10 Brain Hacks to Learn Anything at Lightning-Speed

You know what’s amazing about the human brain?

It can take the wealth of information available to us, process it, and then access it at a later time.

How extraordinary is that?

Though our brains and bodies have evolved, we still seek to surpass our limits. Maybe you want to be a master in your industry. Or you’re learning a skill, like how to cook or how to be an entrepreneur. Or maybe need to know how to study a lot in a short time because your midterm is tomorrow morning.

With so much to learn in our finite time, it begs the question:  “How can I learn anything quickly?”

Whichever scenario applies to you, you are a student in your subject and you can use these 10 brain hacks to learn how to study fast and learn quickly.

Brain Hack #1: Formulate Your Study Battle Strategy

Before asking what is the best method to study, start with creating an attack plan on how to study fast and effectively. Add these tips into your study battle strategy and you will conquer any subject.

Show Up At the Same Time and Place 

Studying can often feel like work. And let’s be real . . . Sometimes we’re resistant to work. We make excuses to avoid it.

So how do you combat this?

Make studying a habit. Learning isn’t all discipline and mental willpower. Those resources are quickly exhausted.The trick is make studying as automatic as brushing your teeth. Do this by:

  • Creating a consistent study schedule. Condition your body and mind by showing up at the same time and place every time to study. Your body will learn to shift into focus mode when in the right environment.
  • Curate your environment. Designate a space where you’re alone and free of distraction, especially if you study or work from home. Play your favorite study playlist. Reduce any friction between you and studying.
  • Commit to it. Once you enter a study session into your calendar, treat it like a flight you need to catch. Don’t miss it.

Eliminate Distractions

With our smartphones seemingly affixed to our bodies, distractions are never in short supply.

Distractions are dangerous to your learning experience. They break your focus. Your brain becomes wired to seek a dopamine hit every ten minutes. Naturally, this would make whatever you’re studying as boring as watching paint dry.

Slowly train your attention span. Start with just 15 minutes of distraction-free focus. Slowly build it minute by minute.

Create An Intention

Before you begin a study session, ask yourself: What do you intend to accomplish during this study session?

If want to know how to study for exams in Spanish, your intention might be: “Over the next hour, I am going to create flashcards and study my vocabulary.”

Or if you’re working on a sales funnel: “Over the next hour, I am going to visit these successful influencers and study their landing pages.”

Go in with a singular intention. You’re almost guaranteed to come out learning something useful.

Reset Your Space

Ever come home to dishes piled up, things strewn across the floor, documents sprawled across the counter? 

It’s anxiety-inducing at best.

How can you learn and retain any information when the clutter feels like it’s creeping in on you? Getting anything worthwhile done is borderline impossible.

Do your brain a favor and clear your space. You’ve heard it before: clear space, clear mind.

Reset everything. And that includes your electronics. Close those open tabs and applications. Leave only what is relevant to the work you’re doing.

Brain Hack #2: Monotask Over Multitask

Despite what most people say about their multitasking abilities, your brain can only focus intensely on one thing at a time.

Have you ever tried juggling while reading a book? For most people, it’s difficult. And even if you could do it, your reading ability would be stunted. 

Take a lesson from Scott Reid, Britain’s strongest man:

“Multitasking is an illusion. You may think that you are being productive, but you will be producing substandard work. You will never produce your very best work unless you give the task at hand 100 percent of your attention.” -Scott Reid

Scott Reid isn’t just a strong man from Britain. He isn’t just stronger than some of the men in Britain either.

No.

Scott Reid is Britain’s STRONGEST man. And he did that because focused intensely on one thing at a time.

You can’t study efficiently if your focus is distributed between the television and your phone beeping with every new email.

If you want to study fast, start monotasking. Focusing intensely and for long durations will help you burn through the material and then reinforce that information with follow-up study sessions.

Brain Hack #3: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence

You might be thinking: 

What does developing your emotional intelligence has to do with how to study fast?

Humans are collaborative by nature. Hunting, shelter, and protection. Our survival and evolution depended on us working together.

Today, you see this collaboration in how we exchange and pass down knowledge. We’re learning new things from each other. Regardless of how technical a subject may be, you will find the same common denominator throughout: people.

  • Maybe you’re interning for an online business and you’re learning about how to boost your Amazon sales.
  • Or you’re attending a leadership workshop.
  • Or you want to ask somebody to be your mentor.
  • Or you started a new job and you rely on your co-workers when you’re confused.

You expedite your learning experience when you interact with people more experienced and more intelligent than you. 

However, to do that you need to learn how to communicate with people. You must develop your emotional intelligence. Your emotional IQ will help you build those meaningful relationships that enrich your life.

In this video, Ryan Moran explains why emotional intelligence is the singular skill that will take you far in life when it comes to business, success, relationships, and life.

