Total recall

What’s the best way to learn a new skill? CC Training Director Chris West says your environment has a big impact on how you learn.


As we gain more experience in our careers, it can be easy to assume we already know everything we need to do our jobs effectively. Of course that is not the case, and there are always the unknown unknowns - things we don’t know we don’t know.

Picking up new skills and knowledge is a habit we should all be careful not to fall out of once we leave education and start working. But there are many ways to learn something, and training quality can vary greatly depending on the course and the teacher. How do you make sure you get the most out of learning?

First of all, consider your state of mind. You will learn best when you are well rested, fed and hydrated. If you are distracted, stressed or upset, your brain simply won’t be working at its full capacity and you can guarantee it won’t be remembering everything you want it to. When you sit down to learn something, clear your day of distractions, worries and tasks. That way, you can really focus on the material.

Next is to consider your environment. You need to be somewhere that is calm and quiet with minimal distractions. Fresh air and natural light will help keep you alert. Your environment can have a big impact on your learning, so think about where is best to study. In addition, did you know that changing your environment every time you study can aid recall? Let’s say you’re trying to learn a speech. Spending an hour reading through it in your living room one day, and then another hour reading it in a park the next day, will greatly increase your chances of memorising the whole thing.

The last and most important part of learning to consider is recall. A piece of information is not truly useful until you can recall it. This is why practice is an essential part of every training course: the more you do something, the easier it is to remember it. Even tests actually help you remember things by forcing your recall.

Every time you recall something from your long term memory your “recall strength” is increased, making that information easier to remember in the future. Did you know you can more effectively learn a speech off by heart by spending more time reciting it than reading it? If you spend an hour simply reading the speech over and over again, it will have less effect than if you spend 20 minutes reading it, then 40 minutes reciting it. Every time you get stuck, briefly remind yourself and carry on.

Everyone learns differently and at different speeds, so don’t worry if someone else learns faster than you do. You just need to find the learning method and environment that works for you.

If you are interested in training or are a practising trainer yourself, you might find our trainer skills workshop of interest. For more details or to have a chat about training, drop me an email at