder as well.
3. Be On Time. If you’re taking a teleclass (this is a class conducted via telephone), call in five minutes early. Clear your desk, and have your pen and pad or a new computer file open. For live classes, show up a few minutes ahead of schedule. When you’re on time, you will have your full attention focused on the class, and not on “catching up” with yourself and what you may have missed.
4. Take Good Notes. If you’re unable to listen and write at the same time, just listen and then write notes after the class is over. If it’s recorded, you can review the class and take notes then. You can also ask the teacher for his/her outline, summary, or notes. Review your last class notes before your next class.
5. Establish Your Learning Style. Which is your best and preferred learning style: visual (reading), auditory (listening) or kinesthetic (doing)? When you know your learning style, take classes that incorporate that style. For example, audio learners keep CDs in their car to turn traffic jams into productive time. Book learners may keep a notebook handy to take notes and read as they exercise on the stepper machine or treadmill. When you study, do you need silence or do you enjoy having music playing in the background? Knowing how you learn best improves your effectiveness.
6. Ask Questions. If you’re taking a course online or in a school, make sure to jot down questions as they come up and ask them when you have a chance. I’ve always believed there are no dumb or silly questions. If you need clarification, you won’t continue learning until you have your questions answered. Most instructors see questions as a sign of an alert, intelligent mind.
7. Complete All Assignments. Stay current with your assignments and complete each one. If you’re reading a self-help book, do all the exercises. If you miss a class, find a way to get the assignments–from another student or the teacher. Online classes are often recorded, so make sure to listen to the recording if you can’t make a class.
With information coming at us from so many directions and in so many formats, it’s difficult to sort out what’s important. It’s even more difficult to retain data with so much to store in our brains. Ultimately we have to be more selective in what we choose to learn, and we need in order to develop effective learning habits. Having good study habits can help.