10 Easy Ways To Save A Lot Of Time
Time is one of our most precious resources, and most of our time is spent learning new things. However, a large percentage of people don’t even realize how much time they waste trying to learn in an inefficient way. Inevitably, poor learning ability leads to poor motivation, self-deprecation, and even the avoidance of new things.
Have you ever read a sentence or paragraph and realized that you can’t remember what you just read? If this has happened to you then it doesn’t mean you have a bad memory, in fact, your brain is working exactly as it has been programmed to for millions of years.
So, why can’t you remember? Well, it’s relatively simple. If you are not interested, or focused, the material you read will be regarded as irrelevant information by your brain and discarded. If you’re like me, then you can’t make yourself enjoy a dull textbook, so you will have to find another way to increase retention. Fortunately, we’re in luck as there are many useful strategies which can increase information retention. On top of that, these simple strategies also encourage you to finish your tasks faster so you can free up valuable time in your day!
Lets dive right in.
10 Simple practices that increase retention and save time
While reading these strategies, try to employ each one as you read. You can just skim through the headings if you like, but I strongly suggest that you read the descriptions for each section that interests you.
1. Avoid multitasking
I know that it can seem tempting to try and maximize efficiency by multitasking, but multitasking seriously impairs our ability to learn new things. Multitasking divides focus which is extremely detrimental to retention. The brain can only focus on one complex task at a time.
In reality, when you are multitasking your brain is just switching from task-to-task at a very high speed. So, make sure you are not watching, listening or even thinking about anything other than the current task at hand.
2. Study faster
This is perhaps my favorite tip because it allows you to seriously cut back on study time without feeling like a slacker. How does it work? Well, when you’re reading at a ‘normal’ pace the brain tends to wander or become distracted because we are reading too slow. So, to increase focus, it is actually more beneficial to speed up reading times by speed reading.
To speed read all you have to do is read each sentence as fast as you can while still maintaining comprehension. Do this for a few days until you feel comfortable, then try to gradually faze out the inner speech which vocalizes each word. Pronouncing each word in your head is a tough habit to break, but once you do, you can vastly increase your reading speed because your brain is no longer limited to how fast you can ‘vocalize’ the words.
When watching videos it is also helpful to increase the playback speed. It requires intense focus to keep up with the increased playback speed which keeps your mind from wandering or becoming bored.
3. How is this information relevant? Why is it important?
It goes without saying that whatever you’re trying to remember is important but have you seriously imprinted its importance? In modern society, we are often required to learn a lot of material for well… anything. Whether, it be school, college, work, or even hobbies, there are bound to be aspects of it that aren’t particularly interesting to learn, or feel like a waste of time compared to the truly interesting bits.
First, you must convince yourself that everything you want to learn is important, not only because you must learn it, but because you want to learn it. Pull out a sheet of paper and write down all the reasons why it is important to you that you remember whatever it is you’re trying to remember before studying.
4. Engage your emotions
First, why is it important to use emotion? Well, humans are naturally emotional creatures and events that have an emotional connotation are far easier to remember than those with no emotion. For example, we all have strongly emotional memories we will likely never forget because they are meaningful in some way.
It sounds simple, but this can be hard to do if you’re studying something innately unemotional such as programming. However, it is possible to associate emotion with even the most mundane topic. Personally, I study computer science and the way I accomplish this is by imagining the outcome of learning these skills. For example, I might imagine a future scenario in which I impress my friends, family, or even an interviewer with my knowledge of Python. Imagine an exciting future where you finally use the learned information. Use your imagination, it’s really fun!
Not only does this associate emotion to the subject, but it also reinforces the importance of why you’re learning the material. Remember, it is important that everything you do, while studying, have a clear and understood purpose. If you don’t take learning seriously, your brain won’t either.
5. Use your senses
By nature, we receive all new information through our senses; This is rather obvious right? So, it makes sense(pun not intended) that engaging more senses when reading, watching, or listening to material we want to remember would increase retention.
Think of a time when you truly felt that you retained information from something. Most likely, you engaged more senses at that time than you would when reading that boring class textbook.
So, how do you engage your senses on something like a textbook? Well, did you know that studies show imagining a scenario triggers exactly the same brain synapses as actually experiencing the event? Hopefully by now, you’ve begun to realize just how powerful your imagination, or more specifically, your brain actually is.
If you still need help, here’s how I do it. Take the subject you’re studying and imagine yourself interacting with the subject material. Even if it isn’t a physical subject, your imagination has no limits, and you can surely find unique ways to interact with whatever subject you’re studying. The key point is that you engage as many senses as possible including sight, smell, touch, sound, and even taste.
6. Motivate yourself
The best motivation is cultivated from within not derived from an external source.
Remember, your body is your temple, and you are the master of your temple.
The next time you have a negative thought, pause and reword the negative thought so that it takes on a more positive context. Focus on the good in life, take credit for your accomplishments, no matter how small you believe they are, and don’t blame yourself for your failures. Don’t let your past define your future.
