What keeps you motivated to learn things?

 

In two words: endless curiosity.

Because that’s what my mind is like. I am curious to know how and why things work, in what ways they can be useful to me, and what potential they have to open up new questions for me to contemplate.

But I don’t turn this into an abstract concept. In fact, I’ve narrowed the motivation thing down to almost a science. I start with the basics: first I figure out the why, then narrow down the what, I create a ritual around the where andwhen, I master my how, and finally I remind myself to stay curious.

When you cover the basics, you can boost your motivation to learn new things much more effectively.

Here are 5 steps to get you there.

#1. Ask your WHY.

Find out what is your purpose and goal to learn a new thing. When you make this connection, you’re more likely to stay motivated to keep learning. Why is that important? Because you should always make sure you’re learning something because you want to, and not because someone else thinks it is important. It is your personal development you should be focused on, not the development of anyone else. To narrow down your why, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why is learning about this topic important to me?
  • Is this something I’ve been interested in for a long time?
  • Am I looking to become an expert in a certain field?
  • Do I want to use this knowledge to better my education or career?
  • Am I looking to develop a skill I will need to live a higher quality of life?

#2. Narrow down the WHAT.

When you find out your why, narrow down what you’re learning. Make sure you identify one field, area, or subject matter so that your learning becomes more focused and targeted. When you do, you’re on the path to becoming a master in that area, as opposed to just dabbling in things here and there, without going in-depth on any particular topic.

  • Why is this important to the learning process in the long run?Identifying one thing means you don’t run the risk of getting distracted and demotivated because you want to achieve too much at the same time. When it comes to absorbing new material, think quality instead of quantity.
  • How does this impact your daily life? It makes absorbing new things easier. When you target one area at a time, you create a daily habit of learning that is simple and straightforward to follow, so that you can be consistent with it for longer periods of time.

#3. Create a ritual around the WHERE and WHEN.

Don’t wait for nighttime to begin learning something entirely new. If your goal is to absorb new information more effectively, especially if that information is dense, unfamiliar, and includes concepts that will require your analytical mind to take over, read the new material early in the day.

  • Why is it important to learn new things early? Because that’s when your analytical brain is more likely to perform the most complex tasks (in the case of learning new things, these tasks can be reading, comprehension, application, repetition).
  • When should you study? Your brain’s peak performance time is around 2-4 hours after you wake up. So, for example, if you wake up at 6, your peak times for review are between 8 and 10 a.m. To maximize your focus time, extend studying until midday to cover the most important concepts by lunchtime.
  • Where should you study? Create a peaceful and calm space to sit and work undisturbed. It could be your bedroom or a quiet corner at home. But if you live in a noisy environment, you might need to get creative. Try investing in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block out noise, or get a pair of soft silicone ear plugs like these so that you can study in silence. Music can help you improve your focus: it can be classical music such as Mozart, Chopin, or Bach, or a playlist of chillout tunes.

#4. Master your HOW.

Now that you’ve dedicated the time and space to learning something new, think how you can best optimize the time. If you think that you should be sitting in one place reading for hours, that’s the wrong approach. Why? Because you’re more likely to lose focus and your motivation, not to mention you’ll get tired fast. Here’s what can help:

  • Use a timer to divide up your study sessions into 30–60 minute increments that will allow your brain to focus in a more targeted and effective way. If you don’t have a lot of time, though, try the Pomodoro technique: study only in 25 minute increments, with a 5 minute break.
  • When you’ve completed one study session, get up and do something completely unrelated to work to give your brain a chance to rest. The benefit? You take advantage of the Zeigarnik effect: it’s a concept developed in psychology that suggests that students who take breaks during which they perform unrelated activities (studying other unrelated subjects, reading a book, working out or performing other physical activities, for example) will remember material better than students who go through longer study sessions without taking a break. So go ahead: get some fresh air, make yourself a sandwich, write a short list of other things you need to do later in the day, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea.

#5. STAY curious by befriending your inner child.

Staying curious is a combination of thinking like a detective, being open to new experiences, and learning new things. It’s very similar to how you processed the world when you were a child. And just because you are now all grown up with adult responsibilities doesn’t mean you should ignore the child that is still in you. Acknowledge it and ask what it wants to find out about the world and why. This will give you some time to explore the things that made you happy and excited before all this grown-up stuff happened. And in turn, it can help you to process and see the world around you differently today. Here’s what you can do:

  • Write down 5 things that your inner child loved to do. It can be anything from playing a game to practicing a sport to spending time vacationing at a favorite destination with your family.
  • From your list, pick items that still speak to you that you may have forgotten. In the rush of finishing school, going through your turbulent teen years, or studying for tough exams at college, what was left behind? Did you have big plans to be a writer, a painter, or a basketball player? When was the last time you did any of those things? How did you feel when you were doing them?
  • Make a plan for the following month to practice one of the items from the list. The key is to start with one so it’s easier to do; you can always try something different later and see how it goes. Start with an hour, maybe two times a week. If it’s painting that you miss doing, buy a sketch pad along with a few brushes and some watercolors, and get creative. If you picked a sport, go to the gym or the nearby park and work on getting more strong and fit.
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