While it may be a good idea to take the time to truly understand a certain lesson or skill, it should be acknowledged that time isn’t an infinite resource.
It will keep ticking on. Acquiring a new skill in a short amount of time allows for more time to either hone it or acquire another skill.
It paves the way for mastery or flexibility — two characteristics that are essential for success.
And the great thing?
You don’t have to be born with a special mental capacity for quick learning. Like any skill, anyone can learn how to do it.
With these 12 traits of a quick learner, you can pick up a new habit to accelerate your own learning speed.
1. They Aim For Progress, Not Perfection
Being a perfectionist has its pros and cons.
While it’s good to strive for high-quality output, that won’t be possible without first having experience.
To gain experience, one has to actually get started. They need to start doing. A person who has written 10 short novels has learned far more than the one who spends years crafting just one.
After a certain point, you’ve got to get out of the classroom and into the field.
Any progress is good progress when starting out learning something.
Between where the amateur is and the professional is hundreds of mistakes. The faster the amateur experiences those mistakes, the faster they’ll become a professional.
2. They Apply What They’ve Learned
Taking notes and knowing about something is different from actually being able to do it.
We can spend all our time discussing what exactly a bicycle is and the mechanics and physics of how it works.
But nothing is going to be accomplished until we get on the bike itself and apply what we’ve learned.
Quick learners always translate lessons into action. It can be difficult at times.
There’s always the fear of failure that creeps up at the back of our heads, discouraging us from even stepping foot on the bike pedal.
But there’s no faster way to learn than hopping on and falling down. In the end, the point wasn’t to simply take notes on riding a bike — it’s to actually ride it.
3. They Have A Reason For Learning
For most students in middle school and high school, it can be difficult to apply themselves to their subjects.
They get lost and confused, wondering why they even need to study the quadratic formula in the first place. Learning can feel like a waste of time if we don’t know what it’s good for.
A study has found that having not only a self-oriented goal (enjoying one’s future job) but also a “beyond-the-self-oriented” goal (having a positive impact on the world around them) increased the students’ GPA in their academic career.
Knowing what exactly the skill is going to be used for will not only sustain motivation but make it clearer what information is useful and what isn’t, making the learning process that much faster.
4. They Simplify Information
When we’re trying to learn a new skill, it can be difficult to fully grasp its entirety.
Driving a car for the first time without an understanding of how the feet, the eyes, and the hands work together can turn the driver into a cognitive mess.
That’s why quick learners commonly use the learning method called “Chunking”.
Essentially, it involves breaking down large pieces of information into manageable and meaningful groups, called “chunks”.
It might seem counterproductive to break information down into small, and thus more, lessons to learn.
But it makes it easier for your mind to encode the information while also ensuring high-quality results.
So the careful student takes each piece of information — the position of the hands and feet, and where to look — one at a time. In this sense, slowing down actually makes someone learn faster.
Recommended reading: 13 Japanese study habits you can use to be more productive
5. They Look For Immediate Feedback
The greatest lessons don’t come from professors and reading assignments; they come from action.
Specifically, it’s the feedback gained from taking action where someone really gets to learn something.
The key term here is “immediate”.
If someone doesn’t get the feedback that they need as early as possible, they risk continuing on with the work, not knowing if their process works or not.
It’s why athletes have trainers to guide them.
The athletes need to know whether what they’re doing is right or not so that they can correct themselves and execute the motions correctly as soon as possible.
6. They Make Mistakes
Starting out learning a new skill can be challenging if you’re worried about making mistakes.
The fact is that you’re bound to make some at one point or another.
There’s no getting around it.
As discouraging as they can get, it’s the lessons learned in those failures that are the most lasting.
Being a beginner, it’s also expected to make mistakes.
Those lauded as masters may have a more difficult time keeping it together and making mistakes when there’s the added pressure of being expected not to.
Quick learners trust their gut and make as many mistakes as they can.
Not intentionally, of course. But they welcome each one as a valuable lesson to learn.
7. They Ask Others For Help
There are some people that struggle with asking for help. Their ego or pride get in the way.
They wouldn’t want to be caught dead asking someone how to do something.
But in reality, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
Sometimes, it’s exactly what’s needed to boost learning.
While figuring out something on your own can be more rewarding, asking for guidance from an expert can still be beneficial for quick learners.
That way, they can guide you on the right path, helping you to avoid spending your time on activities that they’ve tried and found useless.
8. They Have A Consistent Learning Routine
Lessons aren’t learned in a single day.
We are unfortunately not robots that can download skills that can be used immediately after being installed into the computer system of our brains.
To learn as fast they can, quick learners practice often.
A study found that consistency in learning plays a significant role in one’s understanding and proficiency.
This is the athlete going to regular training. The musicians going to rehearsals. The writers developing a writing habit.
Each use of their skill moves them closer to whatever goal that they want to achieve.
Each practice session further nails down the lesson in their bodies and minds so that when the time comes when their skill is needed, they’ll have already gone through the motions enough times that it feels natural.
The more you do something, the better you get at it.
9. They Have A Memorization Technique
When learning something, there are often a set of steps that need to be remembered in order to perform it well.
Those procedures can vary depending on what’s being learned. A dancer must memorize the steps of the performance. The nursing student must memorize complex medicinal names.
The human mind has difficulty holding on to disparate pieces of information. It’s why remembering a stranger’s number can be tricky.
That’s why there are people that employ the use of a mnemonic device.
By turning the steps into an easier-to-remember acronym, a study found, quick learners are able to use the power of mnemonics to improve their recalling ability and memorization.
10. They Are Active Listeners
You can’t learn without first listening to a mentor, teacher, professor — anyone who’s guiding you. When quick learners listen to their instructors, they listen carefully to their instructions.
Through active listening, they are able to catch all the necessary information so that they may absorb it and implement it in their work.
11. They Admit To Not Knowing Everything
Being a quick learner doesn’t mean having to learn everything.
You don’t need to study the history of the printing press and literature to be an acceptable writer.
When someone’s starting out in learning something, they only need to really know the essential parts of the skill — the parts that they’re actually going to be using.
While learning about the different literary geniuses of the time will come in handy eventually, that will ultimately take too much time — a resource quick learners are frugal with.
12. They Visualize The Problem And The Solution
Skills don’t usually exist in a vacuum.
Where there is a skill, there’s a place for it to be applied. A study found that visualizing the solution can accelerate learning. It allows them to have a clear end result to work towards.
Visualizing how they intend to use the skill allows quick learners to sift through what skills will contribute to the solution and what won’t.
That way, they know what to prioritize, and be strategic in their learning.
There’s nothing wrong with being a slower learner.
Everyone goes at their own pace. It isn’t enough to pick up skills and know-how to do certain things, however.
The key similarity that quick learners and slower learners share is that they both make sure that they understand what they’re learning.
Rather than broadening their knowledge, they make sure to always keep deepening their understanding.
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