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How to Become a Quick Learner

How to become a quick learner and use it to your advantage

GARY KELLER

“Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.”

GARY KELLER

Becoming a quick learner: One thing at a time

Becoming a quick learner: One thing at a time

If you try to learn everything at once, you’ll waste too much time switching between activities and become frustrated with your lack of progress.

These days, many people proudly call themselves “multitaskers”. However, studies have shown that only 2% of people can actually multitask effectively and that switching between tasks costs us up to 40% of our productive time.

Fast learners know that in order to quickly pick up a new skill, it means giving it your undivided attention and having to say “maybe someday” to a dozen other things that you’re also interested in.

Get started on the right foot

Once you’ve decided on a skill you want to learn, it’s time to do some preliminary research. You need to know what you’re getting yourself into.

The idea is to quickly familiarize yourself with the skill until you have a mental map that identifies:

  • Keys to success
  • Major pitfalls to avoid
  • Subskills to focus on

Doing this work upfront will help you come up with a plan for learning, and avoiding mistakes that sabotage your progress.

The easiest way to start your research is to simply do a Google search with a few of the following terms:

  • “beginner’s guide to” + skill
  • “biggest mistakes” + skill
  • “before you start” + skill
  • “things I wish I knew” + skill.

Quick Learners Aim For Progress, Not Perfection

Quick Learners Aim For Progress, Not Perfection

While it’s good to strive for high-quality output, that won’t be possible without first having experience. To gain experience, one has to actually get started. After a certain point, you’ve got to get out of the classroom and into the field.

Any progress is good progress when starting out learning something.

Between the amateur and the professional stages, there are hundreds of mistakes. The faster the amateur experiences those mistakes, the faster they’ll become a professional.

Quick Learners Apply What They’ve Learned

Quick Learners Apply What They’ve Learned

Taking notes and knowing about something is different from actually being able to do it.

We can spend all our time discussing what exactly a bicycle is and the mechanics and physics of how it works. But nothing is going to be accomplished until we get on the bike itself and apply what we’ve learned.

Quick learners always translate lessons into action. It can be difficult at times. And there’s no faster way to learn than hopping on and falling down.

Quick Learners Have A Reason For Learning

Studies showed that having not only a self-oriented goal (enjoying one’s future job) but also a “beyond-the-self-oriented” goal (having a positive impact on the world around them) increased the students’ GPA in their academic career.

Knowing what exactly the skill is going to be used for will not only sustain motivation but make it clearer what information is useful and what isn’t, making the learning process that much faster.

What does it mean to be a quick learner?

What does it mean to be a quick learner?

A quick learner is someone who can understand and process information in a relatively short space of time.

Apart from being able to understand the information, as a quick learner, you should be able to apply what you've learned in a given situation. Fast learners usually have excellent listening and analytical skills.

How to emphasize that you are a fast learner: Include it in your CV

Your CV is often the first thing that employers read to help them decide if you'd be a good fit for the role. Consider emphasizing being a quick learner in the following sections of the document: 

  • Skills section: You can simply put the phrase "ability to learn quickly" as one of the bullet points.
  • Education: Instead of just listing your degree accomplishments, consider including the education you're actively pursuing that's relevant to your career. Things like leadership training, project management courses or even online classes can show you're a lifelong learner.
  • Work experience: For example, showing that your former employer decided to promote you to a more advanced role after just a few months in a new job shows that you can quickly learn and adapt to new work environments. 

Mention you're a quick learner in your cover letter

A cover letter is typically an essential element of a job application that helps the hiring manager get to know you better.

In the letter, you can use skills keywords to make yourself seem like a more desirable candidate.

Why You're Not A Quick Learner: Lack of Focus

Why You're Not A Quick Learner: Lack of Focus

Focus is key for learning. If you are not paying full attention to what you are trying to learn, it’ll make learning more difficult and slower. So, while you may believe you are a slow learner, you are most likely just a distracted learner.

Once you improve your focus, you’ll be surprised by how much faster you can internalize new knowledge and skills. 

Mindset and Beliefs Have a Strong Influence on Becoming a Quick Learner

  • People with a fixed mindset—the belief that we are born with attributes that cannot be changed—tend to think in terms of “you either have it or you don’t,” which in turn can create a mental block that hinders their progress.
  • But people with a growth mindset—the belief that we can develop and improve our abilities through passion and perseverance —are motivated to stretch their capabilities and work harder to improve.

If you believe learning myths like “you either have it or you don’t” or “old dogs can’t learn new tricks,” you will create a negative placebo effect that can make your learning slower or worse, make you want to quit.

Why You're Not A Quick Learner: Unrealistic Expectations

  • Whenever we want to pick up a new skill or learn a new subject, we assume that the learning process will go smoothly. But the reality is that learning is sometimes frustrating, stressful, and slow.
  • When we do not meet our unrealistic expectations of how fast we should be learning, we blame ourselves. We think we are slow learners, that we don’t have any talent, or that we are not as smart.
  • Our expectations about the learning process and our learning speed are, to a large extent, what makes us feel like slow learners—even if we aren’t.

Speed and transfer

Consider at what speed you should try to do things in order to improve performance.
We can often learn something quickly, but without attaining a master level (like getting good at estimating answers to math problems. While you might get within close proximity, you'll seldom get to the exact answer.)
Learning to do something with precision will require a different technique and can take much longer to master.

Failing to Reach an Ideal

There are two problems you can encounter when you're trying to learn something.

  1. You have a clear understanding of what you'd like to do and how you're going to do it, but you're unable to implement the approach you've chosen. Slow things down so you can pay more attention to every aspect of the problem.
  2. Speed learning is effective when you're not sure what the ideal should be and need more information to work it out. A good example of speed leading to move closer to quality is in entrepreneurial fields. Many fail because they picked the wrong problem to solve and wasted too much time trying to solve it.

Going faster vs doing it right

The balance between going faster and doing it right depends on what you're trying to achieve.

  • Faster feedback means more information to find out your key challenges and possible solutions.
  • Slower helps you focus on a strategy you've chosen, allowing you to execute it correctly.

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