A new year is afoot and with it comes dreams, inspiration, and resolve. With new years resolutions comes the optimism of developing good habits and learning new things.
But how do we learn new things, and more importantly, how do we stick to it? It's no secret that staying on track is what often makes or breaks our ability to develop new skills, and so we're going to take a look at learning from a lifelong sustainability standpoint.
I've always considered myself very capable of teaching myself. I have developed skills in a huge amount of design programs, supplemented my education with online research, created resource databases (stay tuned for MediaComm's very own!) and have developed a confidence when approaching new challenges. If anything, the process of learning something new has become as fun as actually applying the skills themselves.
This is the system I use to stay on-track.
Step 1: Prioritize
Make a list of the skills/programs/languages/etc. you want to learn in an easily-accessible format that you visit often. Whether this means sticky notes on your fridge, Google Keep, your calendar, or your coat pocket, make sure you are constantly aware of this list.
Now list it by what excites you the most and what is most urgent. By ranking each skill, you can evaluate personally what you feel is most important and you can allow yourself to shift it as your needs change. By keeping constant contact with your list, you can always change your strategy to reflect your new job, lifestyle, or interests.
And remember, while prioritizing is key to learning, it is entirely possible to learn multiple skills at once! If you fancy yourself as someone who needs a lot of stimulation to get work done, perhaps learning a couple skills at once can feed off one another, providing you some insurance against burning out on one topic.
Step 2: Set short,medium, and long-term goals.
I usually define these goals as "This Week," "3 Months," and "1-2 Years." Do what suits you best. These goals should be scaled by difficulty very generously. Using the scale above, if I think it might take me 1-2 months to learn how to do something, I feel it's safer to push it into the "3 Months" category. Nothing kills inspiration like failing at the goal setting stage - so be lenient! I think the secret of skill development is incremental change, and focusing on little goals is a great way to stay positive and reward yourself. Never underestimate the power of positive feedback!
Ideally, you will be constantly adjusting the short and medium-term goals as time goes on. Many short-term goals can be extrapolated into the medium-term as a landmark development, and the long-term can always be used as a measuring stick for your progress to ensure you are on-track and to stay on track.
Step 3: Stay inspired!
For me, this step is the most important. Constantly seeing what people are capable of with the skill of interest is a great way to keep motivated and to let it seep into your daily life. But how can one develop this? With how greatly content curation and sharing has grown lately, it can become a daily ritual to experience inspiration. Applications like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram in tandem with a well-maintained Reddit account can keep you constantly aware of your interest.
For example, I am greatly interested in animation and so searching "Animation" or "#animation" (or going on Reddit's creative boards such as r/Animation or r/Design) on any of the above social networks has proven as an entertaining way to stay focused.
The best part of this step is that it doesn't feel like work! While often it's easy to get lost in Buzzfeed articles and YouTube videos, simply tweaking our social/digital media accounts to show more of what we want to learn is a way to slowly become more immersed in our hobbies and future talents. Don't worry, Buzzfeed and YouTube will still be there, but who knew it could add so much to our ability to learn?
Don't worry if you feel so far from being able to achieve what your sources of inspiration can do! Even the best artists are still cursed with being highly critical of their own work, and part of learning is aiming high and getting there incrementally.
I hope this has been a helpful resource for you guys. I've found a lot of success in learning new skills using these three steps and as technology advances, it can only become easier to pull off!