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Wellbeing & Personal Development

How do you make learning stick?

How do you make learning stick?
Published: September 22, 2015
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Greg Bartlett, Senior Consultant for Impact Australia, shares his top tips on making learning stick.

Keep it simple

The harder a set of instructions or procedure are in your head, the harder it is to remember it when you need it – I learnt the importance of keeping things simple to learn them and remember them when I was doing a lot of sports coaching. I would break down complex tasks and processes into smaller simpler steps and learn those rather than try to learn the whole thing in one go: How do you eat an elephant? By taking small bites at a time!


I find it easier to remember objects and images than anything else, so I try and associate an image with something I want to remember, or am trying to learn e.g. lots of people's names in a room – I associate their name with something like an object, place, or something about them – and then associate that with their face/person e.g. Stripy Simon because he has a stripy shirt on! The danger is if I call them by that name and not their real name!


I am a firm believer in repetition and practice to seal a long term memory. So learning a new skill for instance – the sooner you can practice it after you have first gained it, the sooner it becomes lodged in the brain, and the more used to it you are. Don't wait – practice needs to be done almost immediately after first learning the skill or activity. Practice practice practice. Images can help or experiencing how does it feel to do it right, then you know when you are doing it correctly or not.


We all do it, but again I love to bring up past memories by imagining myself back in a certain place, with the people I was with and what we were saying or doing – that helps bring back the memories and what I want to remember.

Don't panic

If I can't remember – I avoid panicking and forcing a memory back – it just won't come. Just relax, ignore it, and do something else if you can. We've all experienced that moment when later on, in a random way, the memory comes back to you. Trust your mind and it will work for you – it will come eventually, and when it does, be ready to write it down – a little notebook by your bed for those middle of the night wake-ups with random memories can help you to not forget them again! Its a great way to shut your mind up rather than hoping you will remember it again tomorrow when you need it…