My wedding was full of DIY elements, including 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 did graduate with two Bachelor’s degrees, but I continually search for ways to learn new skills as I need or want to learn them in affordable ways.
Today I am sharing with you the best strategies for building your own learning program. Do you want to apply for a new job with qualifications you don’t yet have? Are you planning to start your own business soon but don’t have all of the necessary knowledge? Do you want to learn a new language or sport?
No matter your reason for acquiring new knowledge, you need a plan to make it happen.
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 resources.
- Find an accountabilibuddy.
Once you flesh out the answers to these steps, you can then figure out how much time and money you should invest. If you want to go the free route, there are plenty of resources online. If you want more professional help with faster results, you can pay for courses and coaches.
Let’s examine these steps a bit closer.
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 ways, and once you know how your brain functions best, you can ensure that the resources you gather will cater to your type of learning. It is worth noting that while you have one way you learn best, you may actually retain the information by using all four learning styles.
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 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 invest a little money, Skillshare and Udemy are good resources for video lessons.
Auditory learners have more success if they hear new information. Anything with sound is included in this category, but the key with auditory learners is that the sounds create memories.
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 audiobooks.
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? Because 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 sprints, 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, which I play while watching television.
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 be focused 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 in my free resource library (after signing up)!
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 your learning plan at least every six months, when 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! Did you 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. If you require equipment for your learning, get it to your house or secure an easy way to use it at another location.
For online resources, create a place to store them all, like in a computer folder, on an online Drive/Cloud, or in an 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. Reach out to each one and ask for their help.
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
- Use your new knowledge in the real-world
- Figure out how to market your new knowledge
5. Find an Accountabilibuddy
No, spellcheck does not recognize the word “accountabilibuddy” 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.
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 standing appointments to discuss your progress.
Sign up to access the free Resource Library to find the Career Plan Worksheet that I previously mentioned, plus much more!