Brain Hack #4: If You Get It, Explain It To Somebody

You’ll know you fully understand a subject when you can clearly explain it to somebody else. Roman philosopher Seneca said:

“While we teach, we learn.” -Seneca

Teaching is so helpful on how to study fast is because your learning session adds a second layer with how you interact with the material:

  1. Understand the material
  2. Help somebody else understand the material

If somebody doesn’t understand the concepts after your explain it, you might not be clear or concise enough. Identify weaknesses in your explanation by returning to the material and then try it again.

You might also learn that you can explain it better if you come up with an analogy. This deepens your understanding because you can make novel connections between complex concepts and familiar topics.

Brain Hack #5: Space Out Your Practice Sessions

Many people ask: How can I study and remember everything fast?

You might think that you need to study five hours a day but what if I told you that this wasn’t necessary. Wasted time, even.

Attempting to to guzzle information like a gallon of water in one go is wildly inefficient and a recipe for burnout if you do it repeatedly. The secret to learning quickly AND retaining that information is creating time between your study sessions.

This is called spaced repetition.

Your brain benefits from spaced out study sessions because its given time to store and consolidate information. Information gets easier to remember at a later time.

The Leitner System

A simple way to use spaced repetition is to use the Leitner System. All you need is a pen, index cards, three boxes (optional), and the following steps:

  1. Create your flashcards
  2. Label Boxes #1, #2, #3
  3. Review your flashcards
  4. Answered correctly? Promote it to the next box
  5. Answered incorrectly? Demote it to the previous box.

That’s the basic procedure but here’s where the spaced repetition comes in:

  • Box #1 – Review daily
  • Box #2 – Review every other day
  • Box #3 – Review once a week

Here’s why the Leitner System works:

  1. The information you struggle with most receives more attention.
  2. The information you get right is consolidated into your memory over time.
  3. You save time because you focus on what’s needed instead of everything.

Oh and another perk: there are Leitner System mobile apps available. Take your flashcards on the go!

Brain Hack #6: Take Care Of Your Body and Mind

Peak performance results from your body and brain working together. When you take care of your body and brain, your memory and learning speed improves

Brain Fuel

Everybody loves food. And if you adjust your diet, you can skyrocket your learning capacity. Here are some foods to incorporate into your optimal diet:

  • Oats. Oats have a slow burn that gives you steady energy to power through high-concentration work.
  • Coffee. Despite the debate surrounding caffeine, coffee can undoubtedly jump-start your day and sharpen your focus. Just don’t overdo it. Time your coffee breaks right before you dive into high-concentration work.
  • Fatty fish. Fishes high in fat, like salmon, contain healthy fats that can turbocharge brain power and memory.
  • Suplements. There may be key vitamins and minerals that are missing from your diet. While supplements shouldn’t replace a healthy diet, supplements can fill the gaps.

Exercise

This Harvard Medical School article discusses a study done at the University of British Columbia that showed aerobic exercise “appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning.”

Not only that but exercise also helps you to create resistance to:

  • Lethargy
  • Brain fog
  • Poor sleep
  • Stress
  • Irritable mood

You want to learn how to learn fast for exams, or a project, or a deadline but part of the answer is getting your heart pumping even faster. If you have a  morning routine, consider squeezing exercise into it. Get your blood circulating and shake off the grogginess so you can learn quickly AND retain the information when studying.

Sleep

You know how it feels the morning after a restless night’s sleep. Sluggishness. Scattered focus. Slipshod memory.

If you want to remedy these symptoms, you need to focus on sleep quality and sleep duration. You’ll be surprised how good you feel when you’re consistently sleeping well:

  • Improved mood
  • Better memory (your brain consolidates information during sleep)
  • Elevated energy levels

If you want to more of these benefits (who doesn’t?), then create an evening routine to prime your body for quality sleep. Mix, match, and add to the following to perfect your evening ritual:

  • Have a bedtime. Bedtimes aren’t just for children. Sleeping at the same time will train your body to wind down consistently every evening.
  • Invest in a good mattress and pillow. Poor quality sleep can be linked to lumpy mattresses and pillows that ache your back and strain your neck. You spend nearly one-third of your day sleeping. Why not make it the best experience possible?
  • Exercise daily. It helps your body to relax when you’re already worn out. Get your heart pumping and your muscles swelling with some daily cardio and lifting.
  • Avoid eating large meals at least two hours before bedtime. When you eat, your body goes through the stages of digestion. And when you eat a large meal, your digestion process goes into overdrive, which can disrupt your sleep.

Want to know how to study well and fast? Get more sleep!

Brain Hack #7: How to Study Fast Using Pareto’s Principle

The Pareto Principle: a cornerstone productivity strategy used everywhere because it relies on ruthless prioritization.

What is Pareto’s Principle?

If you haven’t heard it before, you remember it by another name: The 80/20 Principle. These numbers indicate that 80% of your results comes from 20% of your efforts. You can see this pattern…

  • In school. Of all of the information you learn in school (especially general education courses), only 20% of it will be practical in life.
  • In business. 80% of your profits probably come 20% of your clients. Or 20% of your blog content will drive 80% of your website traffic.
  • In weight loss. Of all the weight loss tips and tricks out there, a healthy diet will likely have the most impact on moving that scale down.
  • At your day job. Depending on your job, you probably don’t need the full eight hours to work. If you focus intensely, you can probably produce 80% of your results in about three hours.

