• Kristen Stuppy, MD

Learn to Learn

Updated: Apr 3

Studies consistently show that people who know how to learn and have grit are more successful than people who are smart but don’t have resilience. That means we all need to learn how to learn and how to be resilient!

Let’s start with the basics and then review a few learning techniques that can help.



If you take a few minutes each day to fill out a planner and review what needs to be done, you will save yourself a ton of time overall. And have fewer periods of last minute anxieties!

There are many organization systems out there. Online planners and paper planners each have their pros and cons. The most important thing is that you pick one that works for you. Just search for reviews of planners, and you’ll find many suggestions.

There’s also the Google calendar or iCal – both offer the ability to keep track of things wherever you are! There are also many online apps for organization, most of which offer free versions as well as premium plans.

The most important thing about calendars and planners: put everything in them and use them regularly.

Of course you should put all your assignments in your planner. Also add in your extracurriculars. If you’re making plans with friends, add that in too. Don’t forget to add in time for exercise and sleep. Everything that’s important should be in there!

Don’t put it off!

It’s tempting to put off studying until the last minute, but don’t fall for the temptation.

Some people even say they do best at the last minute because of the adrenaline rush they get from the anxiety of the last minute. But chances are if you really look at it, you do a much better job and feel much better if you pace yourself and do a little each day.

If you finish parts of tasks on time at a healthy pace, you’ll have less time spent worrying about it. This leaves more time to enjoy life. You’ll probably sleep better and be healthier!


Your brain needs sleep to process and store information. All nighters will keep you from performing at your best.

Study in the evening, get a good night’s sleep, then review your notes a bit in the morning. This is a recipe for success!


There are studies showing that people who exercise right before a test do better than those who cram a little longer.

Exercise is not only great for your body… it’s also good for your mind!

Think positive!

If you get stuck in negativity, you’ll waste a ton of time and energy just being mad or scared.

It’s easy to fall into the trap. If you start to feel overwhelmed and frustrated that you won’t have enough time to finish a report, you will waste even more time not doing the report. It’s too easy to waste time worrying.

How do you change your mindset from, “I’ll never finish this,” to “I might have waited a long time to start this, but I’ve always been able to push through and finish it in the past”? See the “Related Posts” section at the bottom of this blog.

Learning techniques

Write it down

Take notes as you study. The process of writing helps people remember.

Don’t simply re-write exactly what you hear in lecture or read in your textbook. Summarize the thought in your own words. This helps much more!

Writing has been shown to be more effective than typing to help with learning, so unless you can’t write, put the keyboard aside and use a simple pen and paper! (Maybe a pen on the appropriate screen would be okay… I don’t know if that’s been studied.)


Memorizing dates, words in a foreign language, and more can be difficult, but associating them with something else can make a big difference.

I still remember many of the mnemonics I used years ago….

Who else learned “Every Good Boy Does Fine” to learn to read music?

You can use images, songs, word associations and rhymes to help remember difficult information. This great video explains how to use several of the techniques.

Sing a tune – one type of mnemonic

Songs and rhymes help us learn. You know how you can remember all the words to your favorite song, right? Words in a song are grouped together more easily in our mind and are easier to remember than non-associated words.

Pick a familiar tune and put the information you need to learn in it. If you’re not that creative or short on time, search your topic with “music” or “song” and check out the results.

Singing is one type of mnemonic memorization. For more types and descriptors, see Try these 9 Types of Mnemonics to Improve Your Memory.

What’s your learning style?

You might have heard that everyone has their own learning style. It’s true. Some people learn from reading things best. Other people are more auditory learners – they learn from listening.

There are 7 basic learning styles. We’ll cover more of those in a future post.

See our related posts:

  1. Be Positive!

  2. “Yet” A Little Word with Big Potential

  3. How to get a Growth Mindset

  4. Catastrophizing: When the sky is falling

#studyskills #school #studytime #memorization #education #learning

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