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Every Lifetime Learner Should Try Out These Time-Tested Techniques

Every Lifetime Learner Should Try Out These Time-Tested Techniques
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Lifelong learning is a continuous process of gaining new knowledge and experience. Nowadays, it has become quite a trendy thing. People of all ages join web courses and communities, get degrees online, boost their skills, and find new hobbies.

Do you have a strong desire to gain new knowledge? Then you can and should do it right now. There are so many options and opportunities for everyone. “It’s never too late to learn” is an old saying, but if you’re a lifelong learner, then you know just how true it is.

There are a few time-tested techniques that can become part of a daily routine for lifelong learners. Use them to make your learning experiences better.

1. Read constantly

Reading is a perfect way to combine learning with delight. Do you prefer fiction to non-fiction? If so, then go ahead and read fiction. Is non-fiction much better for you? Well then, that’s reason enough to enjoy non-fiction. Every single story brings you new ideas and experiences. Try to have a pocket-sized book with you so you can read it whenever you have a free moment, like when you’re taking public transit to work or having a lunch break.

Create a list of the books you want to read during the year and check them off one by one as you finish them. At the end of the year you’ll see how many great books you’ve read. If you have at least 30 checked off, you should be quite proud of yourself.

2. Create a list of what you want to learn

Making lists is generally a good way to plan not only your studying, but also your living and learning. You might have “to-read,” “to-watch,” and “to-do” lists, so why not have a “to-learn” list as well? Look through good web resources, choose an area you’d like to study, and add all those courses to your list.

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It makes sense to save awesome websites with online courses and check them from time to time for new lectures, tutorials, and podcasts. If you enjoy learning, there are a number of web platforms you’re probably already using, but there are many others you might not have tried yet. You’ll find some of them mentioned below.

3. Join a study group or book club

Have you heard that studying in a group is more effective for all group members? People in the group know what they want and their motivation is high. Healthy competitiveness in study groups is a good force, motivating all learners to do their best to discuss important issues and quickly absorb helpful information. If you have weekly study group meetings, it’s a perfect way to stay organized, since you have to prepare for every meeting, research something, make presentations, and so on.

Joining a book club is also a great method. It can help you learn how to think critically and share your views regarding the book you’ve read. And you enjoy reading, right? So it’s a win-win.

4. Don’t forget about practice

After you’ve taken a course, it’s time to check how your skills work in practice. You can use your newly gained skills while working or studying to make these activities much easier and more productive. For example, let’s imagine you took a course in writing. In order to master your writing skills, don’t be afraid to start a blog, where you can write about your life or any other specific topic that interests you (sports, cooking, literature, art, and so on).

5. Teach somebody else

Even though you may lack the competence to be an experienced teacher at the moment, you can still share your knowledge with other people and tell them about the resources that helped you. Teaching is a chance to both reinforce and extend what you know, which is always a plus.

6. Tailor time for daily self-education

You have a chance to learn something new each and every day. Allow an hour for reading, set a rule to look through a high-quality scientific article in the morning, watch one educational video a day, or do anything else to boost your skills. Just be sure to set definite time limits, or else your learning can get in the way of everything else you need to accomplish during the day. Also, find your perfect study time and establish a routine so the process is as productive as possible.

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7. Work out your own study style

There are many different learning styles, such as visual, auditory, and tactile. The majority of people are visual learners, meaning it’s better for them to absorb information if they see it. However, most learners also combine different learning styles for better efficiency. You can try reading out loud, watching educational videos, listening to audio books, highlighting important areas in your text, creating infographics and mind maps, building models, and making notes on separate sheets of paper.

A list of useful websites for self-education

As I mentioned earlier, it’s good to know where to find courses and study materials. The resources listed below are dedicated to online education:

Coursera, edX, Khan Academy, ALISON, MIT Open Courseware, Udemy – online courses from institutions all over the world.

TED, Big Think – communities for sharing ideas and enjoying recorded talks.

YouTube #Education – educational videos.

University of the People – online educational programs.

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OpenStudy – online community where students can find help or assist other users.

Authorama – public domain books.

Library of Congress, MITLibraries – vast variety of study materials.

SparkNotes – resource with concise information about fictional books and literary analysis.

Useful tools that can help you

Lifelong learners also need to use great tools, and when you have the right tools at hand, they make studying easier and more delightful.

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WeekPlan – tool that keeps daily plans in order and makes planning convenient.

Unplag – plagiarism detection engine that helps you make sure you don’t have accidental plagiarism in your writing.

Dictonary.com Word of the Day – resource to help learn new words daily.

Online Stopwatch – tool for students who prefer working with a timer.

As you can see, there are all kinds of ways to become a lifelong learner. Using the time-tested techniques outlined above will help you become the kind of lifelong learner who gets the most out of each and every learning experience.

Featured photo credit: Girl Reading a Book at Home BY VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.imgix.net

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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