Keeping up the motivation when you’re learning (Covid series: 7 of 15)
As we all come to terms with the realities of lockdown (boredom anyone?), it is appropriate to note that it’s not unusual for interest in learning to wax and wane over time. If you want to rekindle the spark, our top tip is simply to challenge yourself to learn something and to record what you learnt.
But that raises a couple of questions: what should you learn, and how can you find the motivation or time?
Who hasn’t said “I’ve always wanted to learn how to…”, but done nothing about it? We allow ourselves to think that some of these unfulfilled wishes are going to stay unfulfilled because they’re too ambitious, or time-consuming, or too expensive.
The desire to learn a language is a typical case: learning is slow and initially pretty difficult, so there’s the rush of initial enthusiasm which can hit a brick wall when things get difficult.
We’re not going to make a long list of topics here, but your choice will likely fall into one of these categories:
- There are the technical, such as learning how to build a website.
- There are the creative, such as learning to use all those features on your camera more effectively.
- There are the process-based techniques which will help you perform your professional tasks more efficiently or lead to greater work responsibilities and variety.
- There are knowledge-based topics, which you might never put into practice but are nevertheless useful, such as learning how derivatives markets work or how a ship is built.
How can you keep up the motivation when you’re learning?
It will sound like a platitude, but it helps to be interested in what you’re studying. Thinking of basic questions you’ve long wanted an answer to is a good way of deciding what your interest is, and each answer is a milestone on your learning journey.
Csikszentmihalyi’s famous theory of “flow” suggests you can get absorbed by an activity as long as it’s not too easy but not too challenging either. It follows that you should set goals you stand a chance of achieving, rather than aiming for the stars.
Deliberate practice is said to be the key to improvement in any skill. Anders Ericsson published a groundbreaking paper about this in 1993 and it remains relevant. To cut a long story short, you’ll improve a skill only slowly if you “just turn up”, but if you give some thought to what you’re practising then you’ll make much more rapid progress.
Another feature of successful motivation Ericsson noticed in his research was the importance of feedback and seeing results. Here at Coracle, we’ve incorporated features into our platform that allow this to happen – particularly the scope for course managers to use mentors and start conversations around content.