To become self-taught is very challenging. Most researchers have stated that self-directed learning is something that needs to be taught on its own and it requires a specific set of skills that allow the learner to actively engage in the required activities without external stimuli.
However, although it may not be something natural for everyone it’s definitely achievable through the right means. So here are some ways you can strive to become self-taught.
10 Ways to become self-taught
1. Establish your purpose
This is part of the purpose/enjoyment duo. Are you learning to apply for an exam but can’t afford a prepping program, are you learning because you enjoy engaging in the activity of learning, be it playing an instrument, engaging in a specific skill, or simply studying from textbooks and taking notes.
You really need to identify the purpose of your self-learning before you start thinking about anything else.
2. Establish smaller goals
If you followed step number one then you already know why you’re getting yourself into this mess, but now it’s time to be practical and really understand where you actually want to go with this journey.
Maybe you want to know x topic by certain dates, maybe you want to be able to strike a conversation in a different language when you go traveling next summer or maybe you want to learn to eventually be able to play the opening song to that show that you really like but it’s really hard to memorize and play.
Either way, there will be a smaller goal there and it should have a date so write it down in your calendar.
3. Establish even smaller goals
Now that your end goal is written down in your calendar and now that your self-learning purpose is clear it’s time to break down your goals into smaller goals.
For instance, if you want to learn how to speak Japanese in one year there will be a lot of many skills to tackle. If you want to also be able to read it then you should learn and memorize hiragana, learn basic vocabulary, learn basic sentence structuring, memorize a few travel-friendly questions and remarks, and so on.
These are your even smaller goals. Write down a list then mark in your calendar when you would like to achieve these even smaller goals.
4. Finding an accountability or monitoring system
In college your accountability system is a mixture of being well formally graded, having your professors potentially look at you with disappointment, and being the laughingstock of your classmates if you end up with a poor grade.
Even if most of what I said doesn’t really apply and doesn’t happen that dramatic way. We really end up imagining ridiculous situations in our heads and sometimes we act just because we fear external repercussions.
Well in self-learning there will be no accountability system if you don’t actually build one yourself.
My tips are telling a friend or family member, you’re self-learning and communicating your goals, and building a database that allows you to periodically check in with yourself and mark whether your even smaller goals have actually been reached.
This will turn you into self-learning and help you to become self-taught because no one likes to break a streak or leave those checkmarks blank for too long.
5. Learn more about learning to become self-taught
This may sound to meta but it’s what you’re doing right now. The thing is this article is about generalized ideas on self-learning but there will be tons of resources around the internet telling you how to self-learn your topic specifically.
Language learning is a major example of this but you can also find these threads everywhere on the internet for other skills and subjects. This will help you find the best resources for your specific topic, give you hints on where to start, as well as timings and an idea of your expected progress.
6. Consistency is key and so is your calendar
Self-learning is difficult because you need to build your own schedule and be consistent. This is why your calendar will be your best friend from now on.
Having a list of small goals to tackle is pointless if you aren’t making space in your life to go through with those many challenges.
That’s why it’s fundamental to be consistent with your learning progress. And being consistent means scheduling your learning or practicing sessions in your calendar at a time that is reasonable and will allow you to exploit the max capacity of your brain.
Daily weekly or monthly schedules that’s up to you. What is important is that you’re scheduling consistently and keeping up with your schedule. By marking your successful learning sessions in that self-monitoring system we talked about earlier.
Also, read How to do time blocking (7 Tips to manage your time).
7. Find, help and share to become self-taught
A big part of college and other academic experiences is the social interaction you have with your colleagues or research fellows.
In self-learning and to become self-taught, this is more difficult to achieve but by searching a bit around you can find platforms and communities created and managed by people, learning the exact same things you’re learning right now.
Send out emails or messages with your questions and try to be more engaged. This will help you open up new ways, discover new subtopics and find tips and tricks to speed up your progress.
8. Start building your database
I know that for the last couple of months I haven’t shut up about building a knowledge database but it’s really really important and even more important for self-learners.
This is the place where you’ll write everything you know about your subject of interest, link interesting resources, track your progress and write your goals.
You can be as simplistic or as maximalist as you want with this process. You can use an analog method or a digital system while you name it.
9. Don’t forget the basics but don’t hesitate to go long term
Even if you’re feeling quite comfortable with the basics of the skill you’ve chosen to learn go back and review them, even if it’s just for a couple of days.
It’s important to make sure that whatever the foundations of your area of knowledge are they’re set in stone and you can start pursuing your self-directed learning journey without anything holding you back.
At the same time be ambitious and don’t hesitate to go long term. This means that you should definitely look forward to more difficult parts in the process, harder topics to tackle, a broad subject that connects to the skill you’re learning but you feel very uncomfortable diving into.
Either way, it’s recommended that by keeping your eye on the prize you recognize the harder parts of the journey so you’re ready to tackle them as soon as they appear.
10. Be skeptical to become self-taught
Being skeptical is ridiculously important if you want to become self-taught, because the information you come across may not be verified. You need to be able to challenge the data you find especially if you’re not taking your information from recognized sources.
A good way to do this is by submitting your findings to the network or community of self-learners or trying to find more about the author who wrote them down.
This also creates a major incentive for you to try and find conflicting ideas which are great for active learning because it forces you to transform what you’re reading into ideas of your own through critical thinking.
If you love to learn as much as I do and if you want to incorporate learning into your routine more often it’s a great idea to mix learning into entertainment and the easiest and most effective way to do this is learning by watching.
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