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Published on November 4, 2019

7 Steps to Make Self-Learning Effective for You

7 Steps to Make Self-Learning Effective for You

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 and online courses, all you need is to spend a judicious amount of time and energy into learning something new.

If you are wondering what exactly is self-learning, 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 in 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 enrich your experiences by 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 feel of accomplishment and get a purpose to learning.
  • 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 you are interested in. Start your learning with a purpose. Ask yourself various questions:

  • Why you need to learn?
  • Why is it important?
  • 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? On the other hand, if you are studying on your own, 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. It lets you work towards something achievable and give 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, or reading some poetry in that language or picking up a song in the foreign language and so on.

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.

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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 internet is filled with fake information. Cross check references and challenge every content you go through.
  • • Make use of peer reviewed academic databases like Google scholars, science 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

Start learning today. 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.

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5. Apply What You Learn

The best way to retain knowledge is to use it. So 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 you remember what you studied better.

A 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 include:

  • 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 the 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:

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“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. It will also help you look at what you learn in a 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 the communities, groups and forums.

Bottom Line

Don’t wait anymore to exercise your brain. Let your curiosity find its way to greater knowledge. There are enough resources to help you out in the internet. Self-learn what you want, when you want, and the way you want to.

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Featured photo credit: Adeolu Eletu via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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