Self-Education 101: 5 Steps To Start Teaching Yourself

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Step 1: Deciding What You’ll Learn

The first step is being intentional when it comes to what you want to learn. Sit down and determine what topics you want to study, skills you want to hone, or areas you want to improve on. Are you extremely nervous at meetings and want to learn how to speak up and present an idea of yours? Are you planning on having kids one day and would like to learn a bit about good parenting habits to help (guilty)? Are you terribly uninformed about investments (double guilty) and want to brush up on your understandings so you can go toe-to-toe with your suddenly-an-investor friend (and maybe get into investing yourself?)

  • Public Speaking
  • Vegetarian Cooking
  • Better Sleep
  • Mental Health Habits
  • Setting Boundaries in Relationships
  • Work-Life Balance
  • Learning Japanese
  • Travelling on a Budget
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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Step 2: Determining Resources

Now you have your subjects. Next up is figuring out how you’ll get information. What resources will work? Not only that, but which ones are reliable and factual, and which ones are purely opinionated and don’t have any research or proof to back them up?

  • Documentaries
  • E-Books
  • Paperback/Hardcover Books
  • Podcasts
  • Audio books
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There’s no shortage of resources out there to learn from. Do some research, pick one, and get started! Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

Step 2.5: Fact Check!

Before you continue, it’s really important that you check for credibility. You don’t want to be diving into a podcast or book if the author isn’t basing their arguments in anything factual. It’s okay if an author is sharing their personal experiences, just make sure that you identify that and make note of it. Authors have various ways of showing credibility, so look for anything that shows that. Typically authors sharing their research is a good place to start, such as Jonah Berger’s book Contagious which is a mixture of his own research as a professor and studies he’s referenced during his research. Ultimately, approach everything with a healthy dose of skepticism, learn about the authors, and compare notes across multiple sources.

Step 3: Note-Taking

We’ve decided we’re learning about public speaking, and we’ll listen to audio books to learn. Great! Next up, you’ll want to capture lessons you learn as you go. No, you’re not going to remember it all. It’s a book. The things like 8 hours. Yes, i’m sure your memory is great. ANYWAYS.

  • Only write what you feel you need to: you’re not being quizzed on it this time around, so you get to decide what serves you best. Mark what sections or pages you picked up a lesson from for later referral.
  • Less is more: focus on the fundamentals, the principles, or at the very least, what is most applicable. Action is integral here.
  • Talk to yourself: leaving questions for yourself makes note-taking even MORE engaging, as you are documenting your process to making sense of the subject and how it fits into your life. Use those questions to aid in memorization.
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A glimpse at my podcast notes. I went from making tons of bullet points to just a summary, because I felt I retained more if I had a summary and maybe 1–3 really important points rather than a ton that were more superficial. Summarizing encouraged me to clarify what I just heard.

Step 4: Review What You’ve Learned

Congrats, you’re through your audio book on public speaking and you’ve got some notes to go along with it! Now that you’re through, it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You don’t want to dive right back into the notes after finishing, as you’ll want some fresh eyes on what you learned. Take a break, and return to your notes a little while later (I usually go for a week).

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Having a small notebook to take notes in, or an app on your phone, allows you to review notes on the go without lugging around the original text. Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash

Step 5: Applying What You’ve Learned

Now here’s the fun part: how am I going to apply what I learned? If you’ve gone through an entire audio book, you’ve probably condensed it into a few pages. Sweet! In this final step, you’ll be looking for ways to apply what you’ve learned to your own life.

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Bust out those whiteboard markers! I often use my whiteboard for idea brainstorming & how to apply what I studied. Photo by Mark Rabe on Unsplash
  • Robert Greene
  • Tim Ferriss
  • My old gym crew, who always seek the truth and self-actualization
  • My Sensei & Senpai, who taught me agency and my ability to learn no matter the circumstance
  • My dad, who never hesitates to tinker and find the meaning of things

Poli Sci grad, Comms Strategist, great at remembering names and terrible at pronouncing them. I write on political psych, practical philosophy, and random stuff

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