Learning how to learn is the most valuable skill you can possibly have. Once you learn how to learn, you can pick up any skill, idea, or hobby without needing school or money.

The internet has made learning online much easier to learn new skills. There are so many resources like YouTube, blog posts, Coursera, Udemy, and so many more. You can learn anything from chess to statistics to business to programming from the comfort of your own home, without spending a single dollar.

I’ve learned a number of things online and have found a few steps that have helped me through my journey of online learning.

Step 1: Evaluate the Resources

There’s a famous saying. You’re only as good as your coach. Well, in this case, you’re only as good as the online source you use for your content. Start by finding several possibilities to learn from. These could be books, videos, courses, etc. To evaluate the resource, look into the depth and content that it covers. Will it cover the information you need to get to proficiency?

Also, study the reviews. I automatically throw out all resources that don’t have overwhelmingly positive reviews. If it’s too new and has no reviews, I throw it out too. If I’m going to learn, I don’t want to take risks. I want to learn the skill. It’s a time investment and I can’t waste the time.

For example, a friend of mine was looking into jokes and trying to figure out a good program to learn. He found resources for jokes that were NSFW as well as sources for jokes that were for kids. He narrowed his search down to the resources that were actually relevant to his fans, who were Millennial males looking for clean fun and found a course from a well-known comedian that had perfect reviews.

Step 2: Build a Habit

The BIGGEST hurdle with self-learning is that there are no built in systems to keep you learning. There are no tests (usually). It’s very easy to get too busy or distracted and then just give up.

Set aside a time every day to work on this. Make it a time that will work every day and won’t run into schedule conflicts often.

This doesn’t have to be every day, but must be less than a week apart, otherwise, it will be very very difficult to turn things into a habit.

Without the force of habit, it’s unlikely you will be able to continue the practice.

A great example of this is one of our community members who joined quotev to write phanfiction (a special type of fanfiction targeting a famous Youtuber pair). She a time before dinner every night to write a story and learn the art of writing. She would study as well as practice and wouldn’t eat unless she finished.

She was one disciplined writer!

Step 3: Set Goals And Rewards

In every learning curve, you will hit a plateau. It’s where things get hard. You have an understanding of the bare basics, but you aren’t progressing as fast as you want to. This happens to everybody sooner or later and this is one of the easiest times to quit.

This is where setting great goals and rewards comes into play. Goals and rewards will reframe your psychology to help you overcome these mental hurdles.

Set milestones for yourself that are achievable, but past the points where there will be difficulties.

As a chess player, goals and rewards are particularly easy to illustrate so I will use my chess as an example. Chess players have ratings to reflect their skill level. Winning games increases your ratings. Losing decreases.  Beating higher rated players increases your rating more than beating lower rated players.

When I was training in chess back in high school, I’d set goals roughly 200 points above my rating. At my level, 200 points took a few months to half a year of intense training to overcome.

I attached a reward to these milestones in the form of computer game time. When I hit a new level, I’d be able to play a new level of the video game I loved.

Step 4: Write Down Your Learnings And Teach Others

The best way to solidify your learning is to write what you learned down and teach it to others. For concepts in particular, this helps ingrain the learning into your memory and also gives you a better understanding of the concept. Many say that the best way to reach mastery is to teach!

On top of that, you’re able to pay it forward and create new resources for future newbies to use.

A few of the Commaful community members recently mastered writing stories and fanfiction. They put together a great fanfic writing guide and story writing guide which they have said taught them a great deal. These guides have also helped many others.

These simple steps were huge in getting me up to speed on a number of tasks, hobbies, and skills. I hope they will prove useful to you too!