By Leo Babauta

The next two Effective Learning Methods are actually different versions of the same thing, but I’ve found they work a bit differently in practice:

  1. Daily reflection/journal; and
  2. A Weekly Review

Both work great, and you can choose to do either or both together and I guarantee, you’ll find better results doing at least one of them than if you did neither.

These might seem like a bit of work, but they’re not really. Let’s briefly look at how each one works, and then talk about why they work so well.

  1. Daily reflection. Each day, either at the end of the day or at the end of your study session, you simply do a short journal entry reflecting on what you learned (and what failures you encountered). For example, if you’re learning about chess, you might talk about what you studied, what kind of problems you did, and what key points really stuck with you. And this is key: you should note what went wrong. What weaknesses do you have? Where are the gaps in your understanding?
  2. Weekly review. This is a part of the Sea Change habits method for a reason — it does wonders for making you better at habits. Basically, every week you do a quick review of your past week — how did you do with the habit, what did you learn, what mistakes did you make, what obstacles did you face, how can you overcome them next time?

Why These Work Wonderfully

The daily reflection and weekly review both work because they take your experience and turn it into a learning tool.

If you just keep repeating the same mistakes, and don’t reflect on what you’ve been doing and learning, you don’t learn that much.

If, on the other hand, you review how you did, what you learned, what your weaknesses are, what you should do differently … you’ll keep getting better and better.

In effect, you multiply the power of your learning experiences. You make them more meaningful, filled with lessons.

They also make learning a bit harder, it’s true … but who said it would be easy? The most meaningful learning is that which we put some effort into, which we spend the extra little time to really understand something and put it into our long-term memory.

Action Steps

Today, I recommend you do two things:

  1. Do your first weekly review here: Week 1 review.
  2. Start a daily journal, in a Google, Word or Evernote document, in a paper notebook, in a plain textfile (it doesn’t matter). Just a line or two reflecting on what you’ve learned, what your weaknesses are, what your progress has been. Set a daily reminder. You can do this at the end of each day, or at the end of your daily learning session.