You attend a seminar, read a book, talk to an expert or conduct research on the Internet. You expand your knowledge. You learn a great deal about the topic you wanted to know more about. A week or two go by and what often happens? You forgot most of what you learned.

Studies have found that if you do nothing further with your newly acquired knowledge that after a few hours you only retain a fraction of what you read, saw or heard. As more time goes on, your retention slides even further. While your need to learn was strong enough that you invested your time and money into knowledge acquisition, the end result was a much reduced return on your investment.

The good news is that these statistics are for unapplied knowledge. If you apply your new knowledge, especially within the first few hours of acquisition, you can dramatically increase your retention. With just a little extra effort, you can move your newly formed knowledge from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. You can reach long term retention levels as high as ninety-percent of what you initially learned.

Here are six principles to employ in increasing your retention and investment in your learning:

1.Invest your resources into learning - While investing more time, money or effort into your learning doesn’t always have a direct impact on your retention, it does have an indirect impact. The more you invest, and in particular sacrifice, the more you value it. Free advice usually seems to be worth about what you paid for it. Paying for advice on the other hand makes it seem more valuable. Start out with a retention mindset by investing your time, money and effort into your knowledge acquisition.

2.Take notes - The process of writing or typing what you hear, see or read reinforces it in your mind. It helps imprint the notes you take into your memory. Take notes of the key points you want to retain as you learn.

3.Synthesize your notes into a framework – Consolidating your learning into some type of structure helps take the load off your short term memory. It creates order and association that facilitates memorization and recall. Distil your learning into a model, diagram, flowchart, cluster, picture, rhyme, acrostic or acronym, e.g. the acronym INFOAT for these six principles – Invest, notes, frameworks, others, application, teaching. Analogies and metaphors are also powerful in creating association.

4.Discuss with others – Talk about what you learn with others. Discussion and debate reinforces what you learn. It creates clarity. Talk with others that listen well, probe into your points and challenge you when they don’t understand or when they disagree.

5.Apply your learning – Applying what you learn moves it from the conceptual to the practical. It creates experience. It provides context. Be application ready and plan post-learning activities that enable you to immediately put your learning into practice.

6.Teach - Teach what you learn to someone else. Teaching involves investment, writing (or typing), organizing, discussing, sharing and applying. It utilizes all the elements of retention. It is impossible to teach something without deepening your own learning and retention. Teaching is the best solution to building and retaining knowledge. If you really want to enhance your learning, teach, coach or train others.

Employ these six principles and your learning retention will increase dramatically along with the return on your learning investment.

Author's Bio: 

Mike Hawkins is president of Alpine Link Corporation. He is a respected writer and columnist on leadership, sales, business management and self-improvement. He is an esteemed adjunct college faculty member. He is a seasoned executive coach. He is a sought after management consultant with over twenty-five years of success in management, sales, marketing, engineering and consulting. He has the distinction of having direct hands-on experience throughout all the primary activities in the enterprise selling value chain. He has excelled as a product engineer. He has led the development of major accounts. He has managed large complex programs. He has developed industry thought leadership. He has turned around under-performing businesses. He has led teams in multiple industries and in multiple countries. He has crafted and led innovative initiatives throughout his career that have transformed businesses, people, processes, systems and product portfolios. He has the rare ability to think strategically while also being capable of working at the most detailed levels in multiple domains.