Lifelong learning is vital for success in school and life. However, many people are unaware of the differences between efficient learning and effective learning, and why efficiency is often better. Though usually used interchangeably, the words do not have the same meaning. Though the outcomes of each differ, both are important to lifelong learning, though efficiency should be the main focus. Efficient learning means doing something accurately with the minimum amount of waste, unneeded effort, or expense. Efficient learning, therefore, would mean achieving a result using resources, like materials and time, without wasting them, while optimizing performance. Effectiveness refers to having a goal or end result, and going about finding a way to succeed. It is very interesting to notice that the word “efficiency” does incorporate the ideas of effectiveness. Unfortunately, most people only focus on effectiveness, which is why many people are either unable to master a new skill or concept, or forget how to do it after a short while, like students who memorize problems for a quiz but forget the math concepts a week or two later.

An example of efficient and effective learning is if a person’s objective is to learn how to paint that week. But if the individual then spends most of their week running to the store to buy new materials, washing paint out of their clothes, or having to redo the art because they misread the directions, the result will likely be reached at the end of the week, but not in the most efficient way. The person will end up wasting a lot of materials and time when they should have concentrated carefully on what they were doing instead of getting in a hurry. So, how can you become a more efficient learner and make lifelong learning a reality? Below are eleven steps that should guide you to that goal.

  1. Watch your health. Stress and fatigue from studying for long hours can make the brain unable to absorb new info. A well-rested mind will also benefit from a healthy body, so watch your diet, making sure to eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and exercise regularly.
  2. Want to learn. You have to have a desire to learn in order to gain new knowledge, or else your brain won’t be able to absorb the information. Going to classes and studying and reading do not guarantee an adept learner unless the person is willing to learn. Self-esteem actually triggers this longing, because people who respect themselves believe they can advance, so the higher your self-esteem is, the more you will be able to learn and accomplish.
  3. Find a conducive study environment. The atmosphere plays a vital part in your ability to learn. A place with good lighting, privacy, study materials, and supplies are imperative. Assign a certain day to study or learn something new; do not just fit it into your schedule.
  4. Give yourself targets and goals. To make the learning experience realistic, you need to give yourself goals that are achievable, measurable, flexible, and time-bound.
  5. When you are studying for long hours, take breaks to give your brain a chance to revitalize. Overexertion often makes the brain resist new info, making all your studies useless.
  6. Join study groups or people who have similar interests. The cliché is right: two heads are really better than one. With people who are interested and trying to learn the same thing you are, you can compare opinions, ideas, and help clarify confusing matters for each other. With other people, the learning actually becomes more fascinating and challenging because you get different outlooks and perspectives.
  7. Understand things instead of memorizing details and facts. Usually, memorizing facts comes in handy for a short while, but then people find their knowledge of the subject matter leaves their mind. Memorization is a wrong approach to learning and is actually a short-term solution that is only disguised as learning. If you form the habit of understanding ideas rather than just memorizing the details, the process will go smoothly and will offer you long-term results that can last for years or even your whole life.
  8. Take shortcuts when you can because it will maximize your learning skills. You do more when you abbreviate in note taking, when you focus the notes around concepts to help you remember them better, and when you put all the notes into your computer for later reference. In this generation, we need to store a lot of concepts and ideas in the least amount of time.
  9. Manage your time. Learning will never end, so in addition to your goals and targets, you need to allot a certain amount of time for studying and practice to be done in. When you properly manage your time, it is spent wisely and is rarely wasted. Even your socializing time should be taken into consideration. You should remember this simple rule: all work and no play make Jack a dull boy.
  10. Reward yourself in order to make the learning experience even more enjoyable. Look for things that ignite the craving in you to sit down and learn: watching movies, listening to music, or eating a cuisine you haven’t had in a while. It doesn’t matter what it is, just as long as it inspires you. Unending hours of studying or practice will not only tire you, but also quench your interest. The above techniques indicate that long hours do not achieve results.
  11. Finally, prepare yourself by clearly writing down the materials you will need to study, so you will not have to order something or run back to the store, wasting time that could’ve been spent studying.

Learning is a lifelong skill, from birth to death. How people learn varies from person to person. Some people make little effort, yet do well in school. Some practice a skill for hours and hours, yet make no make progress. Genes may have something to do with it, but often it has to do with people’s efficiency and attitude toward learning that makes the big difference.

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