Two methods for better learning

Steve Cunningham,

Recently I’ve done a deep dive into what it means to be a learner in this day and age. The problem is most of what we learn is wasted.

In general, we learn things to get a better result in some area of our lives. Of course, I’m not talking about when we read for entertainment. I’m talking about when we read about leadership, personal development, sales, and those sort of things.

Your brain is working against you

When you learn, your brain is working against you! First, it doesn’t remember things nearly as well as you might think it does. Have you ever forgotten your keys? Or maybe even a spouse’s birthday?

Second, you actually have two systems going on in your brain, the planner and the doer. The planner sets the alarm for five in the morning so you can work out. The doer hits the snooze button ten times and stays in bed until eight.

So in order to succeed with learning, you have to get your brain to work for you. There are two ways you can do that.

Implementation intentions

The first way to get your brain to work for you is implementation intentions.

In a study, one third of a group was asked if they would work out, one third was given a motivational speech about working out, and the final third was asked when and where they would work out.

In the first group, 38% worked out. The second group was even lower. But in the third group, 91% of the participants worked out!

It turns out, if you figure out exactly when, where, and how you’re going to do something, it will get done. So determining that complete intention for learning is the first method for better learning.

Three questions

The second way is answering three questions when you’re learning.

When we learn to get a better result in some area of business or life, we’re looking for the right situational strategies to apply. So as you’re acquiring knowledge, don’t take notes, put stars by things, or highlight something. Instead, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. When am I going to use this strategy?
  2. What exactly am I going to do to use this strategy?
  3. What does success look like?

Then after you use the strategy, check in and see if you were successful. If you keep checking in each time you use it, you get better every single time. You can do it for cold calls, for making presentations, or even when you’re feeling overwhelmed with work.

The next time you need to get a better result in your life and decide to learn something new, use one or both of those strategies for better learning.

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