For those of us who have been using our computers, smartphones and tablets solely for the purposes of entertainment, it’s time for an important realization: they are the ultimate tools for growth and self-education.
Public libraries are also a huge source of knowledge. You can choose any printed or online material you find enjoyable and use your weekends for self-development.
Needless to say, independent learning is a journey that requires great commitment. The online world is full of distractions, so you need to remind yourself of your purpose and work a lot on your discipline.
The following 20 tips will help you adopt the right attitude that will get you through a successful journey for self-education.
1. Prepare a studying environment
Since you don’t have a classroom to keep you as focused as possible, you have to create your own studying space (learn the details on how to do that from Edutopia article). It’s important to organize a desk for that purpose.
Get a comfortable chair, a laptop, the books and notebooks you need, and some pens/pencils/markers. As soon as you sit on that chair, your mind will be prepared to commit to the goal of learning.
2. Get a dictionary
Of course, you can also use an online dictionary like Merriam-Webster or Dictionary.com, but you also need a printed dictionary that you’ll use when you’re studying from books.
Studies, textbooks and other important materials are often written in a highly intellectual language, so you’ll need interpretations to understand what the authors are trying to say.
You have to highlight all important things! Get some markers for the prints and use the highlighting feature on your eReader to put an accent on the crucial elements of the text.
4. Learn from different mediums
Read relevant articles, journals and books, attend seminars, watch TV documentaries, and get college/university textbooks from the niche of your interests!
Experiment with different mediums and focus on the one that inspires you the most. However, don’t limit yourself to a single source of knowledge; make sure to experiment and benefit from information in all forms.
5. Follow up on the references
When you’re reading serious materials, you’ll find references from books, scientific articles, statistical sources, and other types of publications that helped the author support the facts.
Find those materials and you’ll gain a whole new dimension of the topic you’re focused on.
6. Talk to experts
You can learn a lot from meaningful conversations. Find people who are experts on the topics of your interests and ask questions. Nothing beats one-to-one communication with inspiring people.
7. Study every day!
It’s better to study for half an hour every single day than to binge study for an entire weekend and then forget about your goal for the next several days (for example, this story written by Rachen Bryan explains why binge studying can be bad for your health).
Routine is important! Organize your learning schedule in short, frequent sessions that will keep you focused on the material. Check out Steve's steps to an effective study routine
8. Don’t assume everything you read is true
Even when you find the most relevant sources to study from, you can never assume the things you read are 100% true.
When you use different studying materials, some of them may be in contradiction to the things you already know. Make sure to get to the bottom of the issue by conducting an in-depth research.
9. Join online communities of learners and methods
Brilliant minds attract each other. You don’t want to study in isolation, so make sure to find the right subreddit communities and LinkedIn groups that will connect you to people you can learn from.
10. Make learning your lifestyle
As you gain more knowledge and you start understanding how things work, you might lose your ability to wonder. Don’t allow that to happen! Ask more questions and discover new things every single day!
11. Search for online courses
Many reputable universities are offering free online courses on websites like Udemy, Coursera, edX, and other popular websites. If you want to be different from the crowd of online learners, you might want to try unexpected sources of knowledge.
There are plenty of online destinations that allow you to gain the knowledge you need, so don’t forget to explore this elearning infographic before comitting to a particular online course.
12. Get information from news aggregators
Instead of checking different websites, you can stay updated with the trends if you follow news aggregators like Fark, Google News and Feedly.
13. Don’t just read. Review!
Make sure to make a summary of the things you’ve learned that day. Take notes and review them once you finish the learning session.
This practice will help you to absorb the material much more easily.
14. Set goals
It’s important to develop a habit of learning. That’s why you need to set monthly and daily goals, and give yourself a motivation to accomplish them. Discover S.M.A.R.T goal setting.
15. Write essays and research papers!
Do you know what can inspire you to learn more? Writing! Pick a great topic and write a detailed essay or research paper on it.
Publish these papers on your own blog and get into discussions with the community of followers you attract. If you don't believe writing can help, read about its psychological benefits here.
If you want a proof that you’ve gained enough knowledge – start teaching. You can become a private tutor, but you can also start offering your own online courses.
There are awesome free course authoring tools you can use to help other people learn the things you know.
You’ll face disappointment, discouragement, confusion and lack of inspiration. If you make an effort to surpass all these obstacles, you’ll grow into the committed person you always wanted to be.
20. Say YES to new experiences
Since you have the liberty to develop your own learning style, you have to infuse some practical experience into this journey.
Write a blog, teach other people, or find a way to implement everything you learn into your traditional education or the job you have.
Are you up for the challenge?
The human mind has a huge power that not all people understand. Most of us are happy enough with the education we get at school, but we can achieve much greater heights when we get out of those boundaries.
Since all resources are out there, there is no reason to delay your journey through self-education any longer.