For a long time, I thought learning is just about consuming information, understanding insights, and using the knowledge to build experience.
But if you want to learn, you also have to take time outside of consuming, understanding, and applying. You have to take time to reflect. Take time to explore. Take time to tinker. Take time to rest.
Reflect to see if your learning is going well. Reflect on your understanding by expressing your understanding. Either express it to yourself through self-explanation or to others by creating an article, a visualization, a mini project or something else. By expressing it yourself, you will deepen your understanding and place the information into a context you understand best. You might even spot gaps in your understanding which you might want to close.
In addition to your understanding, also reflect on your practice. Reflect on your practice to spot what works, what could work better, what did work before but doesn’t work anymore, and what doesn’t at all.
You can not only reflect on what you are learning but also on how you are learning. Ask: How did I learn? What could I change about my learning process or system? Should I try a different learning technique? Which aspects of my learning environment are distracting or helping me to focus?
Explore to see where your curiosity might lead you next. You might stumble over ideas that might otherwise be out of your comfort zone. Additionally, exploring also helps you get exposed to new ideas and insights.
To learn and to grow we have to expose ourselves regularly to new ideas and new perspectives. Otherwise, we might get stuck in our comfort zone. If you explore, you don’t have to learn it right away. You can only skim it, you can only look around, you just consume and notice what might be interesting in the future.
Tinker to become comfortable using your knowledge and skill. If you want to be good at something and master it, you will — most probably — do it poorly at first. By being comfortable at doing it poorly at first and actually doing it poorly, you will naturally see where you have to improve and how it might be better. But you don’t have to fail or be bad on purpose. Just don’t shy away because you might do it poorly. Tinker and play with your new skill.
Rest to give your brain the time to process new information and actually learn. Neuroplasticity — and thus learning — occurs not while being awake but during sleep and in a state of rest. You prepare your brain to learn by being active and by “learning” — consuming, understanding, applying. But your brain actually learns and changes while you rest. This is why you have to include breaks into your learning process. The typical way to get rest is by sleeping or meditating. In addition to that, you can also perform motion-rich & thought-less activities. In these activities, you are not thinking that much, so your brain can focus on changing. It tries to make sense of everything, sorts new information and experiences, and processes new insights.
If you want to learn, don’t only take time to learn. Also take time to reflect, explore, tinker, and rest.