The most effective way to learn new things

5 minutes reading time

The AgileLeanLife way of thinking makes you do everything as effectively and efficiently as possible. Learning is no exception, so let’s look at the most effective ways to learn new things.

When you think of learning, you often first think of reading or even listening to lectures. But in reality, there are 7 different methods of learning, of which reading and listening to lectures are actually the least effective.

Amongst the seven methods of learning, the first four methods encompass the so-called passive learning, while the other three fall into the category of active learning. Active learning is significantly more efficient than passive learning, which is why it’s always necessary to combine passive methods with active ones. Let’s look at these 7 methods and approximately how much of the learned content actually stays in your memory.

Passive methods of learning

Listening to lectures: 5 %

You learn and remember by far the least by attending lectures where you are a passive listener. That is a well-known fact and with the fast advancement of technology, the techniques of formal education will also have to change drastically. The world’s best universities already put a lot more emphasis on discussions and other forms of learning. When attending lectures, you also lose a lot of time by being late, preparing materials etc. And you memorize less than 5 %.

Reading: 10 %

Reading is definitely an extremely important method of learning. If you read regularly each day, you do a lot for your competence, wisdom, rhetoric etc. Nevertheless, when it comes to the context of learning, you memorize only a very small percentage of what you read in the long term. There is also the important fact that you can read thousands of books about a certain skill, yet you won’t master it. A ton of theory cannot compare to a pinch of experience.

Reading is important, but there’s more to it than that: it’s important that you are an active reader. This means that you connect what you are reading with other content you had already read and your own experiences in life (for example doing a mind map and connect new knowledge to your previous knowledge). You also have to be an active reader and at the same time very critical towards everything you read. You most benefit from reading if you also try out the things you read about. If the things actually work, you keep them, if they don’t, you discard them.

The positive property of reading is that it can also be a relaxation. And on the top of relaxation you still practice your imagination and vocabulary while doing it.

Listening to audio recordings or watching video material: 20 %

The next method of learning concerns audio and video content. Watching television definitely doesn’t count here. The television is a multi-media ad display that’s programming you into consumeristic zombie. Besides, the ones living real life are the ones on the other side of the TV screen. This is why the only sensible thing to do is to throw the television away. An exception is definitely a good movie for relaxation.

In fact, when we come to this method of learning, we are mostly talking about educational audio and video content. Your smartphone can quickly become an educational device, as can your car.

Some gurus of personal development simply call cars a “university on wheels”. While it doesn’t make sense to overburden yourself, you spend hours and hours each day in queues, waiting in traffic etc. and don’t do anything productive. Audio content is more than welcome then. If you are interested in how and where to get audio content, look at Amazon’s Audible.

Watching a documentary or an intellectual debate can also be incredibly educational.

Demonstration: 30 %

The next level of passive education is a demonstration. If somebody actually shows you how to do something, you will remember significantly more than if you just read about it or saw it on video. This is of course why private lessons are such a good business. If you find a mentor, a tutor or a coach who shows you how to do something, you will definitely increase your competence.

A demonstration of how to do something is truly effective, which is why we also saw a boom in mentorship. It’s a way of helping someone improve their competence that gives significantly better results than consulting. When mentoring, you show someone how to do something and then “force” them, in a nice way, to repeat it.

Brains at work

You should combine all different methods of learning

Active methods of learning

Active methods are significantly more effective than passive methods. Each of the active methods is at least five times more effective than, for example, reading. Though active methods are a bit more demanding, the result at the end is that much better.

Group discussion: 50 %

How does a real group discussion look like? You have to defend your own opinion in an intellectual discussion. Before you can defend it, you have to shape it. When doing this, you have to think a lot and read a lot. Your opinions are rebutted by others who use their own arguments. You have to think about that, apply it to your own experiences and, if necessary, change your opinion. This is why discussions are an incredibly effective way of learning, especially if the group members have had completely different experiences and hold different believes in their lives and they challenge our point of view.

Real life experience: 75 %

At this point, we should well repeat the fact that an entire ton of theory cannot compare to a pinch of experience. Real life experience is by far the fastest way of learning and improving your competence. It’s throwing yourself into the water and starting to swim. But at the same time you combine learning in other ways. There is nothing more effective than proactively going into action.

You cannot understand the things you haven’t experience in life.

Teaching others after real life experience: 90 %

However, you learn the most when you start teaching others (after real life experience). You learn and remember the most once you give lectures or write books or maybe even start a blog. You become expert at something.

Well, this is mostly true when it comes to gaining knowledge, you can still develop skills more or less only on the basis of experience. Giving countless lectures on the topic of leadership for example doesn’t help you at all if you hadn’t ever been in the position of a leader.

But it is true that teaching others is the fastest way to gaining knowledge, since you have to master a specific topic very well and addition to that of reprogramming your own subconscious and thus it’s the fastest way of embarking on the path of new experience. Teaching others about something forces you to experience it sooner or later.

Combination of different methods is the real winner

But the division of learning into individual methods, especially active and passive ones, shouldn’t lead you to learning by using a single method. When improving your competence, you achieve by far the biggest effect if you learn with a combination of several of the stated methods, passive as well as active ones. One time one method suits you more, some other time another. The most effective way to learn new things is combining all seven methods of learning.

You learn different things in different ways. You can strongly increase your competence by connecting, repeating and finally by checking with your own experiences in reality. You are the investment with the highest potential yield in this world. So invest in yourself. And at the same time enjoy improving your abilities. The more you know, the more you’re worth.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin