by Daniel

posted on May 22, 2016.

Give it all a purpose

Have you ever started learning something, been super-excited about it, and when you start getting into the routine of practicing it, slowly loose motivation and abandon it?

Well, you’re not alone! You need to motivate yourself! But I don’t think a motivational poster will do the trick.

It’s important to remind yourself every now of your goal, why you started learning that skill. Are you learning piano because you want to join a band? Are you learning Mandarin because you want to travel to China? Keep reminding yourself of those ultimate goals, and try to find ways of getting “a bit of the goal” now (like learning some simple pop song to play karaoke-style, or joining a Chinese language exchange).

If you don't remember #why you're #learning, it's easy to loose #motivation! Click To Tweet

The first thing that you should keep in mind is to set yourself proper challenges. What would be cool to do with the skill that you’re learning? Don’t think necessarily what would be useful, but rather what could be fun, that you don’t know how to do yet. And most importantly, focus on what result you would like to see, not what tasks you would like to be able to do well. Outputs (or results) you can see, tasks, not really.

Simple steps

Tutorials: the promise to learn to do something thinking the least… should be suspicious at least!

It’s actually a trap (and a quite common one) to start learning by following tutorials or guides. Why? Because you can’t fail. You can’t be confused. It’s not actually a challenge. Somebody has lined up the right steps for you. If it doesn’t work, that person failed, not you. You’ll be just as annoyed, but your brain will not get the hype of “I need to learn more about it”.

For example, when I was learning to code web-apps in Ruby on Rails, and after the confusion phase, I saw that most people pointed towards a book called Ruby on Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl. You can also read the book online, so I decided that it could be a good “guided start” to get rid of all the confusion. The book guides you by creating a Twitter-ish clone. But after two chapters, I realized that if I continued following it as it’s presented, I would soon switch to something else. It was only the “background purpose” that kept me following.

Doomskitty website

My first drafts of how that imaginary website looked like… do you recognise the first scribble of doomscat there? 😉

So I decided to change the challenge: what if I wanted to make a website in which people can post their cat pictures (or videos) instead? Hmmm, so maybe your account would actually be your cat’s accounts, and you can give those pictures a message of what the cat means. Now that’s random enough (but similar enough to the tutorial to make it useful)! That means that whenever I went into a new episode, and read the intro, I had to think: “what does that mean for my cat-website?”. And that was fun. Plus, I couldn’t just copy the code: I had to tweak it to what I wanted to do. Some chapters I read quickly and skipped coding. Some others, I spent more time to figure out the details. It was fun!

I never published the actual website (and to be honest, I would be a bit embarrassed to show it now… I can do so much better now!), but thinking of that website make the whole challenge much more engaging. You need to make sure you’re having fun!

Making a game out of learning can be much more than “receiving badges and rewards”  (although that can help). Find what makes the topic that you’re learning fun. And play with that. Set yourself up for fun. Check out if there are any websites or courses for what you’re learning, that already consider this. I personally really like Codecademy and Treehouse challenges for programming languages and Memrise for (human) languages!

#Gamifying your #learning is much more than #badges and #rewards: find what makes it #fun and build on that! Click To Tweet

Also make sure your projects are not overwhelming: go for quick gains. The first challenges that you do could be easy ones, simple things that you know you will sooner or later be able to do. Failing can be good for your motivation, but you should try to sometimes succeed!

Groups learn better

We’re social beings – learning is better if it’s social!

One final way of giving yourself a sense of achievement is to learn with other people (and something we strongly advocate for in NurtUp). The advantages are multiple: you’ll get other’s tricks, navigate the confusion together, you’ll be keen on sharing your progress, learn the common vocabulary… everything we’ve been talking about in this post! We definitely thing that you should join a learning community for your skill or topic! We’re social beings after all. We think this is so important, that we’ll dedicate another blogpost to what makes a successful learning group! Stay tuned for more!

This post is part of the “Hack how to learn a skill” series. Click here to go to the table of contents, or here to go to the previous section (<< previous section).

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