What Does This Have to Do With How to Study Fast?

Effective learning can be broken into three broad stages. Using Pareto’s Principle, you can maximize your learning experience in each one:

  1. Absorb new information. How are you capturing your notes? Are you messily writing everything down? Maximize your performance in this stage by using note templates like Cornell notes or mind maps to record complex information.
  2. Comprehend it. Ever read a book but reread the same page 2-3 times? How to study fast starts with understanding the material more quickly. Fast-track your comprehension by writing summaries of what you learned or explaining the material to somebody else. 
  3. Access it later. Learning is worthless if you forget everything a week later. Use methods like spaced repetition and consuming brain foods, like blueberries and salmon, to improve your memory.

Brain Hack #8: Find a Mentor

During medieval times, the apprenticeship was the best way to learn and refine a trade skill. An apprentice would shadow a master tradesman, learn the craft, and then master it..

Today, the apprenticeship still exists but usually under a different name: mentorship.

Young adults, usually ambitious college students, would ask a leader in their industry to mentor them. Mentors would guide their learning process, prioritizing what is essential to mastery.

But sometimes we can feel stubborn about asking for help. Maybe it’s pride or maybe you’re just shy. Here’s what Robert Greene, author of Mastery, has to say:

“To learn requires a sense of humility. We must admit that there are people out there who know our field much more deeply than we do. Their superiority is not a function of natural talent or privilege, but rather of time and experience.” -Robert Greene

Starting out, you don’t have the capacity to meaningfully self-evaluate. You’re in the information intake stage. You’re doing your best to learn everything you can about a subject. You need somebody else to give you feedback.

And you can’t always get it from books. While authors can be an effective pseudo-mentor, there’s no capability for dialogue. Conversing with a master in your subject allows you to ask questions and delve deeper into a topic.

If you’re unsure of how to find a mentor, check out this video where Ryan Daniel Moran breaks it down into a 3-step process:

 

Brain Hack #9: Focus, Buffer, and Free Your Days

I want to know how to increase my study speed.

Many people ask this, and learning how to study fast without forgetting depends on how you manage your time. Ryan Daniel Moran follows a Dan Sullivan principle that divides his work week into:

  • Focus days where he does high-intensity work that uses his unique ability.
  • Buffer days where he completes minor tasks, like email and errands.
  • Free days where he does zero work and enjoys himself.

The effectiveness of this work routine is that you balance high-intensity work with rest.

How Can You Implement The Dan Sullivan Principle For Studying?

Studying would follow a similar process:

When it’s a focus day, you’re in the zone. You’re sitting in your decluttered, distraction-free, study environment. You’re absorbing new material, using spaced repetition to memorize material, and studying intensely.

On buffer days, your brainpower is partially depleted but you still have enough to take care of errands and loose ends. Don’t let unfinished tasks pile up—otherwise, they’ll take up precious mental bandwidth during your focus days.

On free days, focus on rest and enjoyment. If you’re putting in 100% effort during your focus days, you shouldn’t feel guilty about putting studying on the back burner. Just like weightlifters use rest days to recover and grow their muscles, your brain needs free days to recharge.

Brain Hack #10: Clear the Mental Gunk with Meditation

Clogged sinks. We’ve all experienced it. Debris builds up. It gets a funky smell. It’s overall gross.

Our brains can get the same way. Whether it’s from family drama, an argument with your S.O., or a looming deadline, we can build up…

  • Stress
  • Anxiety 
  • Self-doubt 
  • Fear
  • Low self-esteem

Negative thought loops clog your brain and there’s no room for new ideas and growth to flow.

You need to unclog the drain.

Meditation can be the handyman you need to clear the mental gunk that is hampering your learning experience. When you get familiar with your thoughts, you learn that they’re just that: thoughts. Once you realize this, you can recenter yourself and focus on the task in front of you.

Remember: your priority is to learn how to study smart and fast because there’s a treasure trove of knowledge to learn and apply it in the real world.

You can’t become a world-renowned scientist or create an online store if your brain plays on repeat: “You can’t. You’re not good enough. You’re not smart enough.”

Rather than believe in those thoughts, believe in yourself.

If you want to dip your toe in meditation, then spend five-ten minutes meditating with guided meditation apps like Headspace or Simple Habit.

Your Next Step.

Reading this article about how to study fast has already set the ball rolling. Keep the momentum going.

Start with making those flashcards to take advantage of spaced repetition, or start evaluating the learning processes in your life with Pareto’s Principle.

There are lines we draw, walls we build, opinions we take personally… and their only purpose is to stop your momentum.

Erase those lines. Break down those walls. Silence the critics.

You are here to learn and grow and to build something purposeful. Push through your limits and devour all the knowledge you can: whether it’s art, science, or how to build a profitable business.

Just whatever you do, keep the momentum and never stop learning.