Mental health

How to learn, retain and use vast amount of information in short time

Mental health

Do you read a lot? I do. Once I read so much that I felt as if I live in a bubble of my imagination that I formed from reading too much. And there was one problem in this situation. It was not the bubble that I have formed, it was memory. I could not remember most of things I read before. I mean I was able to remember big ideas, but I could not remember details so I could use these ideas in life. It was partially due to too much social media information I have been consuming, just recently I started following information diet and feeling little bit better. However I am still not good enough at following my own advice. I need follow what I advised myself. So anyways, this post is about how to learn more in shorter time and be able to use it.

Do you feel this? You read a book or learn something, but what you have learned stays unused. It stays in notebooks or files you have created. It stays as notes you have taken during learning process. I feel very disappointed for not being able to use what I have learned. I mean what we learn does not reach operational level; a reflex point at which you can use gained knowledge. What would you do if you could learn something in shorter time and be able to use it quite decently? I wish I could reach such a level. There are numerous ideas I wish I could do if I had such ability.


Our inability to use what we learn is practically very hard to pinpoint from vast amount of factors and address it. Partially it is our faulty memories, partially it is our irregular schedules, and partially it is non-systematic approach to learning process and not knowing how our memories work. So, to address this situation I read a lot about learning process, how our memories work and found ideas that may help us. This list of ideas may help us to learn more and be able to use gained knowledge if only we will be consistent in our efforts. So let’s begin to learn these ideas.


Be passionate. Make yourself extremely interested in topic to remember more of it. Ask questions. Focus on what you are learning. I know, we all do that, what we are learning is interesting and important but often we may turn on our autopilot and wonder in our imagination or go thought a list of tasks we need to do. To comprehend information well, make yourself interested in it, ask questions, reflect about what you are learning.


Use Pareto principle. Focus and learn 20 % of information that you will use 80 % of time. The only issue with this idea is to find out which 20 % that forms what you are learning. After finding that information, focus on it. Ask yourself or experts in that subject, what information or concepts are the most frequently used. If you look at language use, there are words that you will use once in every 3-5 hours, there are words that you will use once in every 2-3 days, words that you will use once a week, and words that you will use once a month.  You can ignore words that you will use once in 3-4 months. You do not need to learn them because such words are very situational. I think there is a similar situation in other domains also. Learn the 20 % to use 80 % of time.


Take good notes. Attentively take notes of key ideas from start. Review, simplify and compress notes with various memory techniques such as chunkingmnemonicacronyms and images. Good notes are simple, short and can be reviewed very quickly. Ideal notes will be in a form of flash cards that you can review in daily basis.


Use Feynman technique. (Need to read this amazing person’s books and watch his interviews) So, Feynman technique works in the following way:

  1. Select the topic and study it.
  2. After studying, explain the idea in simple language so that a little kid can understand it. While doing this, find out problem areas that you cannot explain or describe well. These areas are the things you did not understand properly.
  3. Study the target ideas you did not understand until you will be able to explain them.
  4. Repeat the process and explain the idea(s)

Once you will be able to explain what you have learned, you can be sure that you have mastered the concept. By the way Feynman technique used with teaching process accelerates your learning and information retaining process. I often try to tell my friends what I am learning. This helps me a lot.


Connect ideas and experience. Link all ideas and concepts with your experience. There more you connect what you are learning with your life experience, the easier you will remember what you are learning. Just a bunch of concepts that exist in a form of text is hard to remember in comparison with ideas that you can relate to as experience.


Visualize ideas you have learned. Imagine key concepts in strange, funny and unusual pictures. This takes time to do, but it is much less time than rote memorization process. Just take one idea or concept, imagine it in funny situation or make it funny by adding something, link it with another concept as a story. By this way you will remember more. Watch the video below and you will understand power of visualization.


Practice spaced repetition. We all forget everything we learn, it is natural process. The forgetting process was studied by HermanEbbinghaus. With help of this study, he discovered a forgetting curve – how fast people forget what they learn. To remember more of what you have learned, practice spaced repetition. What I understood is that you can pull back to your memory most of things if you repeat them often during certain periods. To ease the process, use spaced repetition apps. There are many of them: AnkiQuizletCramAnymemo etc. My favorite one is Anki, it is good, simple and desktop software is easy to use for creating flashcards. 


Review what you learned. Test your memory by remembering what you have learned. List, describe and explain the ideas you have learned. Just check how much you could retain in your operational memory. The more you can remember the better, since you can use gained knowledge in practice, this is the goal of learning – acquiring knowledge and being able to use it in our life.


Practice healthy habits. Eat healthy food, do workouts everyday and sleep enough (at least 7 hours). Nutritious food gives necessary chemical elements that will improve your cognitive performance. 40-60 minutes of workout made of aerobics, calisthenics and strengths training also help you to maintain your brain in peak performance. Sleep is essential for memory transfer; neural activity produces toxic metabolic waste. Active brain produces more of such waste; sleep helps us to clear that toxic waste out. This last paragraph needs sources and I was lazy to cite them. You can search them by yourself, if you are interested. So far these are my findings. I sensed good changes when I used these principles in my study process. However, I need to be more disciplined to get good results.

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used to be an avid book reader

Project Cool Life
Project Cool Life

Lifestyle, wisdom, health, wealth and everything in between taken from various sources and my own life experience

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