Growing up I was always fascinated by the amount of time and resources a lot of Maltese families spent on education, specifically on private lessons after school. Yet, I never attended any private lessons and still did well in school. Why was that? As I grew up and further researched this topic I realised that learning is a skill within itself, and the amount of time spent learning a new skill is only part of the equation. In this blog I will be exploring some of these tricks that support you to learn.
Create clear achievable goals
You might be familiar with SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound goals. Having goals that you feel you are able to achieve and be successful at will motivate you to learn and make you feel like you are doing a good job.
Think about thinking
Metacognition refers to the ability to reflect on your own thinking. In the concept of learning, this means being able to think about whether you actually know the skill and if so, to what extent. This will allow you to focus your energy on the elements that you are less familiar with, or instead to focus your energy on optimising what you are already familiar with to achieve mastery.
Reflect on your learning
This skill is important in learning because reflecting on what you have learnt and how you process that information makes you more likely to be able to understand what you learnt and therefore more likely to remember it and then apply it when needed. Reflecting on your learning also means taking a step away from the handbook and being able to look at the problem you face from a different perspective, or discussing a problem with a friend.
Avoid distractions and emotionally-charged scenarios
The best way to learn is when the mind is quiet and calm. The opposite of that would be being in an environment with lots of distractions, like being in a room where lots of other things are happening around you, or being preoccupied about an argument you had with your mother a few minutes earlier.
Optimise your sleep
Sleeping is very important in the process of learning. The mind doesn’t stop working while you sleep; instead it processes what happened during the day, including the cognitive process of what you learnt. Therefore, a healthy amount of sleep is crucial to optimise your learning. Clear your mind of clutter before going to bed, have a routine before going to bed (such as having a warm shower), limit electronic use and allow your mind to drift into sleep.
Learning a new skill goes beyond reading and memorising, or cramming as many things as possible at the last moment. It is more about understanding how you learn and optimising your environment and cognitive processes in order to achieve the highest possibility of success. Think about your learning process, what supports you when you want to learn something new, how do you challenge what you have learnt so far and what motivates you to begin, and then keep motivated, to learn a new skill?
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Petra Borg is a Trainee Gestalt Psychotherapist currently reading for a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy from the Gestalt Therapy Institute Malta (GPTIM) and working at Willingness as a Trainee Psychotherapist. She has experience as a Triage Officer and has also worked closely with Willingness over several years, coordinating the international internship programme and providing support over diverse events and initiatives.
Boser, U. (2018) Learning is a learned behaviour. Here’s how to get good at it. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2018/05/learning-is-a-learned-behavior-heres-how-to-get-better-at-it?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=hbr&utm_source=facebook&tpcc=orgsocial_edit&fbclid=IwAR3ebAw4hAPADVFUBguSx6O7RoIZJ9sKH5iWLRe4oTkDD1WEesH-Qx1Qz-o
Le Cunff, A.L. (n.d.). Learning how to learn. NESS Labs. https://nesslabs.com/learning-how-to-learn