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Last Updated on January 29, 2021

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

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?

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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.

You can learn more about how to find your curiosity and crave learning in this video:

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.

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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.

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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:

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  • 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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Featured photo credit: Adeolu Eletu via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

How Serious Is Information Overload?

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

1. Set Your Goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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  • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
  • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
  • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

(You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

Summing It Up

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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