7 Steps to Make Self-Learning Effective for You and Your Goals

You know at least one self-made individual who stood out and made their skills known and appreciable, for example Nikola Tesla and Steve Jobs. Although self-learning was considered a great feat some time back, it is no longer as difficult as it once was. With huge amounts of free resources and access to hundreds of content sources and online courses, all you need is to put a judicious amount of time and energy into learning something new.

If you are wondering what exactly self-learning is, here is the answer:

Self-learning is anything you learn outside a classroom environment by yourself without a set curriculum or examinations.

Unlike traditional methods of schooling, your self-learning efforts are not measured by how well you perform on an exam. Self-learning lets you gauge and improve your knowledge via practical applications with no matriculated evaluation. This makes it all about pure learning.

Besides the knowledge factor, self-learning also helps in developing your skill levels and enriching your experiences through practical applications. Here are some reasons why you should consider self-learning:

  • Self-learning helps you develop your problem solving skills.
  • Self-learning is stress free. There are no exams, no deadlines. Only pure satisfaction and curiosity being answered.
  • You gain secondary skills that will help you advance your career.
  • Self-learning comes out of your personal desire to learn something new. Thus, you get a feeling of accomplishment and feel a sense of purpose.
  • You get to choose the way you learn. You can find your comfortable medium, videos, texts, experiments, or webinars, and other diverse mediums can be efficiently used to learn.

So, how can you start learning by yourself?

1. Be Curious

The first step to learning anything is to be curious about it. The desire to learn is what will keep you motivated to keep learning.

Allow yourself to ask questions and be naturally curious about what learning experiences are interested in. Start your learning with a purpose. Ask yourself various questions:

  • Why do you need to learn?
  • Why is it an important skill?
  • How useful will this learning be?

Do you know that when students are not curious enough, they tend to take in or absorb less information from the curriculum?[1] On the other hand, if you are studying on your own through self-learning, this is entirely for your own benefit, where you are curious and ask the relevant questions to get through the course.

2. Set Learning Goals

Setting realistic goals will help you focus and improve your productivity while utilizing various learning styles. It lets you work towards something achievable and gives purpose to your learning.

For instance, if you are trying to learn a programming language, try to set a goal to create an application using that programming language. Or, if you are training yourself in a foreign language, you should set yourself a goal to invest some time in this language. This could be writing an article, reading some poetry in that language, or picking up a song in the foreign language.

These kinds of goals actually keep you motivated, providing you with some ambition to fulfill in the end.

3. Assess Your Learning Resources

This is an important step you need to focus on. As self-learners, it is necessary to verify the authenticity and correctness of the materials you use to educate yourself. You should also look into what is accessible to you to make your learning progress.

Unlike traditional classroom learning, self-learning can be a sporadic process that does not follow a set plan or syllabus. Try not to lose focus and absorb the necessary information from whatever channels you stumble upon.

Here are some pointers to help you assess your resources:

  • Verify everything. Be aware of outdated or incorrect information as the internet is filled with fake information. Cross check references and challenge every bit of content you go through.
  • Make use of peer reviewed academic databases like Google Scholar and scientific journals that have proper citations.
  • Make use of online learning platforms.

For instance, if you are engaging in some software or tool course via self-learning methods, you could always go back and check how updated the tool is. If the course is meant for the 2013 version of the tool and you are using the 2019 version, the course could actually prove to be redundant for you. This way, you might end up learning something that does not meet your requirements.

4. Engage in a Learning Process

The more you keep putting off your learning process, the more difficult it becomes for you to start learning.

Set a schedule and engage in your own approach to self-learning. Leaving gaps will make you procrastinate, so try to stick to a self-made process to your learning efforts.

Decide on how you want to assess your improvements. It could be self-made quizzes, online tests, or anything that lets you be assured of your progress. Just create an effective feedback loop to help you learn faster.

5. Apply What You Learn

The best way to retain knowledge is to use it. When you self-learn something, try to find a real world application to use the knowledge you gained. For instance, if you are trying to learn a new language, try speaking it with a native or fellow learner. This way you will get more confidence in your learning and will also be able to remember what you studied better.

Project-oriented learning where you will try building or creating something as you learn is a good way to gain experience through self-learning.

For instance, if you are working on a web development coding language, you could actually take time out to build a small tool online or a web page that could help you exercise your skills. The idea is to keep yourself motivated in the self-learning process. Anything that serves as a live example of the course you are going through will come in handy in the near future.

6. Collaborate With Other Learners

A great thing about online communities is that it allows you to meet with people from all over the world with similar interests and learning aspirations. Try your hand at collaborative learning. Some benefits of sharing with fellow learners are:

  • More access to resources you may have not known earlier.
  • Knowledge transfer and sharing with no set prejudices.
  • Clarifying concepts and discussions on subject topics will stimulate more interest and let you see different views of the same problem.
  • Getting a new perspective of the same topic or idea could help you refine your knowledge in the same area. This will actually serve as a classroom environment where different people come together to learn, discuss, and share ideas among one another.

7. Share Your Knowledge

The final step would be to give back to the community. The more you teach, the easier it is for you to keep learning.

Albert Einstein said it well:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

When you try to explain a concept to someone, you will be focusing and gaining a better understanding of the subject, along with the ability to retain the information better[2]. It will also help you look at what you learn through different perspective as in collaborative learning.

This is a great aspect of self-learning. Anyone can be a teacher, and everyone can be a learner. There is a common belief that knowledge is one thing that increases on sharing with others. In order to get yourself closer to the classroom environment, it is highly recommended that you share your ideas and knowledge in communities, groups, and forums.

Bottom Line

If you crave learning, you don’t have to sign up for a traditional course or hire a tutor. Let your curiosity find its way to greater knowledge through self-learning. There are enough resources to help you out on the internet, so learn what you want, when you want, and the way you want.

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This article was written by Leon Ho  who is the Founder and CEO of Lifehack, which he started in 2005 as a way to share his personal productivity hacks to make life easier.



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