How to Learn Online Instead of Wasting Your Time


How to Learn Online Instead of Wasting Your Time

By Marcia Reynolds, PsyD.

Photo credit: Intersection Consulting / / CC BY-NC

How much time do you spend each week reading blog posts, scanning articles, and rushing through e-books to get the highlights? It’s likely this time is wasted.

Force-feeding your brain information will not make you smarter. You can only stuff so many bits of knowledge into your short-term memory before other pieces start dropping out.

If you know what you are reading will be useful to remember, there are ways to help integrate the information into your memory bank. Here are a few techniques:

  1. Visualize how you will use the information. When you visualize an activity, the same brain areas light up as if you were performing live. If you read communication or relationship tips, see yourself using them in an upcoming interaction. If you read an article about how people behave in another country, see yourself traveling there and trying out their customs.
  2. Transfer the key learning points into a story and tell it to others. Think of a time in your life where a lesson you learned relates to the points you want to remember. Write the highlights of the experience into a story that includes 1) a brief setup, 2) the conflict or surprising event that led to the learning moment, and 3) the point you want to remember. Then tell the story to a number of willing friends.
  3. Teach a skill or concept to others in an engaging, interactive way.  This activity uses many areas of your brain, consolidating and solidifying the material for permanent use in the future.
  4. Take full breaks. The brain needs processing time to transfer data from short- to long-term memory. Take real breaks from the computer; don’t just check your email. Go for a walk. Find a friend to talk to. Reflect on a picture that makes you smile. And most importantly, get a full night’s sleep. That’s when your brain does its best processing work.

The brain needs both stimulation and rest to create memories. You can continue growing smarter the rest of your life if you do more than just cram your brain with words.

Coaching Tip: Pick one or more of the approaches above and actively integrate them into your daily online activity. Notice how this affects your information retention.


About the Author

Marcia ReynoldsMarcia Reynolds, PsyD works with clients worldwide focusing on emotional intelligence and change. She is a Master Certified Coach and a past president of the International Coach Federation. Her website is