Even if you forgot everything you learned in school, it’s likely that you at least remember the process of how to learn.
For many of us, that process looks like:
- Take notes in class.
- Review your notes after class.
- Synthesize your notes as you study for a test.
By the time I got to law school, I had mastered this approach. My process of studying for exams was to synthesize my notes into an outline, print it out, and review the outline, highlighting and tabbing it for easy reference during exams.
As long as the information I needed was well-organized and indexed, I could reference it with ease during the exam.
This is how many people still learn outside of school.
This is Not Learning
The problem is that this is not really “learning.”
It’s smoke and mirrors; an elaborate system for organizing information for ease of reference. The information still exists in an external repository; it’s not integrated.
True learning happens when we integrate what we have consumed. Through integration, we take external information and bring it into our bodies. Integration empowers us to take new actions.
The process of integration is how we turn information — the realm of ideas that exists outside of us — into knowledge — that which is embodied.
When you have integrated what you’ve learned, you no longer need to refer to your notes.
The way to integrate new ideas and learnings is through action.
Taking notes can be one of those actions. The act of taking notes — at least by hand — is one way to synthesize, organize, and embody what you are learning. When you take notes by hand, your brain has to decide what’s relevant and physically write it down.
Once you’ve taken notes, reviewing and organizing your notes doesn’t actually do much to help you integrate. To integrate, you must do something with what you’ve learned.
Eventually you must do something with the new information in order to embody it.
Information and concepts you collect in a notebook are of little value. What matters is not what you learned, but what you do.
3 Questions to Help You Integrate New Information
At the end of any learning session, ask yourself these 3 questions to help you integrate new information into embodied knowledge:
- What has been most useful to me?
- Where can I apply this in the next 24 hours?
- What is one action I can take to integrate this new learning in the next 24 hours?