A simple change in mindset will make a world of difference in improving your efficiency at pretty much everything. Look at your next big problem as an opportunity to prove yourself.
For inspiration, I recommend reading motivational proverbs.
7. Write down keywords
When studying new material, make sure you right down keywords and reference those keywords periodically. Try to recall the information associated with each keyword and you will be amazed at how much latent information a word prompt can dredge up.
But, don’t reference the words too often because it is unnecessary. Our brains are designed to store information based on how often we use it and rapid repetition does not effectively utilize this quirk. Rather, gradual long term repetition is the best way to convince our brains that a piece of information is worth holding onto.
So, to remember something first reference it within fifteen seconds of reception and again thirty seconds later. Then, reference it once again at each of the following time intervals to solidify the memory: five minutes later, an hour later, a day later, a week later, and once a month.
Depending on the complexity, you may need to reference a memory more often than others.
Optimizing repetition can make the daunting task of studying for that next big exam or job interview much easier.
8. Pattern recognition
Patterns are truly amazing. Do you know why?
Well, it is because our world is almost entirely composed of patterns. Even seemingly unrelated events follow an extremely complex pattern. Plants, animals, and even the formation of stars in the universe follow an observable pattern.
Mathematics, the language of the cosmos, follows a pattern dictated by rules. Ever heard of the order of operations? Well, it’s a pattern you follow to solve a math problem. Math works so well at describing the patterns of reality that some even speculate that the language was discovered and not created. Pretty interesting right?
Humans also follow a pattern. Most people have a schedule which they follow almost everyday. I’m sure you can also think of people close to you who have a propensity to act in a certain way or think certain things. They are following a pattern which you also happen to be very skilled at recognizing. Psychologists also realize this as they have tried for many years to create an accurate list of personality types by utilizing patterns. Basically, patterns make us who we are, and we can learn a lot just by recognizing the patterns we encounter everyday.
By now, it should come as no surprise that everything follows an ‘order of operations’. So, when learning something new, try to break down the task into a logical pattern which you can follow. However, many times you will not have sufficient experience to formulate a pattern, so focus more on learning from the moment.
In computer science, I’ve noticed that many coding languages utilize similar structural patterns when solving the same problem. As a result, I know which questions to ask when trying to solve a problem, even with an unfamiliar language, which is often the hardest step. But first, I had to accumulate sufficient experience to recognize the similarities between languages. Knowing where to begin is important and patterns can help reveal the starting point to you.
Hopefully by now I’ve imprinted the importance of patterns onto you. You can improve your pattern recognition by playing math, logic, or puzzle games. Or, you can also pay more attention to details such as your habits, or the habits of others. Recognizing patterns can help you in many aspects of life and save you a lot of time.
9. Get plenty of sleep
If you follow any step on this list then follow this one.
Since I dedicated myself to a regular sleep schedule, I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my mood and mental acuity. In addition, I don’t feel sleepy whenever I work on the computer for a few hours.
There are also other benefits to getting restful sleep that you might not think about. For example, I’ve lost over thirty pounds since I started sleeping restfully. Now, this isn’t entirely the reason but it has undoubtedly contributed a lot. While you sleep, your body’s metabolism slows down but human growth hormone (HGH) is released in high doses. HGH is responsible for stimulating cellular repair of your body, keeping you looking young, and also for maintaining your muscle mass while burning fat.
Though, here is an important tip before you move onto the next step. Don’t eat or drink anything with calories two hours before you go to sleep. Why? Well, because REM sleep is your ‘restful sleep’ period. It’s also most active a few hours after you go to sleep, but eating before bed can interfere with REM sleep because your body is busy digesting and metabolizing food. In addition, HGH production is halted which is why you might feel unwell when you wake up.
Also, everyone needs different amounts of sleep. Personally, I need about nine hours of sleep before I feel completely rested. There is nothing shameful in needing more sleep than others. But, even if you get the appropriate amount of sleep, you may still feel tired because you didn’t get enough REM sleep, so don’t eat before bed if at all possible.
Practice makes perfect; This statement was true thousands of years ago and it remains true to this day. However, there is one seemingly universal truth which we can take advantage of to greatly increase our learning potential.
The eighty-twenty rule or Pareto Principle.
The rule states that eighty percent of the outcome is derived from twenty percent of the effort and vice versa. Basically, it means that you can learn eighty percent of a skill with twenty percent of the time, but to get the extra twenty percent of the skill you would have to invest eighty percent more time.
The Pareto Principle explains why some people are considered masters of their craft while others are average. As you become more proficient at a skill, it becomes harder and harder to get even slightly better. As a result, you have to invest more and more time. This is true for pretty much anything.
As an aside, the Pareto Principle also applies to many applications of energy and physical resources; Hence, why I referred to it as a universal principle.
Personally, I love this rule because it means you can learn a lot of things with very little effort or time. Although, you won’t excel at any skill if you don’t put in the extra time, you can at least learn eighty percent of the skill with minimal effort.
If you’ve read this far then congratulations! You’ve already displayed a lot of the traits on this list! Now, it’s time to put what you’ve learned to use and practice.