Quick Study – Studying for Effective Learning and Retention

How many times have you been reading something only to glance up and realize that you can’t remember anything you’ve read for the past 10-15 minutes? Your eyes were skimming the page but the information wasn’t making it into your memory storage. This is much more common that you might think. And it can happen even if what you are trying to learn is interesting to you. Some days are worse than others – but – sometimes no matter your best intentions – it…just…happens.

There is an interesting area of brain science that studies this very thing. Researchers ask the questions, “Why do some learning and tasks seem to go quickly and with very little effort while others are more difficult?” and “Why can I study something and not retain what I’ve studied?”

While it would take too long to delve into these questions and the science behind them, there are some study techniques that have been validated because of the results of this research. Since getting into the groove, getting to the place where the act of studying yields a high rate of learning and remembering, is critical so that you make the most of your time and effort, it’s important to try a few of these techniques, either for yourself or your kids, to see what works for you.

It takes time to get into the mode where the learning is “sticking.” But, there are a few things you can do to cut that time down and get to the place where you are firing on all cylinders more quickly and more effectively.

It’s all about routine

Just like when your dog bolts for the front door when you get his leash, our brains take cues from the environment on when effort to learn is going to be needed. The more routine you can build in your study time, the more quickly your brain will learn to respond. Experts suggest the following steps in order to maximize the success of your study time:

  1. Pick a regular time. Do you study best in the morning? Or, do you prefer in the evening after things have settled down? Just like we get used to the time to wake up, our brains get used to working at a certain time on the clock if we’re consistent.
  2. Pick a regular place. Our brains take a cue from location as well. If you have a favorite chair in your house or a certain corner of the library, when you go there, your brain neurons that facilitate learning begin to warm up and fire even before you pull out your first book.
  3. Some smells enhance learning. Called the “Proust effect” after Marcel Proust who wrote about the connection between smells and memory, certain smells not only can help your recall, but can help “wake you up” and motivate your brain to a higher level of activity and effort.
  4. Set the temperature. If you get too warm when studying, your brain starts to go to sleep. A slight chill in the air will keep your body and brain more active.
  5. Get up and move. After about 15-30 minutes of intensive study, get up and move your body to get your blood pumping more oxygen to your brain.
  6. Know when it’s time to quit. If you study too long, your brain will become fatigued and your learning will not be as effective. When you feel yourself starting to drift, and getting up and moving isn’t helping, maybe it’s time to put away the books until later – when you have more energy for studying.

By being smart about how you study, you can minimize your time and maximize your effectiveness. Study on!

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