The article profiles Dr. Barbara Oakley who has written many books on this topic and has created the most popular Coursera course “Learning How to Learn.” At the end of the article there are four techniques mentioned to help you learn:
Focus / Don’t: The brain needs to both focus on materials and later rest to consolidate information.
Take a Break: This is why the “Pomodoro Technique” works: focus for 25 minutes followed by a break (walk, listen to a song, or anything that helps you enter a relaxed state).
Practice: Specifically “chunk” or organize and group information for easier retention.
Know Thyself: People learn in different ways, for example some students more quickly snap up information and some students take longer but perceive more detail along the way.
Here are a few quotes from "How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens.”
Distractions can aid learning. We work more effectively when we continually alter our study routines and abandon any “dedicated” space” in favor of varied locations. Having something going on in your study environment, like music, is better than being in a quiet location. Learning is a restless, piecemeal, subconscious, and somewhat sneaky process that occurs all the time.
Mix it up: Our brains picks-up patterns more efficiently when presented with a mixed bag of related tasks instead of when it’s force-fed just one. Writing notes by hand is one kind of activity, typing them using a keyboard is another. The same goes for studying while standing up versus sitting versus running on a tread mill. Another way to mix it up is by interleaving, for example interleave different types of problems when studying math.
Spacing: People learn at least as much and retain it much longer when they distribute or space their study time than when they concentrate it. Cramming can work in a pinch but it doesn’t last. The same thing recurring on different days in different contexts, read, recited, referred to again and again, related to other things are reviews, gets well wrought into mental structure.
Fluency Illusions & Pretests: We forget that we forget. Fluency illusion makes you think that you knew something well because it seemed so evident at the time you studied it. Certain study aids can help us remember right now but make us poor judges of what we need to restudy or practice again. These study aids can include: highlighting, making a study guide, and even chapter outlines provided by a teacher or textbook. It can be harder to process materials a second time, but that is good as it helps us learn.
One rule of thumb is spend the first third of your time memorizing, and the remaining two third reciting from memory. Actually getting something wrong including guessing wrong on a practice test helps you get a related questions right on the actual test. Testing – recitation, self-examination, pretesting, call it what you like – is an enormously powerful technique capable of much more than simply measuring knowledge. It vanquishes the fluency trap that causes so many of us to think that we’re poor test takers.
Percolation: Start work on large projects as soon as possible and stop when you get stuck. You are initiating percolation, not quitting.
Harness Perceptual Judgement: It is ok to “know” what you are looking at (for example a style of painting) without having to explain why, at least not right away.
Sleep: Sleeping (even napping) after studying helps improves retention and comprehensive of what you study.