Becoming Professional: A Blog

6 Steps to Teach Yourself Anything

Posted on: June 23, 2010


If you want to learn something on your own, there are a few steps I think you have to do, regardless of what exactly you are teaching yourself.

1: Decide What Exactly You Want to Learn

This might seem obvious, but it’s a step a lot of people skip. For instance, is your goal to teach yourself Japanese? That’s a pretty big feat, so you might want to focus on just spoken Japanese. Cut the task into manageable pieces and then have a go.

Here’s another example: You need to create a web page. Is your goal, then, to learn everything about Javascript and HTML or is your goal to learn only what you need to know to create the web page of your dreams? Learning everything might take a hefty chunk of time, but learning just how to embed videos or background images when using a template would take significantly less time and provide you with exactly what you need.

Definition is key.

2: Decide How You Will Learn

What methods will you use? This helps you stay on track so you don’t accidentally skip a step or accidentally start reading the same material over and over again. Granted it is much easier to skip this step in the process and bounce from Google searches to books to Yahoo Answers, but there is a reason teachers spend so much time on lesson plans. They really do help.

I generally use forums and Google searches when teaching myself things, but I stick to the same forums or blogs so I don’t have to constantly dredge through old info to get what I want. Books can also be incredibly handy. I am a fan of the Dummies series, but I figure any decent how-to book would do.

3: Pick a Time Each Day, and a Duration, and Stick to It

This is the tough part. Discipline. You have to actually follow through with your plan. If you want to learn a language, you have to actually buckle down and do the work. So if you decided in Step 2: Decide How You Will Learn that you would listen to a “Teach Yourself Japanese!” CD during the commute to work every day, then that’s your morning soundtrack. Or if you are trying to learn HTML5 and decided to read HTML5 for Dummies every day in the morning with your coffee, then you had best have that book by the coffee pot.

4: Measure Your Success

This step comes purely from my online marketing background. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but we tend to be obsessive numbers freaks. There’s so much data at our finger-tips, it’s hard not to go bananas over it.

The key is to go back to Step 1: Decide What Exactly You Want to Learn. If you “want to learn Japanese,” and you will do so by reading a “Teach Yourself Japanese 10 Minutes a Day!” book, then what you really decided was that you would learn the content in the book. Follow? If you try to “learn Japanese,” you would be trying to learn everything, including epithets and the written language (and if you’ve ever studied the Japanese written language, you are either very brave or Japanese). So to Measure Your Success, you need to match up Step 1 with benchmarks. In the example where you’re teaching yourself Japanese with a book, you could probably use the quizes in the book. With the example of HTML5, you might want to try to build web pages to see how well you learned what you are trying to learn.

5: Practice It

Ever hear “practice makes perfect”? Well, it does. Repeat often, and then repeat some more. Only when you feel comfortable that you know what you are trying to learn have you officially learned it. Don’t let anyone tell you different.

6: Have a Cookie

Because rewards are important. Chocolate or Oatmeal Raisin?

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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog (maskedgeek.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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