Self-learning has been considered a lot of true geniuses and visionaries for centuries. However, it’s no longer that esoteric – and what’s more important, much easier to do. The sheer amount of available information makes the process of searching for content almost irrelevant – now it’s all about choosing the right one amongst hundreds of possible courses, workshops, and lectures.
You don’t have to be specially gifted to self-learn something anymore, but you still need a certain set of skills that will help you learn faster and more effectively. These skills do not require a lot of practice – they’re more like common rules that were proven to be useful when it comes to organizing and motivating yourself. So let’s find out what exactly you need to start self-learning.
First of all, we need to specify what we actually mean when we talk about self-learning. Self-learning is simply a process of learning just about anything by yourself without external organizing and evaluating systems. This may sound a bit complicated, but it means that you get to choose your own way of developing a particular set of skills – and to test them directly in the course of practice.
Self-learning is beneficial for many reasons. While more traditional ways of learning usually involve stressful exams and other sources of uncomfortable pressure, self-learning relies on positive reinforcement. There is no stress, only curiosity and natural gratification. Moreover, self-learning allows you to improve a bunch of skills simultaneously, including some of the most important soft skills.
You can choose the medium you like or combine them freely – there’s always room for experiments. But how do you start? There are literally millions of opportunities, so you need some guidelines to sort them out. Good news: we’ve compiled a list of the most important things you need to know about the process of self-learning, and the most important of them is curiosity.
That’s right, curiosity is what fuels the entire self-learning process. Before you can learn anything, you need to be curious about the subject. This desire to know more about it is what will keep you involved. Be thoughtful and ask questions – it doesn’t matter if you’re ready for the answers. These questions will serve as a guide and natural drive for your research. Ask yourself:
Lack of curiosity prevents you from involving in the process of studying. You memorize less information, and you tend to forget it much faster. Staying curious makes sure you learn only the most relevant things that you can use to broaden your knowledge further.
Stable self-learning process requires realistic goals. They help you remain motivated, track your progress and work towards something perceptible. It is especially important for your goals to be measurable, so you can be sure about finally completing them. Memorizing an entire page of an important document or completing some online course are examples of such clear, realistic goals.
When you learn a complex skill, like a programming language, break it down into smaller goals. For instance, set your goal to create a simple app – or at least to complete a tutorial. Or if you are learning a foreign language, in which case it’s harder to measure your progress, set yourself a goal to invest a certain amount of time in the studies. It will give you a purpose to strive for.
Self-learners get to choose their learning resources, so it’s especially important to choose only the most correct and relevant of them. Always verify the authenticity of your materials and get rid of anything outdated or even slightly incorrect. This is where your habit of asking as many questions as possible will come in handy. Check references and be critical to every bit of information you encounter.
Start using peer reviewed academic databases – even if you don’t need that level of reliability, still choose your resources carefully. If you use an online platform, look for the most popular lessons that get frequent updates, so you won’t end up learning something completely useless. All in all, you should review your materials once a year or even more often – this way you can guarantee there are no better options.
Don’t put off your learning process. If you need to learn something, start learning it right now. The more you procrastinate, the harder it will be to motivate yourself later. We’ve already covered the utmost importance of realistic goals – now use them to create a clear schedule. For instance, if you need to complete a course by the end of the year, count the exact amount of hours you need to study every week.
One of the best features of self-learning is that you get to design your own schedules. However, you still need to stick to them. Infrequent lessons can seriously undermine your efforts and even prevent you from achieving your goals. Motivate yourself by looking at the part of the work you’ve already done, and be sure to add to it once in a while.
In addition to goals and a schedule, you need a system to evaluate your progress. Lack of external evaluation means you have to do it yourself, so choose something you like. The way of assessing your work depends on the subject – it could be a quiz, a test, a set of typical problems you have to solve. Just make sure you evaluate your researches frequently.
Learning something is great, but you have to make sure your new skills stay with you. And the best way to do it is by practicing. When you learn something, look for some ways to use that knowledge. Speak your new language or play that new song to your friends – it will reinforce your skill while giving you more confidence to continue the learning process.
Try organizing your studies with a project-oriented approach. It means you set your goal to create something: an app, a text, or a mechanism. This way, you get only the essential information and instantly practice it by implementing in your project. The idea is to replace scattered facts you don’t really care about with a clear and relevant system of interconnected facts and skills.
Another great idea that can really boost your progress is collaborative learning. Find a community that shares your interest in the subject you study, and you will get a lot of unique benefits, such as:
and so on. Learning with a community serves as a virtual classroom, so you get advantages of such teamwork while retaining your self-learning freedom and flexibility.
Collaborating with fellow learners is highly beneficial as you develop your skills – but you should contribute to the community, too. Teaching others is a great way to practice, and the more you teach, the better you know the subject yourself. The thing is, when you try to explain some concept to another learner, you have to make it as simple as possible, so the concept becomes more clear for you, as well.
This is another great feature of self-learning. You can study a subject and then teach it, all while learning new facts and mastering important skills. It is widely known that knowledge only increases from sharing it, so try not to miss any chance to help others learn. You don’t need actual lessons, just join a virtual community and make yourself useful.
If done right, self-learning has a couple of unique benefits that allow you to learn new skills quickly, with less effort compared to traditional learning mechanisms, and without unnecessary stress. However, in order to fully unlock the potential of self-learning, you should follow a set of rules. First of all, you need to be curious, asking as many questions as you can and being critical to anything you encounter.
Second, you need clear and realistic goals. Decide what you want to achieve and stick to the plan. Develop a way to assess your progress, and motivate yourself by looking at your improvement. Be sure to verify the materials you use, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from other learners. And if you really want to learn something, it’s time to start right now.
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