Ironically, I did not get good at learning until I was already half-way through my graduate career at Cornell University. It was only then that I started to receive higher quality instruction from professors who were paid to share practical tips, useful advice, and easy-to-follow templates.
For much of my life, I had assumed that learning was supposed to be hard, confusing, and solitary. I had come to believe that enduring poor quality teaching was actually good for me. The big break-through for me occurred after I earned my Ph.D. At that point, I started taking post-graduate classes in statistics and something inside of me snapped. I realized that if the professors explained something to me and I did not understand them, then that was their problem not mine.
One of the best ideas I picked up at the University of Michigan while I was studying statistics was the idea that I should read at least three statistics textbooks at a time.
This way, I found it a lot easier to make sense of a topic. In my experience, reading just one textbook makes study difficult, in part, because it does not give me any sense of what was crucial to know, good to know, or simply useless detail. By reading about the same topic in three different textbooks, I found that I started getting a better fix on the priorities attached to any given topic. This approach made it easier for me to concentrate on the important stuff I really needed to know immediately and to only memorize the details that I would need to hold on to for the future. Looking back, I wish I had an instructor in high school who might have suggested this same idea to me while I was studying physics or mathematics. (I also wish I would have had a high school teacher who explained that learning math and science was a long road to follow, but that it was quite beautiful when it all came together during graduate work.)
As a grant writing consultant, I use triangulation to help me quickly understand the client's field of interest.
Typically, I start by reading the client's literature, reviewing their website, and interviewing their staff. Then, I search on-line to see what other experts have to say about the topic and then supplement this with my own library research.
I have found that this technique of using multiple sources makes me a much more knowledgeable participant in the grant writing process. For example, I have found that the federal government keeps track of role-model programs, measurement techniques, and other things that will improve your grant application. There are resources out there on the issues of responsible fatherhood, healthy marriage, and substance abuse.
The main thing, in my experience, is to not rely on a single source of information. There is safety and insight in accessing multiple sources of information on the same topic. At the very least, you quickly learn what it is okay to forget.