They say variety is the spice of life. If you listen to the same song on repeat, you’d get bored pretty quickly. Similarly, serve up the same leftovers night after night and pretty soon you’ll be craving to try something that’s different.
The same thing applies with your study. The secret to staying motivated and learning information effectively is to mix things up. Try different strategies from time to time.
Instead of just reading your book over and over again or drawing dozens of mind maps (my preferred study method), see how you go testing out the following:
1. Visualise information in bizarre ways
When it comes to learning boring dry information you want to visualize it in a way that is completely absurd. If you sketch out the crazy image, it will help to further embed the information into your brain.
Let me explain why you’d want to do this.
Picture a gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins song “In the air tonight”. It’s a pretty bizarre image, right? This was one of Cadbury’s ads (see below). Cadbury is known for producing a range of bizarre ads.
Why do they do it? Because strange, weird things stick in our minds.
2. Change your study environment
Want to retain more information? Then don’t just study in the same place (i.e. your room).
Research has found that it’s best to study in multiple environments. The experiment involved getting students to study in either two different rooms (one with no windows and cluttered and the other with a view of a courtyard) or in one room. Here’s what they found – the students who studied in the two different rooms did better on a test than those who studied in the same room.
In a nutshell, changing your environment appears to slow down forgetting.
3. Hop on YouTube or TED.com
Perhaps the author of the book you are reading has created some interesting YouTube videos or an expert has delivered an engaging TED talk or lecture.
Give your eyes a rest from reading. See how much you can learn in a short space of time from devouring a few short videos.
4. Teach a friend (or a wall)
The best way to learn something is to teach someone else the information. One study found that when students had to teach others some information, they worked harder to learn that information, learnt the information at a deeper level and did better on tests than other students.
Obviously teaching a real person is always best because they can give you feedback and ask you questions (which will really test how well you know the information). But if you don’t have anyone to teach, that’s OK. One student I was working with explained concepts to her wall as if it was a person. She said this strategy worked well for her!
5. Create a little golden books on your subject
Challenge yourself to create a little golden book on a topic you need to study. In other words, jot down what you know about the topic in such a way that an 8 year old would understand it. It doesn’t have to be neat or perfect. You just have to do it.
Forcing yourself to get out the ideas in your own words with some pictures will help to deepen your understanding of the content.