How To Remember 90% Of Everything You Learn
By Sean Kim
Wish you could learn faster?
Whether you’re learning Spanish, a new instrument, or a new sport, we could all benefit from accelerated learning. But the problem is, there’s only so much time in the day.
The key to accelerated learning is not just putting in more hours, but maximizing the effectiveness of the time spent learning.
The Bucket And Water Analogy
Let’s say you were to fill up a bucket with water. Most buckets should not have any problem retaining the water inside, until it starts overflowing at the top.
But in reality, this isn’t how our brains function. In fact, most of the information that enters our brain leaks out eventually. Instead of looking at our brain’s memory as a bucket that retains everything, we should treat it for what it is: a leaking bucket.
While the leaky bucket analogy may sound like a negative connotation, it’s perfectly normal. Unless you were born with a photographic memory, our brains weren’t designed to remember every fact, information, or experience that we go through in our lives.
How To Remember 90% Of Everything You Learn
The development of the Learning Pyramid in the 1960’s — widely attributed to the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine— outlined how humans learn.
As research shows, it turns out that humans remember:
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture (i.e. university/college lectures)
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading (i.e. books, articles)
20% of what they learn from audio-visual (i.e. apps, videos)
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
90% of what they learn when they use immediately (or teach others)
Yet how do most of us learn?
Books, classroom lectures, videos — non-interactive learning methods that results in 80-95% of information going in one ear and leaking out the other.
The point here is that instead of forcing our brains on how to remember more information with “passive” methods, we should focus our time, energy, and resources on “participatory” methods that have proven to deliver more effective results, in less time.
This means that:
- If you want to learn how to speak a foreign language, you should focus on speaking with native speakers and gain immediate feedback (instead of mobile apps)
- If you want to get in shape, you should work with a personal fitness trainer (instead of watching Youtube workout videos)
- If you want to learn a new instrument, hire a local music teacher in your city
Ultimately, it comes down to this…
Time Or Money?
How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time to do X…”
I’m certainly guilty of this myself, as I’ve made excuse after excuse about the lack of time I have in my life.
But time is the greatest equalizer of all. No matter who we are, where we are in the world, or how much we strive for efficiency, there are only 24 hours in each day. Every single minute is unique, and once it’s gone, it can never be regained, unlike money.
“You May Delay, But Time Will Not.”
― Benjamin Franklin
So if we all have 24 hours in a day, how do we explain the success stories of young millionaires that started from nothing, or a full-time student going from beginner to conversation fluency in Spanish after just 3.5 months? They learned how to maximize for effectiveness instead of only efficiency.
Let’s say person A spent one hour learning a language and retained 90% of what they learned. And person B spent nine hours learning and retained 10% of what they learned. Doing simple math, person B spent 9x more time learning than person A, only to retain the same amount of information (A: 1 * 0.9 = B: 9 * 0.1).
While the exact numbers can be debated, the lesson is clear. The way to have more time is not to go for small wins, like watching 5-minute YouTube tutorials instead of 15-minutes, but to go for big wins, like choosing the most effective method from the beginning. Or constantly relying on free alternatives, when investing in a premium solution can shave off months, if not years, worth of struggles, mistakes, and most importantly, time.
It’s making the most out of the limited time we have by focusing on solutions that deliver the most impact, and saying no to everything else.
The ability to retain more knowledge in an age of infinite access to information and countless distractions is a powerful skill to achieve any goal we have faster.
By learning how to remember more information everyday, we can spend less time re-learning old knowledge, and focus on acquiring new ones.
We’re all running out of time, and today is the youngest you’ll ever be. The question is: how will you best spend it?
About the Author
Sean Kim is the founder of rypeapp.com, a language learning platform helping people speak fluently in any language faster. He’s also a blogger at http://thegrowthlist.com and a frequent contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, Huffington Post, The Next Web, TIME, and more.