Here at Courservo, we love to learn new things. That’s the reason why we started a website that curates the best online courses on various topics ranging from Mathematics to Music Theory. While most of us want to learn everything that’s on the internet, only a very few among us have the time to commit, the energy to spend and the will to complete what we have started out to learn. I was in the former category, and it took me a while to learn how to learn. So, in this blog post, I try to distill everything I’ve learned about learning (over the course of a few years, from countless books, podcasts, and blogs) and give you a few concise tips that I use whenever I start to learn something new.
Tip 1: Be passionate or at least mildly interested
You need to firmly establish what you are learning, why you are learning it and why it is important to you. Be very specific.
Here are a few examples,
- Bad: I want to learn Music Theory because I want to learn something new and I have free time
- Good: I want to have a hobby. I have always enjoyed classical music. I would enjoy it more if I knew the theoretical aspects of it. And after the course, I’ll start to write my own music.
While you can technically start to learn anything on the internet, to master any subject, you have to be passionate about it. To learn Android programming you need not have previous coding experience. But you need to be already developing an interest in Google and Android devices. This will help you sustain the momentum of your learning process.
Tip 2: Condition your brain
Most people start to sign up for online courses when they have a test or an interview coming up. While you might be successful in your test or interview, there is a very high chance that you will forget everything one month later. This is not the correct way to go about it. Learning is a continuous process, so make it a habit. Spend half an hour every day on it. You will thank me later.
Next, you might want to have some short-term goals. Most of the online courses will help you with it with their timelines. You should stick to it. You can also try to set up some medium-term goals on your own, derived from Step 1. Use the SMART principle (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goals. Learn more about it here)
Tip 3: Learn how to use Google
When people ask me advice about learning a specific thing, the first thing I ask them is to learn how to use Google like a pro. While Google can be pretty good at guessing what you are looking for, to get the most out of the search engine you need to use a few little tricks. The most useful of them all is the ‘site:’ parameter. What it does is it will restrict the search only to the website mentioned after ‘site:’. I’ll give you a few examples to show you how useful it can be:
best mathematics courses site:ycombinator.com
how to print hello world in Java site:stackoverflow.com
In the first case, I already trust Hacker News and I know a lot of smart people use that website. In the second case, I need an answer to a programming question and I know that Stack Overflow is frequented by programmers.
Tip 4: Augment your online learning with other tools
Suppose you want to learn French. You have found the best online course on French. All the power to you. But you should not stop there. Do you know there are multiple mobile apps that help you learn any language, like Memrise and Duolingo? Do you know there are many podcasts to teach you conversational French? Are you using a note-taking app that syncs across multiple devices so that you can whip out your iPhone anytime and check your notes on French grammar?
You have a tremendous amount of tools to help you out with anything, including learning. Learn to use them. Most of them are for free.
Tip 5: Use scientifically proven learning techniques
Here are some science-based techniques for faster learning:
- The Feynman Technique: After studying, pretend that you are going to teach whatever you’ve learned to a bunch of people. Now practice it. Come up with analogies to make the lecture simpler and more interesting. This will help you to remember what you’ve learned.
- Change it up: Change your learning routine once in a while. Watch some Youtube videos on the topic, read a news article about it or play a game relating to what you are learning (yes, there are games for everything)
- Repeat it: Here’s why it is important to take notes: you can go back and review what you have learned. This is very important. You have to constantly be in touch with the topic you are learning for you to master it.
Tip 6: Have fun
This is the most important step of all. Enjoy learning. Sometimes it might get difficult. You might come across a very difficult topic and might struggle to get through. You might be having some personal troubles and might not be able to concentrate. There will definitely be a million obstacles on your path. But remember, you love to learn.
I have this nice trick that always helps me whenever I need a small incentive boost. I think of future scenarios where the knowledge might come particularly handy. For example, say I am learning about cryptocurrencies. I can think of a future scenario where my boss talks about Bitcoin, and I start to explain to him about the blockchain technology. One thing leads to the other, my boss realizes how smart I am and gives me a promotion. Another example is impressing your future girlfriend with your knowledge of macroeconomic theories. I know it is silly and whimsical, but you might need it, particularly when you are feeling very unproductive.
So what are you waiting for? Go have some fun.