Wondering how to be a better learner? Or what it even means to be the best learner?
If you’re picturing the class nerd wearing thick glasses and a pencil tucked behind the ear, that’s not it.
You can read every book on becoming a good learner, scribble and highlight all over it, and it won’t make any difference.
Becoming a better learner is about using learning skills, different learning styles, and practical methods that help you retain and apply what you’re learning.
Here are 30 tips and tricks to give you many creative, successful learning methods to help you.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Feedback
Feedback is one of the fastest, simplest ways to become a better learner. You may not always like what you hear, but honest feedback is like getting a shortcut instead of learning the hard way. Ask for feedback, and use it to learn faster.
2. Ask Questions
A great learner is one who has the courage to ask questions and doesn’t take information at face value. Evaluate what you’re learning, ask how things work, why one way and not another. It’s a great way to understand the applications of the material.
3. Avoid Unnecessary Distractions
Social media, Netflix, texting, and unimportant tasks that can wait till later will cost you many productive hours. Cut it out! Set boundaries, create time blocks for your schedule, and prioritize with laser-sharp focus. Turn off social media and email notifications during study time.
4. Be Enthusiastic
Remember why you’re making an effort to learn. Make it visual and post it on the wall above your study space. Your purpose, along with a positive attitude (and some coffee), will help you stay enthusiastic when you’re having a tough day.
5. Learn From Others
There will always be people who have learned and mastered more than you in better and smarter ways. Learn from them and spend time observing them. They can help you avoid costly mistakes and teach you tips and tricks to master content more easily.
6. Stay Organized
Organization helps your brain focus on what you’re doing. Organize your study material and keep necessary supplies handy. Use a schedule and map out what you need to cover by when so you can stay on track. This will help you monitor your learning progress.
7. Be an Agile Learner
This is an essential life learning skill that means you can take what you’ve learned from past experiences and apply those lessons to a new challenge in the right way, at the right time. In short, learn to be flexible and keep your wits about you!
8. Join a Community
John Donne, the poet, once said, “No man is an island.” How can you test your knowledge if you’re on your own? Join a group of people who are studying similar material to you. You’ll benefit from their perspectives and be more motivated, too.
9. Challenge Your Brain
Your brain is a muscle. You need to keep using it to stay “study fit.” When you’re struggling, challenge your brain with a different activity — write with your other hand, walk along a new route, or play a strategy game. It helps your brain master new material.
10. Stop Comparing Yourself With Others
Comparison is one of the worst distractions, stealing your enthusiasm and making you feel inferior. Don’t lose your focus over what others are doing. Keep your eyes on your own learning path, your own schedule. Learn at the pace that’s best for you.
11. It’s About More Than Your Textbook
Ever have nightmares in school about losing your textbook for class? Today, you can often access the same material online in audio, ebook, or even better — video format. Whew! Don’t be afraid of using different formats to cover the content.
12. Your Diploma Doesn’t Make You a Better Learner
Don’t get too hung up on your diploma. It doesn’t guarantee anything. The results you get from completing a diploma course depend on the action you take to go out and apply the material. You are the one with the power, not the paper!
13. Put Down That Highlighter
If you’re a fan of using highlighters, pause for a minute and make sure that it helps you read and absorb the material. Using a highlighter often means you’re only reading in part, and you may miss important details along the way.
14. Yes, Diet and Exercise Are Important
Your brain needs fuel to help you absorb, remember, and apply new information. Take care of your body and mind — nutrient-rich foods and move your body daily. Get fresh air and take walks. This will help your brain process and consolidate the material.
15. Try Out New Problem Solving Skills
Stretch your brain by trying out new problem-solving skills — do some challenging puzzles and creative challenges. Using different parts of your brain in this way is one of the most helpful activities you can do to be a better learner.
16. Find Your Learning Style—
Have you explored different learning styles? If you struggle with learning by reading, try a hands-on approach where you physically “practice” your way through the material. Or, you may prefer to learn by listening to audio. Your learning style is your key to mastery.
