We have been learning new things since we were young. From not knowing how to walk, now we can ever run. From not knowing how to talk, now we talk nonstop. And so on.
But have you tried to learn something new recently? Whether it was a language, a skill, or information for a job certification, learning a new thing is a serious work.
If you’re trying to learn something on top of a full-time work schedule, it can feel like just one more thing that needs to get done. After a long day of work, it’s easy to push aside something extra like learning a new thing.
5 learning motivation strategies
1. Write down why learning new things is important to you
It’s important to write down the reason or reasons why you want to learn a new thing. Keep your reason somewhere where you can see it often. When you’re not motivated to learn, you can refer to your reason to help give yourself the willpower you need to keep learning.
For example, if you’re trying to learn Spanish in preparation for a trip to Spain, you should write down your plan for that trip. If you have a date and travel plans set, put them up somewhere where you’ll see them often.
Sometimes it helps to leave notes for yourself where you’ll see them. For example, you might put a note on the fridge that says, “Have you studied Spanish yet?” If learning is the last thing you do before bed, it might help to have a note by your nightstand that says, “Take time to learn Spanish so you’re prepared for your trip.”
Notes like this can seem awkward, but having constant visual reminders can help you keep the learning motivation. It doesn’t matter what your “why” is. What matters is that your reason why matters to you.
If your reason for learning is “It’s what’s expected of me,” you may find that your motivation runs dry. Your reason has to be deeply meaningful to you. Whether it’s “so I can get a promotion” or “so I can travel,” what matters is taking the time to write down the reasons for your learning goals.
“People with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without them could ever imagine.”
– Brian Tracy
2. Set aside a time for learning new things every day
If you’re trying to learn something, make sure you set aside some time for it every single day. When you’re learning a new thing, it helps encounter the information several times. Although there will be days when you have more time to learn, learning happens by taking small, consistent actions.
Set aside some time every day that you can reliably work on learning. For some people, that means getting up half an hour earlier to have time for it. Others who struggle with mornings may find that it best fits right before bed.
If you have a job that gives you an extended lunch break, you might work on learning during that break. What’s important is that the time you choose is one you can consistently use to learn new things.
Once you’ve decided what time of day you’ll dedicate to this, stick with it. There will be days when you don’t feel like it, but to keep learning, you’ll need to stick with your pre-appointed time.
3. Set goals to guide your learning
It’s easier to stay motivated in learning new things when you set goals. You should set small, medium, and large goals. For example, a large goal might be to “pass the test to be a certified pharmacy technician.” Your smaller goals related to that may be things like “memorize generic names of top 200 drugs” and “pass a practice test online.”
When you break down your bigger goals, you give yourself a clear roadmap to guide the process. When you set goals, it’s helpful to remember the acronym SMART. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Specific: a specific goal will leave no doubt about what it looks like to reach your goal. Instead of giving yourself a vague goal like “learn more,” you can give yourself a goal like “read ten books about psychology.” The more specific you can be, the better.
Measurable: a measurable goal will have a clear metric for tracking your progress. Some goals, like learning a language, may not have an inherently obvious way to measure progress. In cases like these, you might make the goal “study Spanish every day for six months.” You can measure your progress by noting how many days you’ve studied over six months.
Attainable: An attainable goal should challenge you while still being realistic about your abilities. For example, you’re unlikely to master a new language in a week. An attainable goal will carefully consider which goals are realistic for your abilities and life situation. To learn a language, an attainable goal might be to be reasonably proficient after six months of consistent study.
Relevant: a relevant goal will be one that matters to you or helps you move toward your goals. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to focus all of your energy on learning Spanish if you’re actually planning a trip to France. Your goals need to make sense for the plans you have.
Time-bound: a time-bound goal has a deadline. It helps if you can give yourself a deadline to get things done. Many people like 90-day goals because a lot can be done in 90 days without losing momentum. If you have a larger goal, like “finish grad school,” you might want to break up your goal into smaller pieces.
Having goals to guide you can help you keep the learning motivations. If you know your goal’s deadline is approaching, you may find the extra bit of motivation you need to focus more.
4. Find an app to help you learn
Nowadays, learning new things is so easy. There are a lot of learning apps available for use on your smartphone or tablet. A large number of these apps have free versions that can help you study a language, a skill, or information for certification.
One major benefit to using an app to study is the portability of learning. With an app, you can learn new things from anywhere. You can learn while taking public transit while waiting in line at the grocery store, or during breaks at work.
Most apps have the option to send notifications to your phone. If your goal is to work on learning every morning at 8 a.m., you can have your app notify you at that time as a reminder.
Many people have goals about how many books they’re going to read during the year. Reading apps like Kindle, Overdrive, and Scribd offer a great resource for reading on the go. You can download books to read during your downtime, making reading accessible to you anytime, anywhere.
5. Celebrate your progress
As you make progress toward your goals, take time to celebrate your progress in learning new things. It may help to have a small reward for yourself at certain points. For example, if your goal is to read fifty books in one year, you might give yourself a smaller reward each time you finish ten books.
Rewards can be something small, like a meal out or a small purchase you’ve been wanting to make. What matters is that you celebrate the progress you make. When you celebrate your progress, you motivate yourself to keep learning.
The progress you’ve already made toward your goal can be a major motivating factor for your future progress. Take time to celebrate with others. Whether your friends have similar goals or not, take time to share your progress.
The encouragement, congratulations, and energy that come from sharing your progress can help propel you to your next goal post. Although we tend to shy away from bragging on social media, it’s okay to celebrate your progress.
If you share that you’ve studied Spanish every day for a year, you might discover that you have a few friends who have been learning Spanish as well. This connection can help you stay motivated.
“The truth is, the harder you fight, the sweeter are the rewards in the end.”
– Mary Kom
Saying that you want to learn something isn’t enough to keep you motivated. Every day, there are things we “want” to do that don’t end up getting done. If you want to stay motivated in learning new things, you should take the time to write down exactly why learning is important to you.
When you’re less motivated, refer back to that reason to keep you moving forward.
Progress toward your learning goals is only made through consistent action. This makes daily learning a powerful and essential habit to develop. When learning becomes a part of your daily rhythm, you equip yourself to learn more.