My wedding was full of DIY elements: our save-the-dates, invitations, programs, custom labels on wine bottle centerpieces, chair bows, guest book, floral arrangements, photobooth. I am a do-it-yourself kind of gal.
The same goes for my career learning. Yes, I have a secondary and post-secondary education, but in my career I have searched for ways to learn new skills when I needed them (or wanted them). Being the money-conscious DIYer I am, I tend to look for inexpensive ways to teach myself.
Today I am sharing with you the best strategies for building your own learning program. Do you want to apply for a job with new qualifications? Planning to start your own business? Want to learn a new language or sport? No matter what your reason is, you need a plan.
Here are the five steps I have found to be most effective in DIY learning:
- Identify how you learn best.
- Pinpoint distractions.
- Create a learning plan.
- Gather your resources.
- Find an accountabilibuddy.
Once you flesh out the answers to these steps, you can then figure out how much time and money you can invest. If you want to go the free route, you will be able to find free resources. If you want more professional help with faster results, you can pay for those too.
Also, you may already have some of these steps knocked out; use the steps you need to round out your learning experience. Keeping with our theme, this is all do-it-yourself – so do what is best for you.
1. Identify How You Learn Best
There are four types of learners: visual, auditory, read-write and kinesthetic. There is no right or wrong way to learn. Our brains cement information in different way, and once you know how your brain functions best, you can ensure the resources you seek cater to that type of learning. It is worth noting that while you have one way you learn best, you may actually solidify your learning by having elements of all four styles in your learning plan.
Visual learners work best when they can see what they are learning. Videos are an obvious medium for visual learners, but photographs and graphs are other ways visual learners can remember information.
How do you know if you are a visual learner? Your brain shows you images when you recall information, you can accurately quote movies, you constantly say, “I’ve seen that!,” something clicks when you SEE it done, you get confused if people try to describe instructions without showing you and you are good at directions.
Free resources for visual learners include YouTube, infographics on blogs and Pinterest, photo tutorials and slideshows. If you want to investment a little money, Skillshare and Udemy are good resources for video lessons.
Auditory learners have more success if they can hear the new information. Anything with sound is included in this category, but the key with auditory learners is that sound resonates the most with memory.
How do you know if you are an auditory learner? You can quickly memorize songs, you recall small details from podcasts, you are a wizard at remembering facts about other people from conversations and little sounds bring back vivid memories.
Free resources for auditory learners are podcasts, library audiobooks, sound cloud files and music. Want to invest a little money? Buy your own audiobooks.
However, there are many ways to combine auditory and visual learning. This can be even more helpful if you are an auditory learner. Most of the visual resources apply here as well. Examples of small investments for visual and audio learning include lectures and one-on-one coaching sessions.
Read-write learners are able to solidify their learning when they read new content and/or write notes. These folks prefer studying from textbooks, outlines, notecards and practice tests.
How do you know if you are a read-write learner? You take lots of notes and make lists, you easily recall details from books you’ve read, your memory pulls up visuals of words or phrases in your mind and you need words spelled out when you hear them.
Free resources for read-write learners include library books, Prime books (if you are a Prime member), articles, blogs, online newspapers and free workbooks or worksheets. Small investments could be buying books and textbooks.
Kinesthetic learners have the most success when they can physically practice what they are learning. Practicing what you learn helps with the other three styles as well, but some people ONLY learn if they can go through the steps in person.
You may have been screaming, “Online courses!” with each of the styles in this list. Why am I just now getting to online courses? Because online courses are the epitome of a kinesthetic resource; they combine auditory, visual and read-write elements. Why do you think they are so popular with people trying to learn new skills? They are effective, flexible on time and more affordable than formal education avenues.
Other resources for kinesthetic learners are email courses, online classes, following along with tutorials, live classes (like painting or computer programming) and on-the-job training. Many times you can find pieces of these resources for free, but because kinesthetic learning is the richest, you usually have to pay for the good ones.
2. Pinpoint Distractions
In order to throw yourself into learning, you need to eliminate distractions in your life. Sure, most of us know how we waste time, but WRITE IT DOWN. List out all of the time-wasters and distractions so they are concrete problems. Then find ways to eliminate them. Go offline for your training, use website blockers, learn in spurts and/or turn your phone off.
Here are my major distractions:
- TV. I love watching TV, even with no cable! Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now are so tempting.
- Facebook. A rabbit hole for most people. Scrolling the Newsfeed, commenting in my groups, sharing my updates – before I know it I’ve killed an hour on my phone.
- Mahjong while watching the previously mentioned TV. It’s a tile matching game and
In order to really dive into my learning, I have to eliminate all three of those things. I must put my phone in the other room, turn off the TV and have focused study for at least 30 minutes at a time.
3. Create a Learning Plan
Write it, type it, make a video – it does not matter how you record your plan; just make sure you have it down somewhere and can refer to it often.
In case you need a starting place, download my free plan template by signing up for my free resource library.
Your learning plan should include:
- Your end goal and how this new skill will transform your life
- Activities to get you to your goal
- How you will get feedback (Get it often.)
- Create something to test your knowledge
- List the resources you need (Examined in greater depth below.)
- A way to measure your progress
- Change it at least every six months after you evaluate your progress
Like Number 7 suggests, your learning plan is a working piece of infrastructure. If you have a major life change or shift in goals after one month, go back and adjust your plan! Achieve your goals sooner than expected? Find something else to learn! This is YOUR plan, and it should reflect what you want to learn right now.
4. Gather Your Resources
Now that you know how you learn and have a plan to learn it, you need to gather your resources. Get them all in one place so it is easy to pull them out when needed.
If there are physical resources you need, check them out, buy them or borrow them. Print or copy quizzes and tests. If you require equipment for your learning, get it to your house or secure an easy way to use it at another location.
Online resources? Create a place to store them all, like a computer folder, online Drive/Cloud or email with all of the links. Download relevant apps and software. If you have no idea where to start, get on Pinterest and create a board for your learning resources. Those pins will point you in the direction of more resources and tools.
Do not forget people resources! Make a list of all the people you need as mentors, teachers, feedback loops and peers in the learning. Reach out to each one and ask for their help and commitment.
After you have all of your resources in one place, you can begin creating a timeline to use them. Think about things like:
- Introduction to the topic
- The basics or beginner’s info
- Specific sub-skills, topics, parts or steps
- Divide your resources to go with each of those sub-skills, topics, parts or steps
- Go through the sub-skills, topics, parts or steps one at a time
- Practical application
- Tests of your knowledge or ways to validate your learning
- Using your new knowledge in the real-world
- How to market you and your new knowledge
5. Find an Accountabilibuddy
No, spellcheck does not recognize this word yet, but find yourself a friend or colleague who will hold you accountable. Maybe they want to learn with you! It works in fitness and it works in learning. Plus it is more fun to share your journey. If they are not learning this skill, just make sure they are willing to help you learn it.
Already have a mentor? That is a wonderful person to hold you accountable because she/he is invested in your success. Add learning check-ins to your mentor plan and have concrete times she/he can help you.
Sign up to access the free Resource Library, where you can find the Career Plan Worksheet mentioned here!