Once you’ve established an objective here are some tips to help stay on target when learning.
You always have a spectrum of expertise at your disposal. It’s up to you to tap into it. So many people refuse to spend any money to further their learning. It’s really sad, because consuming and applying information is almost always more costly than paying for it. A book for example, costs about $20 to $40 these days. Yet consuming a book will take at least a day if not several.
If you are of the opinion that education should be monetarily free, it will take you weeks and months to reproduce what’s in that book in blog posts, articles and other “free” content online. If you can reproduce it at all. And even if you do succeed, likely you’ll suffer from poor guidance. Even if you catch it, it’ll add to the cost.
The failure that I usually see is people’s inability to understand what their objective is and how beneficial it will be. With this understanding even the most expensive of expertise, hiring a consultant, is often a bargain. Would you rather do it yourself over the course of months, or start reaping the benefits in a matter of days?
Use your objectives and your understanding of benefits to justify the best level of expertise possible. Otherwise, if you go the free route every time, you won’t ever learn much. You’ll be stuck endlessly perusing blog posts on the internet.
Focus on what you want to accomplish
You can’t learn everything, there’s always something additional you could learn. As you explore the knowledge you seek, you’ll no doubt come across a plethora of information. Even if it excites you, if it’s not pertinent to your objective, don’t let it derail your learning. Take a note or flag it for future consideration.
If something comes up that seems more important than your current objective, establish objectives and see if it is. If it is, switch gears. If not, put it aside.
Don’t be pedantic
Unless the learning calls for it, you rarely need to know every little detail. You have to recognize what is necessary and what’s not. Use your objective and benefits.
Ignore what you can easily look up. Unless you’re going to be on jeopardy, you don’t need to be a walking encyclopedia. If you can look up the information when you need it, it’s better to do that.
Life isn’t a high school biology exam. You aren’t expected to regurgitate endless volumes of nonsense. Computer are great for storing and retrieving information. Humans are best suited to apply information.
You are going to forget some of what you learn. This happens the instant you stop learning and/or using the knowledge. As you’re learning, if you struggle with something, consider this. If you feel overwhelmed with details, take a step back. Ask if it’s something you’ll likely forget anyways.
Relate what you’re learning to things you already understand. Find perspectives and experts that have made a similar leap to the one you hope to make. Learning is often expedited when you can root it in something you’re comfortable with.
Details are great when you’re practicing and especially when you’re applying what you learn to reality. But they often get in the way when you’re studying. Make sure you have a grasp of concepts first. Then, dive into the details when you need them. Which is usually when you’re ready to put the concepts to work.
Let it pass
I’ve mentioned a few times, taking note of something unrelated. Or flagging it for future consideration. These reminders will pile up quickly. Have a means to get rid of them. Or, don’t fret too much over the list. Perhaps, use the list as solace that you can come back to them some day when in fact you probably never will. Having a means to search this list should give you the ability to let go of the things inside.
Whatever you do, don’t let this list of reminders overwhelm you. Even if you could consume everything in it, you’d forget it even faster.
You’re better off not trying to know everything and instead focusing on being successful with what you know.
Notes and highlights
Take notes on paper or electronically, highlight things, dictate, scribble, draw pictures. Do whatever helps you solidify what you’re learning. But don’t get obsessed with filing and indexing these to quickly find them at any imaginable moment in the future. These are great learning aides while you are learning. Let what you accomplish become your permanent record.
If you really think you need these notes, create a simple system to file them away. Something you consistently use and you can search. Though I think you’ll find over time your style of taking notes to learn will change. You’ll never have one central place to go to find them. Just like your memory, things will fade.
Summarize as you go. In your mind or on paper. Gather what’s important. Refocus your efforts based on what you learn. And while you’re at it, reflect on your objectives. Are you still on track? Are you meeting your objectives? Are you close to being done? Are you done?
After studying, when appropriate, practice what you’ve learned. See if you can approximate your desired benefits. Practice involves mock situations, not actual situations. It gives you an opportunity to do something simple to solidify your studying.
Once you’ve practiced something, or you have a good grasp from studying alone, apply it to reality. Nothing solidifies learning like actually using something. And especially if you reap significant benefits.
This isn’t always appropriate for every type of learning, be judicious. You should have outlined this situation in your learning objectives.
Reflect on the results. Do they satisfy your objectives? Where should you steer your learning next?
Create reminders to apply things
Instead of notes and highlights, the best way to go about implementing something you’ve learned is to create a plan. If you can’t do something immediately, create reminders to revisit what you would like to apply. That way you can come back to these things at an appropriate time in the future.
Also, some things are best learned through routine application. You might try creating reminders on a repeating basis to apply a particular technique until it becomes second nature.