It’s back to school season, and many students will be looking for ways to make better grades with less effort.  Even those of us who are not enrolled in formal education, are faced with having to learn more now than ever before.  Over the years, I have learned many tricks to increasing intelligence and making learning easier.  Here is a brief synopsis of what I’ve learned.

1)  Pay attention!  Most people don’t learn things simply because they are thinking about something else at the time.  If you are in class and the professor is giving a lecture, don’t spend time writing notes or planning outings.  Also, keep note taking to a minimum, since focusing on writing takes your attention away from what you are hearing.

2)  Memory works better when you have visual images.  Instead of trying to remember words, dates, and facts, try to visualize the information, and even put it into a story format if you can.  The mind remembers stories better than dry facts.

3)  Another memory trick is to put a lot of contrast into what you are trying to remember.  Imagine the information as if it were cartoonish.  Make it colorful, imagine it at high-speed, or very, very slowly.  Imagine the villain with horns and a tail, or the victor with a sword and wings.  Anything to make it different from your normal experiences.

4)  Numbers can be remembered as shapes tied together.  Take whatever number you need to memorize and imagine each numeral as an object.  For instance, a 1 becomes a rocket, or a candle.  A 2 becomes a swan, a 3 becomes a pair of open handcuffs, and other numbers take on other shapes.  Imagine the various items connected (or in sequence in a mental journey) and you can remember anything.  This is the technique used by the world memory champions, so it works.

5)  Take regular breaks.  Learning takes a lot of energy, and your mind can only absorb so much in any given time frame.  Twenty minutes of studying followed by ten minutes of relaxation (not TV watching, nor talking on the phone – sitting and doing nothing helps the mind absorb new material) is about the best learning cycle for most people.

6)  Keep up your physical health.  Get regular exercise and eliminate as much processed foods from your diet as you can.  When your body is operating cleanly, your mind benefits.  Also, make sure to get enough sleep.  You can’t learn anything if you are groggy from a lack of sleep.

7)  And most important of all is to believe in yourself.  Every one of us has the brain-power to accomplish miracles if we simply direct our focus the right way.  There is a whole field of self-image psychology that tells us that we will perform as well as the image we have of ourselves.  If we believe that we are incompetent, then we will perform at a low level.  If we believe that we are a genius and can learn anything, then we will not be afraid to put in the effort required to learn a new subject.

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