Learning expands your horizons – and brings health benefits, too. Just as physical exercise keeps your mood up and your body in good shape, giving your brain a work-out can improve concentration and memory, and reduce the risks of health conditions such as dementia.
Even so, studying can sometimes feel daunting. Learning a new subject or skill can be a demoralizing experience at first, and larger study projects can feel overwhelming. The trick is to build good habits around your study, turning a chore into something you love. In this guide, we look at ways to grow your love of learning – and get great outcomes every time.
Set clear goals
Setting clear, realistic goals can give structure and purpose to your learning. Goals help you to identify what you want from your learning, and make it easier to measure your progress. You’ll achieve more this way, and as a result you’ll feel empowered and motivated – positive emotions that will cement the learning habit. Take a moment each day to reflect and set new goals. Even better: do this with a friend or classmate, so you can encourage each other – and hold each other accountable.
Understand your learning type
Not everyone learns the same way. Our learning personalities can be separated into four types. Are you engaged by pictures and diagrams? You might be a visual learner. Or maybe you find spoken lectures and discussions interesting? You could be an auditory learner. Those who favor reading and writing will thrive on essays and text-based exercises, while kinesthetic learners prefer a hands-on approach, engaging all of their senses in the learning process. Know your type so you can work to your strengths, making your study as effective as possible.
Choose your study space
These days we have more freedom than ever to choose where we study. But not every space is great for learning! A noisy, distracting environment might make it difficult to concentrate. Your bed, or the spot on the sofa where you watch TV, might be comfy, but the association with leisure activities might sap your motivation. Find a space that’s free from distractions and easy to keep clean and organized. If you can, make it a dedicated study spot, meaning you’ll slip into the learning mindset each time you sit down.
Take notes by hand
When it comes to note-taking, it might seem easier to use your laptop. But studies have shown that taking notes by hand can have important learning benefits. Using a pen and paper makes you summarize and organize ideas in your own words. This leads to a deeper understanding of your study subject – and better learning outcomes. It can also improve your memory and word recognition. So don’t throw away those pencils just yet!
Teach what you’ve learned
We tend to think of teacher and student as separate categories. In fact, teaching is one of the best ways to learn. Research has shown that students who pass their new knowledge on to others learn better. This “protégé effect” can be used to improve learning outcomes and build good habits. Remember that friend you’ve been sharing study goals with? Why not try teaching them something you’ve just learned? If it doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to identify the gaps in your knowledge. And if it does, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment – which will make your study all the more pleasurable.