17. —But Don’t Rule Out Trying Out New Learning Styles
Don’t get too stuck on one learning style, though. It’s worthwhile exploring different learning styles for different subjects or material because it adds more “learning hacks” to your toolbox. You can switch methods when you need to and avoid getting stuck.
18. Add Gamification to Your Learning Arsenal
Gamification is exactly what it sounds like — making learning more fun, more like a game where you need to move forward to win!
It’s about creating that explorative flow state that children have, where learning happens naturally and almost effortlessly. A more creative and enjoyable learning process makes it so much easier to achieve your learning goals.
19. Get Your ZZZ’s
Staying up too late? Is your short-term memory a little… short? Sleep is just as crucial as focused, active learning. Your brain needs sleep to process and store learning in your long-term memory. Get enough sleep so you can “keep” what you’ve learned for longer!
20. Never Lose Your Curiosity & Think Outside the Box
Curiosity is the best quality you can have as a learner. Ask questions, investigate, explore and try different things with the material you’re learning. This is how innovative ideas are born! Think beyond what’s on the page in front of you.
21. No Overnight Cramming
Cramming overnight is as bad as a lack of sleep. Don’t do it! Even if you get away with it, it will cost you long-term memory of the material. Instead, prioritize shorter, focused study times with healthy breaks at the same time every day.
22. Yes, That Lecture is Boring, But—
You can still make it a productive learning time by using your textbook, taking notes, and asking questions about the material. You can also use a transcription tool online and use that to make notes from what was said in the lecture instead of listening.
23. Set Clear, Realistic Goals
Many students start a course with a big long-term goal in mind. The excitement sparks some enthusiasm, but it soon fizzles out. Break your big goal down into smaller, specific, and realistic goals. This will help you make steady progress.
24. Doodle, Doodle, Doodle
Doodling is a helpful learning activity because it activates the right side of your brain and adds a creative visual element to your learning material. Our brains are wired to remember and learn in pictures, so doodle away, smart learner!
25. Stay Motivated
Motivation alone won’t get you far, but discipline and routine can help you keep going. You won’t always feel like doing the work. Create habits and ask someone to keep you accountable — build your own support system to become a better learner.
26. Don’t Multitask
If you’re trying to squeeze the most out of your time by multi-tasking, stop it. Your mental supercomputer performs best, focusing on one task at a time. Multitasking steals from your short-term memory. Give your studies your full attention, and you’ll learn better, faster.
27. Jot Down Those Notes… On Paper
There’s something magical about making notes on paper that beats electronic note-taking on a tablet or laptop every time. Here’s the secret: the hand-eye coordination and multi-sensory act of taking notes on paper is like cementing your studies in your brain. Use it!
28. Play (Brain) Games
Educational science has proven that children learn best through play, especially in the early years. This rule of learning through play applies to adults as well! Playing games that challenge and stimulate your brain activates multiple areas that improve your ability to learn.
29. When the Student Becomes the Teacher
One of the oldest tricks in the book on effective learning is to teach someone else what you’re learning. You’ve mastered the content if you can explain it in your own words to someone else in a way that helps them understand.
30. Learn Via Different Mediums
Bored of reading? There are so many different ways to learn material — try watching webinars or videos on YouTube on the topic you’re studying. Check out other books to see how other authors approach the subject or look up podcasts and audiobooks.
Now It’s Up To You!
With 30 tips in your pocket to become a better learner, you have no more excuses! You have permission to learn in whatever ways make it easy, fun, and interesting for you.
You have a unique brain — no one thinks the same way you do. It’s a gift! Use it to your advantage and set up your own creative learning experience.
When something doesn’t work, change it. You are the master of your lifelong learning journey.
Your brain is made to thrive on exploring, learning, curiosity, and figuring new things out. Go for it!